The strained relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia ratcheted up yesterday following the former’s bold step. Qatar announced that it was quitting OPEC from January in an attempt to focus on its gas ambitions. The move took a swipe at OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia. It also wrecked efforts to portray unity ahead of this week’s meeting of exporters. The meeting’s agenda is the oil price slide.
Doha has currently entangled in a protracted diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states. Doha is among OPEC’s smallest oil producers. Nonetheless, it is the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world.
Qatar maintained that politics did not influence its decision. However, a statement by Saad al-Kaabi, Minister of State for Energy Affairs, seemed to make an apparent swipe at Riyadh. Al-Kaabi stated that Qatar was not going to exit the oil business. He, however, added that an organization managed by a country controls the oil business. Al-Kaabi, all the same, did not mention the nation.
The Energy Affairs Minister told a news conference that Doha communicated its decision to OPEC. He said Qatar would still attend the group’s meeting this Thursday and Friday. Al-Kaabi also assured that Qatar would abide by its commitments.
He further stated that Doha would focus on its gas potential as it was not practical for Qatar “to put more efforts, resources, and time in an organization that we are a tiny player in and don’t have a say in what happens.” OPEC has 15 members, including Qatar. Delegates at OPEC chose to downplay the impact of Qatar’s exit.
“They are not a big producer, but have played a big part in its (OPEC) history,” an OPEC source stated. However, losing a long-standing member sabotages an attempt to exhibit a united front before this week’s meeting. The meeting is expected to back a supply cut to shore up crude prices. These prices lost almost thirty percent since an October peak. Al-Kaabi said that Qatar was an OPEC member for 57 years, with oil output of 600,000 barrels per day (bpd).