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Qatar to host summit of top natural gas exporters

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DOHA: With Europe worried about its gas supplies amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Qatar will host a summit of top natural gas exporters including Russia, organisers have said.

Organisers on Tuesday did not immediately confirm whether Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would attend the biannual Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit on February 22.

Russia, Iran and Qatar are key members of the forum, which will also hold two days of ministerial meetings.

The United States and Australia, two other leading exporters, are not part of the group.

The United States has sought the help of its close ally Qatar in providing emergency supplies if pipelines to Western Europe are cut, according to US officials.

US President Joe Biden vowed on Monday, during a meeting with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, to shut the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Europe if Moscow launches an invasion of Ukraine.

The massive new pipeline has been completed but has yet to begin funnelling natural gas to Germany, a route tying energy-hungry Europe ever closer to Russia.

The European Union has also been seeking alternatives to Russian gas in case of an energy crisis.

European Union energy commissioner Kadri Simson visited Azerbaijan, an observer member of the gas forum, on Friday in an effort to diversify the continent’s energy sources.

Earlier this month, Saad al Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister, told the EU his country could not rescue Europe alone if Russia turned off gas supplies, but was ready to help “in times of need”.

The GECF says its 11 members and seven associate countries account for 70 percent of proven gas reserves and 51 percent of global liquefied natural gas exports.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and military hardware on Ukraine’s border. It has denied it is planning an invasion, but the US warns it has massed 70 percent of the forces it would need for a large-scale incursion.

Moscow kept bolstering its forces around Ukraine on Tuesday as it announced six warships were heading to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean as part of previously planned global maritime manoeuvres.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told local television that Kiev was planning to hold its own exercises involving Western-supplied anti-tank missiles and Turkish combat drones in response to the Russian-Belarusian drills. 

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