Qatar has announced on Monday its intention to abandon the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from next January 1, according to has reported the state news agency, QNA. Its energy minister, Saad al-Kaabi, has justified this step by the intention of Doha to boost its international role and plan long-term strategies. The decision, which has surprised the observers, seems to mix the crude with the turbulent Middle East policy.
"Qatar has decided to withdraw from OPEC with effect from January 2019 and this measure has been communicated to OPEC this morning," Al Kaabi told a news conference in Doha, the capital of that rich Arab state.
The minister has said that the decision is not linked to economic and political boycott that since June of last year imposed Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the oil cartel, and three other Arab countries allied to that (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt). However, some observers point to a willingness to distance themselves from those neighbors.
Al Kaabi has added that he will attend the OPEC meeting scheduled for next Thursday and Friday in Vienna. It is expected that members and other guest countries such as Russia will try to reduce production to boost the price of a barrel that in recent weeks has fallen from over 80 dollars to the environment of 50.
Although it is the largest exporter of liquefied gas in the world, Qatar was always a minor producer of crude and its weight in OPEC decisions was small. Therefore the impact of his withdrawal from the cartel, to which he belonged for 57 years, will be mostly political.
Al Kaabi has said that his country will focus on the gas industry, which provides the bulk of its income that by 2018 are estimated 93,000 million dollars (about 82,000 million euros). Doha announced last year plans to increase its gas production from 77 million to 110 million tons per year by 2024.