Qatar will stand “in solidarity with Europe” and will keep natural gas flowing there, even if other customers are willing to pay more, Qatari Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The Gulf monarchy supplies some European countries with liquefied natural gas (LNG) but has the contractual right to divert supply to other customers — primarily in Asia — if they are willing to pay more.
Most of Qatar’s LNG supply to Europe is contractually divertible. But Qatar will keep sending gas in Europe, as countries there try to wean themselves off Russian energy.
“We’re not going to divert [contracts] and will keep them in Europe, even if there is financial gain for us to divert away, we would not do that,” said Al-Kaabi, who is also president and CEO of QatarEnergy. “That’s in solidarity with what’s going on in Europe.”
The minister rejected imposing sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector, saying “energy should stay out of politics” and reiterated that completely stopping Russian gas supply to Europe is “not practically possible.” The minister also said that his nation is not “choosing sides” in the conflict.
The European Union wants to slash consumption of Russian natural gas this year as it prepares for a complete break with its single biggest energy supplier over the war in Ukraine. Its plan calls for tapping alternative supplies, including shipments of liquefied natural gas, boosting production and imports of biomethane and renewable hydrogen, and upgrading buildings to reduce consumption.
Earlier this week, German officials including economy minister Robert Habeck visited Qatar for talks on supplying gas to Europe in the midst of Russian energy uncertainty.
“We have not agreed a long term agreement with Germany yet, but we’re willing to discuss with the companies that we have been discussing to put a long term agreement in place potentially,” Al-Kaabi said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last week in an attempt to sway both nations into increasing oil supply. The two countries have spare production capacity but both have so far remained committed to the OPEC+ deal with Russia to only gradually increase output.
By 2028 Qatar hopes its gas volumes will be evenly split east and west of the Suez canal. Currently, about 80% of Qatar’s gas goes east and just 20% is shipped to west.
Qatar, which withdrew from OPEC in 2019 after a diplomatic rift with its neighboring countries, said they are not planning on returning to the organization. Al-Kaabi, however, still supported supply moves by the group, calling their plan “very sensible”.