UAE welcomes regional rivals to major natural gas conference

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Energy officials from Qatar and Turkey, longtime enemies of the UAE, descended on Dubai with hundreds of other executives on Tuesday, flocking to the biggest lounge gas in the world and the industry’s first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic.

In a scene that would have been unthinkable just a year ago, the UAE oil minister held a crowded conference hall next to the Qatari Minister of State for Energy, the first such visit since the United Arab Emirates and three other Arab states have imposed an embargo on Qatar. in 2017.

Turkey’s deputy energy minister was also present, also at odds with the UAE over the Turkish government’s support for Islamist groups in the Middle East.

But there was no mention of these long simmering political differences during Tuesday’s event. Instead, the carpeted hallways hummed with gleeful talk about the importance of natural gas in the world’s impending energy transition. The exhibition took place as world leaders prepare for a crucial United Nations climate summit in Glasgow in November.

“We believe that gas is definitely going to be part of the solution … I think we need to join hands to ensure that this colossal task we are embarking on can be practically achieved,” said Saad al-Kaabi, Minister of State in Foreign Affairs. energy business in Qatar, home to some of the world’s largest gas reserves.

Asked by a crowd of reporters about the economic performance of improving relations with the UAE, al-Kaabi was brief.

“Our relationship is good with the United Arab Emirates and any business relationship we do… will not be discussed,” he said.

Officials refrained from shaking hands or bumping elbows, but the group photo alone revealed a change in foreign policy, as the UAE seeks to bury the hatchet with its regional rivals. Last month, the influential UAE national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, before flying to Qatar for talks with his ruling emir.

The wave of diplomacy aims to restore ties that have been unraveled because of Turkey and Qatar’s support for the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 that strengthened Islamists in the region. The rift between Turkey and Qatar on one side and the Gulf Arab powers on the other fueled the wars from Libya to Syria as well as the ultimately unsuccessful boycott of Qatar, which ended earlier this year.

The backdrop for detente was appropriate, with each energy-dependent country increasingly concerned about how to fuel a post-pandemic economic recovery. Officials discussed a crisis in the supply of natural gas that has led to soaring prices and the alignment of many tankers off the coast of Qatar. They expressed skepticism about the frenzied push to eliminate carbon emissions as fossil fuels remain the key to the world’s electricity supply.

“I think we have to be realistic, but unfortunately there is now a willingness to be emotional about net zero and its pace,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said.

Turkey, which has fought with its neighbors for drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean in its drive to become an energy hub, has also sought to ease tensions with longtime rivals like Egypt.

Alparslan Bayraktar, Turkey’s deputy energy minister, told reporters he hoped the country’s gas discoveries and projects “would help us resolve some of the regional conflicts, our conflicts between neighbors.”

Modest optimism has even extended to the prospect of seeing more Iranian oil on the market in the future after years of US sanctions limiting sales of Iranian oil.

“(Iran) is eager to return to the market to play its constructive role,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo said.

But negotiations between Iran and the world powers to revive their nuclear deal have stalled for months, and Barkindo admitted he could not come up with any timetable for Iran’s return.

“We have to do everything step by step,” he said.

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