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Qatar Withdraws From OPEC, To Concentrate On Gas

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Qatar said, yesterday, that it was quitting OPEC from January 2019 but would attend the oil exporter group’s meeting this week.

The decision meant Doha could focus on cementing its position as the world’s top liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.

Doha is one of the smallest oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

It is locked in a diplomatic dispute with the group’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia but said the move to leave OPEC was not driven by politics.

Minister of State for Energy Affairs, Saad al-Kaabi, told a news conference that Qatar would still attend the group’s meeting on Thursday and Friday this week.

Qatar, who has been a member of OPEC for 57 years, said that it would still abide by its commitments to the group.

“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning,” the minister said.

“For me to put efforts and resources and time in an organization that we are a very small player in and I don’t have a say in what happens.

”Practically it does not work, so for us it’s better to focus on our big growth potential,” he said.

One OPEC source told Reuters the decision was more symbolic than anything else.

“They are not a big producer, but have played a big part in it’s (OPEC) history,” the source said.

Qatar has oil output of only 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared with the 11 million bpd produced by Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest oil producer and world’s biggest exporter.

But Doha is an influential player in the global LNG market with annual production of 77 million tonnes per year, based on its huge reserves of the fuel in the Gulf.

Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects, said Qatar’s withdrawal “doesn’t affect OPEC’s ability to influence as Qatar was a very small player.”

OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to agree on a supply cut at this week’s meeting in a bid to support crude prices that have slid almost 30 per cent since October.

Oil prices surged about 5 per cent on Monday after the United States and China agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war, but Brent crude is still trading at around $62 a barrel, well below October’s peak of more than $86.

Al-Kaabi, who is heading Qatar’s OPEC delegation, said the decision was not political but related to the country’s long-term strategy and plans to develop its gas industry and increase LNG output to OPEC members, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and fellow Arab states Bahrain and Egypt, have imposed a political and economic boycott on Qatar since June 2017.

They are accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charges and says the boycott aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

“A lot of people will politicize it,” Al-Kaabi said.

“I assure you this purely was a decision on what’s right for Qatar long-term. It’s a strategy decision.”

“We will make a big splash in the oil and gas business soon,” he said.

He said Qatar Petroleum planned to raise its production capability from 4.8 million barrels oil equivalent per day to 6.5 million barrels in the next decade.

Doha also plans to build the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East.

Israeli Software Company Sued For Sharing Khashoggi Messages With Salman

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London in September

A friend of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is suing an Israeli software company he believes helped the kingdom intercept messages sent to him from the dissident criticising Mohammed bin Salman.

Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi national who now lives in exile in Canada, filed a lawsuit on Sunday against NSO Group alleging its spyware helped the Saudi government gain access to his smartphone.

The spyware allows its customers to secretly listen to calls and read messages on a targeted phone.

The lawsuit, filed in Tel Aviv, accuses NSO Group of breaking international laws by selling its software to oppressive regimes.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Mr Abdulaziz said. “The guilt is killing me.”

Quebec-based Saudi activist Omar Abdulaziz exchanged messages with Khashoggi in the months before his death

In messages sent to Mr Abdelaziz, Khashoggi called Crown Prince Mohammed, the de-facto ruler of the kingdom, a “beast” and likened him to a “Pac-Man” who devours everything in his path.

“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” said Khashoggi in one message sent in May, just after a group of Saudi women’s rights activists were arrested. “I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”

Saudi officials would have been able to see the more than 400 message exchanged between the pair on encrypted apps such as WhatsApp.

Khashoggi and Mr Abdulaziz, 27, who sought asylum in Montreal, began to talk about plans to form an “electronic army” of young Saudis living in the country to try to undermine the government’s online propaganda, according to messages seen by CNN.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in Riyadh

In early August, Mr Abdulaziz discovered the Saudi government was aware of their project.

“How did they know?” asked Khashoggi in a message. “There must have been a gap,” says Mr Abdulaziz.

Three minutes later Khashoggi writes back: “God help us.”

Khashoggi was killed two months later on Oct 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The CIA has concluded that the murder of the Washington Postcolumnist was ordered by the crown prince himself.

Mr Abdulaziz revealed last month that researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported his phone had been hacked by military-grade spyware.

According to them, the software was the invention of NSO Group, and deployed at the behest of the Saudi Arabian government.

NSO Group has previously faced lawsuits from citizens from Mexico and Qatar, who say the technology was used to hack their smartphones.

The human rights group Amnesty International has also recently accused the NSO Group of helping Saudi Arabia spy on a member of the organisation’s staff.

In a statement, the group says its technology helps governments fight crime, and is fully vetted and licensed by the Israeli government.

“Our products have a long track record of assisting governments in preventing suicide bombers, stopping drug lords and sex traffickers, and helping safely return victims of kidnapping,” the statement said.

“If there is suspicion of misuse, we investigate it and take the appropriate actions, including suspending or terminating a contract.”



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