09/16/2022, 14.31
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Gulf fears over the energy challenge

In the wake of the Ukraine war, the Emir of Qatar Al Thani appeals to Russia and the West, saying his country cannot replace Russian natural gas, which remains "essential to the global market”. For Iran, this situation provides an opportunity to raise its visibility and offer its natural gas in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

Doha (AsiaNews) – The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has made an urgent appeal to Russia and the West.

His country, although energy rich, cannot alone meet European demands for natural gas and energy, after Moscow shut off supplies to Europe in response to the European Union imposing sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

The plea highlights, once again, the concerns Gulf states, and more broadly the Middle East, have vis-à-vis the war, which seriously threatens both food stocks (primarily wheat and other cereals) and energy supplies, and risks tanking a world economy already in trouble due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with French weekly Le Point, Emir Al Thani spoke about the considerable impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine, especially since gas and oil supply chains were already in a critical state before.

“We want to help Europe, and we will supply gas to Europe in the coming years. But it is not true that we can replace Russian gas,” the emir said. “Russian gas is essential to the global market.”

Qatar has some of the world's largest natural gas reserves, but at present, most of it goes to China and other Asian markets.

The emir is not soft with Western policy of sanctions against Russia. "We must be careful about the types of sanctions that complicate things for the entire world,” he noted.

Calling for an end to the conflict, he went on to tell Le Point that, “The most important thing is that we are all suffering from the situation, whether in terms of energy or food. That’s why we need to end this war in Ukraine”.

The Qatari leader’s remarks show once again the global effects of Moscow’s war and its implications for the Middle East, which is usually first impacted by issues relating to energy supplies, including oil.

Against this background, the European Union’s need to diversify sources has revived interest in the crucial role and strategic importance of Gulf countries, from Qatar to the Emirates, which today are key economic and political partners, especially in terms of energy.

Europe’s difficulties and the prospect of a winter of cuts and rationing have provided an opportunity for others. One of them is Iran.

In recent days, Tehran has tried to enter the game, saying that it was ready to meet Europe’s energy needs in exchange for rebooting the 2015 nuclear agreement and lifting sanctions over its nuclear programme.

In 2018, under then President Donald Trump, the United States withdrew from the agreement and current negotiations to revive it have proven so far unsuccessful.

“[I]f the nuclear talks conclude and unilateral and illegal sanctions are lifted, Iran can meet a larger part of Europe’s needs,” since it “is one of the most important countries supplying energy and fuel,” said Nasser Kanani, a spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, quoted by the Mehr news agency.

While such statements are part of Iran’s charm offensive designed to take advantage of the situation, they also show the importance of energy and of the many factors and players shaping its politics.

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