Qatar quits OPEC after more than 57 years

The Gulf country insisted that the decision is rather strategic, than politically motivated

Photo: EPA Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar Minister of Energy and industry.

Qatar announced Monday that it will the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 1 January, 2019 after nearly 60 years of membership. The announcement was initially made in a series of tweets by country's state oil company, Qatar Petroleum, just days before a crucial meeting between the influential oil cartel and its allies. It also comes shortly after Qatar reviewed ways in which it could improve its global standing and plan its long-term strategy

"The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar's desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production," Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the country's minister of state for energy affairs, was cited in one of the tweets.

Later on, the minister officially said at a news conference that Doha’s decision represents a “technical and strategic” change, and was not politically motivated.

“A lot of people will politicise it,” he added. “I assure you this purely was a decision on what’s right for Qatar long term. It’s a strategy decision.”

 Al-Kaabi also said the move “was already communicated to OPEC” but insisted that Qatar would attend the group’s meeting on Thursday and Friday, aimed at reaching an accord over possible output cuts, and would abide by its commitments.

With its withdraw, Qatar becomes the first Middle Eastern country to pull out of the oil cartel since its founding in 1960. And while the Gulf state is one of OPEC’s smallest oil producers, especially when compared to the likes of de facto leader Saudi Arabia and Iraq, it is the world's leading exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG), accounting for about 30% of global demand.

“It could signal a historic turning point of the organisation towards Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States,” said Algeria’s former Energy Minister and OPEC Chairman, Chakib Khelil, commenting on Qatar’s withdraw. He also continued that Doha’s exit would undoubtedly have a “psychological impact” because of the row with Riyadh and could prove “an example to be followed by other members in the wake of unilateral decisions of Saudi Arabia in the recent past.”

As Europost reminds, for a year and a half, Qatar has been under an economic embargo by some of its neighbouring OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as fellow Arab states Bahrain and Egypt, which have imposed a political and economic boycott on the state, accusing it of supporting terrorism. In response, Qatar increased its gas production, the mainstay of its economy, last year.

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