The sultan of Oman died Friday following five decades of leadership of the largest non-OPEC Arab oil producer that were marked by prosperity and peace at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East. He will be succeeded by Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, his cousin, in accordance with his wish, State TV reported.
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The death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, in power since 1970, comes as the US and Iran have escalated hostilities over the past few weeks, roiling oil markets in the wake of President Donald Trump's ordered strike killing key Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The sultan was historically instrumental in mediating talks between the US and Iran, as well as between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and between Iran and Iraq, among other regional disputes.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been scheduled to visit Oman and other Middle East countries starting Saturday in an effort to ensure energy security and the safety of shipping through the Persian Gulf.
Qaboos, credited with modernizing Oman, had no heirs but he left a sealed envelope with the name of his preferred successor. The ruling family choose to abide by his wish and opened the letter naming his cousin.
Niamh McBurney, a senior analyst for Verisk Maplecroft, said it will be critical for the country to maintain effective leadership in key ministries to maintain political stability.
Oman's oil ministry "has an experienced and robust leadership team which can play a role in maintaining continuity at home and for Oman's oil and gas partners," she said.
Oman is a main non-OPEC participant in the OPEC+ coalition that is now in its fourth year of production cuts aimed at propping up the oil market. Its oil minister, Mohammed al-Rumhy, serves on the coalition's Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee tasked with tracking member compliance with production quotas and assessing market conditions.
Oman produced 970,466 b/d of crude oil and condensates in December, its oil ministry reported earlier this week.
The vast majority of its crude is exported to China, with the remainder primarily shipped to Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries.
Oman also has an 85,000 b/d refinery in the port of Sohor and is developing another $6 billion, 230,000 b/d refinery with Kuwait at the Omani port town of Duqm.
Oman is currently mulling selling a 20-25% stake in 2020 in its state run firm Oman Oil, which has been rebranded with Orpic Group as OQ.
By 2030, OQ plans to grow its total oil equivalent (boe) from 655,000 b/d to 1 million b/d per day, Group CEO Musab Al Mahruqi said in December.
OQ made a net profit of $556 million in 2019, while its asset base stood at $27.9 billion, according to the company.
Oman is also trying to beef up its oil and gas production as it develops a sector that contributes most to its revenues and GDP.
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