The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), yesterday expressed sadness over the death of a former Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Sheikh Ahmed Yamani, who passed away at the age of 90.
Secretary General of the organisation, Dr. Sanusi Barkindo, in a condolence message, said that Yamani was an outstanding icon of the world of oil and the leading light in OPEC during his eventful years as a minister and OPEC leader.
Describing him as a true OPEC legend, a man who bestrode the meeting rooms and corridors of OPEC, and the global oil industry, during his almost quarter of a century as minister of oil of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Barkindo said that his tenure represented the longest period of service for an OPEC minister.
He added that between March 9, 1962 and October 5, 1986 when he was minister, Yamani was part of many of the pivotal moments that shaped the organisation’s history.
Quoting Daniel Yergin in his seminal book on the oil industry, “The Prize”, Barkindo noted that “To the global oil industry, to politicians and senior civil servants, to journalists and to the world at large, Yamani became the representative, and indeed the symbol of the new age of oil,”
Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 1930, Yamani earned a bachelor’s degree in law at Cairo University in 1951, a master’s degree in law at New York University in 1955 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1956.
Only six years after graduating from Harvard, he took up the reins of his country’s petroleum ministry.
In April 1962, he flew to OPEC’s new headquarters in Geneva to attend the fourth meeting of the OPEC conference, his first as new minister, and it proved to be an early test of his resilience and foresight.
He was elected as president of the conference for the meeting, the first of seven occasions, with the meeting taking place over two sessions – 5–8 April and 4–8 June – and adopting a series of resolutions that formalised OPEC’s demands to International Oil Companies (IOCs) regarding their sovereign national interests.
In subsequent years, he was directly involved in evolving this process and in a number of landmark OPEC statements and decisions, such as the ‘Declaratory Statement of Petroleum Policy in Member Countries’ in 1968, followed by a number of developments in the early 1970s that culminated in the Geneva I and Geneva II agreements.
Barkindo also recalled the role of Yamani in bringing people together, saying that “During the holy months of Ramadan, he routinely hosted informal ministerial consultations in Taif in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to brainstorm current market developments to help build consensus for official OPEC conferences.”
“This collaboration was also evident when Yamani chaired ministerial and technical committees that shaped the strategic direction of the organisation through the development of a long term strategy,” he said.
According to him, Yamani’s final OPEC ministerial conference as minister was the 78th meeting that ended up in Geneva in July and August 1986, stressing that on the occasion, it lasted 21 days, the longest ministerial conference in the history of OPEC