AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (Reuters) – The chief executive of French oil major Total <TOTF.PA> on Friday refused to take sides in a conflict between Qatar and several major Arab states in the region.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, which they accuse of allying with their regional arch-foe Iran. Doha denies that accusation.
Total, which has been in Qatar since 1936, is one of the main shareholders in the Dolphin Energy pipeline which transfers natural gas from Qatar to the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
“I am Qatari in Qatar, Emirati in the Emirates, Iranian in Iran, that’s our philosophy,” Patrick Pouyanne told reporters on the sidelines of a business conference in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence
“I don’t have to choose between the countries,” he said.
Pouyanne, who will be in Qatar next week, said the pipeline between Qatar and the UAE was still working and expressed satisfaction that his business was not being used as political leverage.
“There is a clear disconnect today between the political tension and the economics. They didn’t use the business to try to escalate the tension,” Pouyanne said.
Total has massive investments on both sides of the dispute. It won a stake in Qatar’s Al-Shaheen oilfield, the country’s largest, last month, after becoming in 2015 the first oil major to renew a 40-year deal in the UAE’s ADCO concession, which covers some of the biggest onshore oilfields in the region.
It also signed a $2 billion preliminary agreement with Iran last week to build three petrochemical plants.
Asked about a potential return of U.S. sanctions against Iran under President Donald Trump, Pouyanne said Total’s deal was in compliance with current international rules.
“If those rules change we will have to adapt,” he added.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas)