Qatar wants to withdraw from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but says its feud with Saudi Arabia is irrelevant to the decision.
Rabat – Qatar has officially announced its desire to end its membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls 40 percent of global oil reserves.
Speaking at a news conference in Doha, the Gulf country’s energy minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi declared his country’s plan to withdraw from OPEC, claiming that the country wants to refocus and reassess its investments and development strategies.
But the Qatari official, aware that the sudden announcement may generate speculation, especially given Qatar’s cold relations with Saudi Arabia, was quick to add that the move was not a grudge-dictated decision.
The ongoing feud with Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the decision, Al-Kaabi insisted. Instead, he explained, Qatar has thought the move through for months, finally deciding that it was better to focus on natural gas, the country’s strong point.
“The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes per year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years,” he said.
OPEC, a 15-country-strong bloc, dictates much of the fluctuations in global oil prices. Qatar joined the bloc in 1961, a year after the organization was founded.
Saudi Arabia, a leading oil producer, was one of the pioneers of OPEC. Riyadh stills caries a strong voice in the bloc. Qatar, meanwhile, felt that it was not a big fish in the OPEC pool.
“We are a small player in OPEC, and I’m a businessman, it doesn’t make sense for me to focus on things that are not our strength, and gas is our strength so that is why we’ve made this decision.”
In addition to being a potential source of online and diplomatic speculation about the deteriorating ties between Doha and Riyadh, Qatar’s bombshell announcement also comes prior to an OPEC meeting scheduled for Thursday, December 6.
In Qatar’s defense, Al-Kaabi said that Doha wants to “develop a future strategy based on growth and expansion, both in its activities at home and abroad.”
Qatar Petroleum, the country’s top oil company, tweeted in confirmation: “Qatar announces it was withdrawing from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ‘OPEC’ effective 1 January 2019.”
Qatar is home to major natural gas fields. Together with Iran, the Gulf nation is home to North Field, the world’s largest natural gas field.
While analysts maintain that the worsening rift played a role in Qatar’s sudden withdrawal from OPEC, Al-Kaabi was adamant that Doha is only eying an alternative that would yield more benefits to its aspirations for the “coming years.”
“Achieving our ambitious growth strategy will undoubtedly require focused efforts, commitment and dedication to maintain and strengthen Qatar’s position as the leading natural gas producer,” he said.
Qatar is the first OPEC member to withdraw since the bloc was established in 1960.