WASHINGTON — Qatar’s official withdrawal from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) this week has renewed debate over the rift with its neighbor Saudi Arabia, with some observers saying the move could further complicate the relationship between the two Gulf countries.
The departure, which was announced earlier in December, took effect Tuesday, ending the peninsular Arab country’s 58 years of membership in the international union. The move is seen by many analysts to be shadowed by the political atmosphere in the Gulf region following a Saudi-led blockade on Qatar since mid-2017.
“There is a geopolitical angle, it is about reinforcing the message that Qatar is acting in what it considers to be its own national interest given the blockade imposed on Qatar since 2017 by fellow OPEC members Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, told VOA.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain imposed an abrupt trade-and-travel blockade on their fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member, Qatar, in June 2017. The countries accused Qatar of fueling terrorism by supporting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt and maintaining relations with Iran. The relations have since remained in a standoff.
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