Qatar has announced it will leave the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as government officials say the Middle Eastern nation will focus on natural gas production.
According to reports, Qatar’s exit will become official on January 1, 2019. They joined the alliance in 1961, a year after the group was formed in Baghdad, Iraq. The group has 15 members, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017. Saudi Arabia maintained a boycott against Qatar since then.
Saad al-Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister, said the decision to leave OPEC is strictly business. According to reports, he said Qatar wants to increase its natural gas production to 110 million tons annually. They currently produce about 77 million tons each year.
Since it was formed in 1960, just three OPEC members have suspended or terminated their membership. Ecuador and Gabon have since returned to the group and Indonesia’s membership was frozen in 2016. Qatar will become the first Middle Eastern nation to leave.