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Mohammad Barkindo. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Mohammad Barkindo. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Opec secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo, an oil industry veteran who steered the oil cartel through the creation of the Opec+ alliance, has died in his native Nigeria, the group said.

Barkindo was in the final weeks of his six-year tenure as the top diplomat at Opec, where he headed its Vienna-based secretariat. He had returned to Abuja in preparation for a post-Opec career.

Barkindo oversaw one of the most turbulent periods in the organisation’s history, beginning with the creation of the Opec+ coalition just months after his appointment in 2016. That resulted in the group entering into a once-unthinkable partnership with non-members such as Russia. Barkindo engaged in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy to bring the oil producers together, personally meeting leaders including Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

His term spanned a series of production cuts intended to keep global oil markets in balance, culminating in the unprecedented reductions during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. With a warm and jovial style — and a fondness for wearing local headdress while visiting Opec+ member nations — Barkindo was often key in easing tensions inside the fractious alliance. 

“Barkindo was a friend to Iraq and loved its people,” said Iraqi oil minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar. “He was keen on strengthening Opec’s role in stabilising oil markets in the face of challenges that had stormed the oil sector and the global economy.”

During a trip to Houston in 2017, Barkindo reached out to Opec’s rivals in the US shale industry, and over dinner with executives like Mark Papa and John Hess, struck an unlikely rapport that soothed years of acrimony between the producers. The act of “breaking break,” as the Nigerian put it, would become an annual custom and yielded long-lasting relations with industry figures. 

Barkindo had been in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where he met on Tuesday with President Muhammadu Buhari. His death was sudden and no immediate cause was given. His successor as secretary-general, Haitham Al-Ghais of Kuwait, was already due to assume the position from the beginning of August.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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