The emir of Qatar goes to the White House on Monday to address issues such as Afghanistan and the tension with Russia over Ukraine, which the Gulf monarchy wants to take advantage of to improve its position in the European gas market.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Zani wants to obtain some kind of support from President Joe Biden on this issue and at the same time consolidate himself as a key ally of the United States in the Gulf, elevating his role, which is increasingly preponderant in world geopolitics.
On the agenda for the White House meeting is the Ukraine crisis, relations with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and negotiations for a possible revival of the Iran nuclear deal, senior officials said.
In the event of military action in Ukraine, the supply of Russian gas to Europe may be one of the main collateral damages.
The alternatives can go through the United States, Australia and Qatar, the three main world exporters of gas. The United States could send part of its production and is in contact with Australia for a possible alternative supply, diplomatic sources said.
There are also “talks underway” to divert some of the liquefied natural gas from Asian markets to Europe, if Moscow turns off the tap, a Qatari official told AFP.
There are precedents in which Qatar emerged to lend a hand to its allies. It shipped supplies to Japan after the 2011 tsunami and four special shipments to the UK in October to address shortages.
But as Qatar has signed long-term contracts with major customers in South Korea, Japan and China, it has little room to replace all the Russian gas sent to Western Europe.
The emirate has “peaked” supplying its existing customers, Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi said in October, as gas shortages began to impact Europe.
– There is no “magic wand” –
“Qatar doesn’t have a magic wand to fix Europe’s gas deficit,” said Bill Farren-Price, director of intelligence for energy consultancy Enverus.
“It has no spare capacity to supply additional liquefied natural gas. It is not the same as Saudi Arabia, which has spare oil capacity,” he added.
Qatar, which is also in talks with the European Union and the United Kingdom, could divert a certain number of shipments.
“Any European gas shortfall is going to spill over and impact the Asian liquefied natural gas market as well,” Farren-Price said.
And European consumers, already exposed to record bills, will have to pay an even higher price. “At the price level it can be complicated,” he said.
Andreas Krieg, a Middle East security specialist at King’s College London, said Qatar would prioritize business over politics in its decision to help Europe.
But it has embarked on a massive expansion of extraction to increase its annual production from 77 million tons to 127 million by 2027 and is looking for markets to place those additional reserves.
In Krieg’s view, Europe is a priority target for Qatar, which was outraged in 2018 by a European Union antitrust investigation into its gas sales.
“This could mean gaining some credit in Europe and using it as a negotiating point to start talking about long-term contracts, which is what the country is interested in,” he explained.
Playing a central role in a hypothetical emergency plan to get gas to Europe would bring Qatar even closer to the United States, which has had a large military base in the emirate for two decades on which its evacuation operation from Afghanistan pivoted. August.
“They want to position themselves as America’s most important strategic ally in the Gulf,” Krieg said.
“They are gaining influence by building networks in Washington that are institutional, not so tied to individuals or parties” and “want to be seen as a strategic nuclear ally” ahead of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
tw / hc / kir / dbh / an