Qatar is quitting the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from January 2019, Saad al-Kaabi, the country’s energy minister said on Monday.
The decision to withdraw from OPEC came after Qatar reviewed ways to enhance its role internationally and plan its long-term strategy, al-Kaabi told a news conference in Doha.
Qatar, one of OPEC’s smallest producers but the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter.
‘Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning,’ al-Kaabi told a news conference, adding that Qatar would still attend an OPEC meeting in Vienna this week.
The announcement comes ahead of the meeting by OPEC and its allies including Russia on Dec. 6-7 to discuss cutting supply.
The minister said the decision was not easy as Qatar has been in OPEC for 57 years, but that the country’s impact on OPEC production decisions was small.
He stressed that Doha would continue to abide by all its commitments like any other non-OPEC oil producer.
The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s intent to focus its efforts on developing its natural gas industry, the minister said, as the Gulf Arab state moves to increase LNG production from 77 million to 110 million tonnes annually.
He said the decision was not linked to a political and economic boycott of Qatar imposed since June 2017 by OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states.
Qatar, which joined the OPEC in 1961, has frosty relations with two Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The small Arab country, touted to be the richest, will not be the first to quit the organisation that has been losing its influence as an oil cartel, since it was founded in September 1960 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Ecuador, which joined in 1973, had suspended its membership twice.
Indonesia suspended its membership in January 2009, reactivated it again in January 2016, but decided to suspend its membership once more at the 171st Meeting of the OPEC Conference on 30 November 2016.
Gabon terminated its membership in January 1995. However, it rejoined the Organization in July 2016.
The five founding countries of the organisation were Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
These countries were later joined by Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962), Libya (1962), the United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), Nigeria (1971), Ecuador (1973), Gabon (1975), Angola (2007), Equatorial Guinea (2017) and Congo (2018).
This means that, currently, the Organisation has a total of 15 Member Countries.