A gas OPEC to dominate GECF summit in Doha, Russia not present
Russia has won the backing of the members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Doha on Sunday to extend Leonid Bokhanovsky`s term as the organization`s Secretary General for two more years. His candidacy was unanimously approved by eleven members of the group.
Leonid Bokhanovsky`s reelection was a matter of top priority for Russia at the meeting of GECF energy and natural resources ministers, Russia’s Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said ahead of the voting. That was quite a complicated task since under the forum’s charter, a candidate is required not to win the majority of the votes but to gain the support of all the members on the basis of a consensus. The minister stressed that the reelection demonstrates a positive assessment of Mr. Bokhanovsky`s job.
On Sunday, the ministers attending the GECF forum, which brought together the world`s leading natural gas exporters, accepted Oman as the 12th member of the organization. The GECF summit is scheduled for November 15th in Doha. Neither Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are attending the first summit of the gas exporting countries – the exact reasons have not been disclosed, with a spokesperson for the presidential administration simply saying that a visit to Doha had not been planned. It means that this won`t be a full-scale meeting because without Moscow the core purpose of the summit – to show the consumers that the exporting countries are ready for a more active and closer cooperation – is unlikely to be fulfilled. The GECF has obvious difficulties with strengthening cooperation ties inside the organization. The Arab Spring has left Egypt and Libya without governments, and the situation there has not improved yet. Venezuela`s leader Hugo Chavez is seriously ill. Meanwhile, only Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has confirmed his attendance to the summit which will be chaired by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, who had negotiated the Doha meeting in Moscow last year.
Mr. Kirill Tanayev, the head of the Effective Politics Foundation, says that Russia`s participation in the GECF forum is a matter of priority:
"Russia needs predictable and long-term cooperation on the gas market. It wants to meet major gas exporting countries to discuss joint projects aimed at improving the infrastructure and affect gas prices in a certain way. In view of this, contacts with the GECF members are vitally important to achieve a balance between demand and supply, between the development of transport infrastructure and the production of liquefied natural gas."
Sergei Pikin, director of the Foundation for Energy Development, believes that there is a political game being played on the sidelines of the GECF forum:
"When the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was set up, oil producers enjoyed more influence than consumers, and the consolidation of interests happened in a slightly different way. Today the creation of a gas OPEC is being impeded by powerful international institutions and consumer countries. To them, any cartel agreement may pose a risk of growing gas prices, and so they are doing their best never to implement such kind of agreements. This all puts a strong pressure on the Arab countries, which are very dependant on the US and partly on the EU."
Nevertheless, not all twelve members of the GECF approve of the idea of a gas OPEC. Many Arab partners are concerned over the hastiness demonstrated by charismatic leaders of Iran and Venezuela. They do not need gas exports to be politicized. Russia, too, has not made a final decision on the issue since membership in a gas cartel may result in some restrictions imposed on gas exports. Nevertheless, a gas OPEC is the main intrigue of the upcoming GECF summit in Doha.