Qatar Quitting OPEC to Focus on Exports of Liquefied Natural Gas

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Qatar's oil production is around 600 000 barrels per day and it is the world's 17th largest producer of crude oil, according to specialist website, world

Addressing a press conference in Doha, Qatar's new energy minister, Saad al-Kaabi announced the decision on Monday. "Our potential is gas", he said.

The jump in oil prices also comes ahead of a meeting this week of the producer club the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting that is expected to cut supply. Moscow has become more influential in setting oil policy alongside Saudi Arabia, which is the largest producer within the cartel, and its de facto leader.

There was no comment from Vienna-based OPEC, which meets Thursday to discuss possible production cuts.

The tense relationship between Qatar and its big brothers - Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - had come unstuck back in June 2017 when Doha came under an unprecedented blockade orchestrated by Riyadh.

Covering an area of around 12 thousand square kilometres and with a population of nearly 2.7 million, Qatar is the smallest Opec member country in terms of both area and population.

This comes amid the greatly improved relations between Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia.

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While its oil production is one of the lowest, Qatar is said to have an influential role within the 15 member organisation.

It has been helped by the US-China trade war ceasefire, expectations that OPEC will cut output this week and a production reduction by Canada's Alberta province. OPEC nations like Ecuador, Gabon and Indonesia have either withdrawn or suspended their membership in the past, only later to rejoin.

US light crude oil rose $2.92 a barrel to a high of $53.85, up 5.7 percent, before easing slightly to around $53.50 by 0830 GMT.

Qatar will leave OPEC next month in order to focus on gas production, the Gulf state's new Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced in a surprise move on Monday.

They say the crisis stems from Qatar's support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. "They debated 'what does the withdrawal mean to OPEC and global energy market and to Qatar?", market sources told The Peninsula.

Crude oil has not been included in the list of products facing import tariffs, but traders said the positive sentiment of the truce was also driving crude markets.

The state petroleum agency that reported the news said that the body had been informed of the move. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures gained $2.02 to settle at $52.95 a barrel, a 3.97 percent increase.