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Abideen Muhammed, Lagos
Qatar on Monday announced her plans to halt relationship with OPEC that has existed for almost 60 years. Qatar would leave Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC on January 1, 2019. The decision follows Qatar plan to focus on liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.
The decision came just days before OPEC and its allies are scheduled to hold a much-anticipated meeting in Vienna, Austria on Thursday, 6th December, 2018. Qatar has been an official OPEC member since 1961.
Explaining Qatar’s decision, Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi said: “We don’t have great potential (in oil), we are very realistic. Our potential is gas.” He also dismissed the notion that the move was driven by Doha’s ongoing feud with OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has led a land, sea and air blockade against Qatar since June 2017.
Since June 2017, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia — along with three other Arab states — has cut trade and transport ties with Qatar , accusing the country of supporting terrorism and its regional rival Iran. Qatar denies the claims, saying the boycott hampers its national sovereignty.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister, called the withdrawal a “wise decision”.
“This organisation has become useless and adds nothing to us,” Sheikh Hamad wrote on Twitter. “They are used only for purposes that are detrimental to our national interest.”
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to pull out of OPEC, which was founded in 1960. Other countries have come and gone — Indonesia left in 2009 before rejoining for less than a year in 2016. Gabon rejoined in 2016 after an absence of more than 20 years.