Doha, Qatar—Qatar is to leave Opec next month in order for the Gulf state to focus on gas production, the country’s new Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced in a surprise move on Monday.
Qatar has been a member of Opec since 1961, and the decision to pull out comes at a turbulent time in Gulf politics, with Doha under a boycott by former neighboring allies including Saudi Arabia for 18 months.
“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from Opec effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to Opec this morning,” Kaabi said at a Doha press conference.
Kaabi, who also heads state-owned Qatar Petroleum, denied the move was linked to the feud with Saudi Arabia and its allies.
The decision was “technical and strategic” and had “nothing to do with the blockade,” he said.
Qatar would continue to produce oil and seek deals in countries including Latin America’s top oil producer Brazil, said Kaabi.
But gas production would remain the top priority for Qatar, which is the world’s the biggest exporter of liquified natural gas.