'Gas-Opec' plans finalised, Qatar new HQ
Moscow, December 24, 2008
Gas exporting states have finalised the creation of a new Qatar-based forum aimed at co-ordinating gas policy, said a top Russian official, but consumer countries fear it could become the gas equivalent of Opec.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned at the meeting of ministers from the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) that the 'era of cheap gas' was over and that consumers would face higher prices in the future.
'A new organisation has been born today.... The charter has been agreed. The headquarters will be in Qatar,' said Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko.
The forum groups Russia, the world's biggest gas producer, with other gas-rich states such as Iran and Qatar and a dozen other countries.
The GECF had been dreamt up at a meeting in Tehran in 2001 and ministers have met annually since then. But this was the first time the organisation's basic rules have been agreed and a headquarters established.
Doha beat off competition from Putin's home city of Saint Petersburg and Tehran to host the headquarters.
Forum officials were at pains to emphasise that the purpose of the meeting was to approve the charter rather than create an Opec-style group to fix prices.
'We would like to again stress there is no need to directly associate the newly created organisation with Opec,' said Shmatko. 'Therefore we will certainly not be discussing today the need to agree on levels of gas production. Our view is much broader.'