© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov walks with Qatari Overseas Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Moscow, Russia September 11, 2021. Alexander Nemenov/Pool through REUTERS/File Picture
By Andrew Mills
DOHA (Reuters) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened up diplomatic and industrial alternatives for fuel exporter Qatar to increase vitality gross sales to the West and bolster its alliance with Washington amid U.S. tensions with different Gulf Arab states.
Qatar has sought a largely impartial stance on the battle, however whereas attempting to keep away from selecting sides, it has signalled by its response that it could provide vital political and financial help to Western companions.
With many European vitality importers wanting urgently for tactics to ease their heavy dependence on Russia, Qatar has steered it may direct extra fuel in future to Europe.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in distinction have resisted Western requires a speedy rise in oil output to comprise a bounce in crude costs brought on by the battle in Ukraine.
These two main Gulf Arab powers, which searched for years to isolate Qatar, have seen their very own relations with Washington strained in recent times, partly over considerations about U.S. safety commitments to its Gulf Arab companions.
In the meantime Qatar, which hosts the most important U.S. air base within the Center East, was designated a significant non-NATO ally of the US final month – a standing neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia have been awarded.
It has sought to play a task all through the Iran nuclear talks and has carried messages between Tehran and Washington.
On Monday Overseas Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Talks targeted on lifting limitations to finishing the Iran nuclear deal, a supply with information of the Iran talks informed Reuters.
“There was coordination with Washington previous to the Qatari overseas minister’s go to to Moscow, particularly close to the JCPOA dialogue,” the supply stated, utilizing the acronym for the formal title of the nuclear accord.
A day earlier than his Moscow journey, Sheikh Mohammed spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He additionally met counterparts in Germany and France, that are events to the Iran talks together with the US, Britain, China and Russia.
After the assembly Lavrov stepped again from earlier calls for that had stalled negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
“It does seem that Qatar has performed a task in discussions on the sides of the Iran talks. How direct and the way consequential that function is open to query,” stated Mehran Kamrava, a professor at Georgetown College in Qatar.
“NOT TRYING TO HEDGE”
Though Doha has in recent times, like Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, strengthened its diplomatic and financial ties with Moscow, it has maintained a robust partnership with Washington.
Whereas the UAE abstained from a U.S.-drafted United Nations Safety Council decision final month, and U.S. President Joe Biden has but to talk on to Saudi Arabia’s de facto chief Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he met Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on the White Home in January.
“Qatar shouldn’t be attempting to hedge like Saudi Arabia and the UAE…The underside line is that this little nation that is sitting on this large fuel subject which goes to generate large quantities of cash believes it has just one final supply of safety. And that is the US,” stated Martin Indyk, a fellow on the Council on Overseas Relations and former U.S. Center East peace envoy.
Among the many world’s largest producers of liquified (LNG), Qatar is among the wealthiest nations per capita and is dwelling to barely three million individuals, 85% of them overseas employees.
On the worldwide stage, Qatar’s central function has been to host Afghan peace talks that led to the 2020 settlement for the U.S. withdrawal.
It stays a vital hyperlink between Western nations and the Taliban-led authorities, internet hosting the West’s Afghan diplomatic missions and even flying officers into Kabul, whose airport Qatar helps handle and management.
“Now, each time there is a chance, (Qatar) simply goes for it. They’re advertising themselves as an extension of U.S. overseas and safety coverage in a means that no different Gulf nation is doing,” stated Andreas Krieg a professor at King’s Faculty in London.
‘AN ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY’
When Qatar determined to hike LNG manufacturing by 2027, some questioned how Qatar would discover clients. However now, amid sturdy demand and excessive costs, Western leaders are urging Qatar to spice up provides to Europe amid considerations about Russia, which at present provides some 30-40% of the continent’s fuel wants.
“The renewed curiosity in diversifying European fuel provides presents an infinite alternative for Qatar to promote the huge new provides coming onstream,” stated Justin Alexander, director of Khalij Economics, a Gulf-focused consultancy.
Qatar’s vitality minister Saad Al-Kaabi not too long ago harassed new LNG volumes are meant for patrons in Asia and Europe, pivoting from earlier messaging that the additional fuel was largely for Asia.
Nevertheless Qatar has not but introduced new long run European contracts, which Alexander says will take time to barter and require new infrastructure to obtain Qatar’s LNG tankers.
(Reporting and writing by Andrew Mills; modifying by Dominic Evans, William Maclean)