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Iran Pursuing Maritime Border Demarcation with Kuwait: Official

By Nigar Bayramli July 11, 2023

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The disputed field, known as Arash in Iran and Al-Durra in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, is jointly owned by the Saudi Kingdom and Kuwait. / Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran is in talks with Kuwait to pursue maritime border demarcation and the status of the disputed Durra/Arash gas field in the Gulf, Spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nasser Kanani said.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran always considers common interests and principles of good neighbourliness, including with Kuwait, in the issues of delineation of maritime borders and exploiting common hydrocarbon resources," he said on July 11, according to the ministry website.

Kanani's comments come a day after Kuwait's Oil Minister Saad Al Barrak said his country and Saudi Arabia have "exclusive rights" in the Durra gas field.

Barrak also ruled out negotiations with Iran over the gas field until a maritime demarcation is carried out based on international law, saying that Iran’s “allegations” on its right to the field are not based on a clear border demarcation.

On July 9, Kuwaiti and Saudi officials discussed speeding up the work of their joint operations committee, which develops petroleum projects in the Neutral Zone, an area between the two countries where borders were left undefined.

Durra is located in waters where the maritime borders are contested by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran insists that a part of the Arash/Durra gas field extends into its waters, which Kuwait denies. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have asked Iran to engage in talks to define maritime borders in the Gulf.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry on July 4 said that the Durra offshore gas field belongs only to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. “Only Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have full sovereign rights over the field," a ministry official said. Riyadh had also renewed its calls on Iran to engage in maritime demarcation negotiations.

Earlier, the Kuwaiti foreign ministry reiterated its call on Iran to start negotiations over the demarcation of its maritime boundary with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, stressing that the disputed oil and gas field falls within Kuwait’s territorial waters, KUNA news agency reported on July 3.

The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) announced on June 27 that Tehran and Riyadh had started preliminary work to resume cooperation on their shared oil and gas fields.

The statement followed the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries in a Chinese-brokered deal in March. Tehran's relations with Kuwait have also improved, amid Iran's rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. In his visit to Kuwait on June 21, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian proposed a joint forum for Gulf countries, and to "settle all disputed issues".

Last December, Kuwait Gulf Oil Company and Saudi Aramco signed an agreement to develop the offshore Durra gas field. Acting CEO of Kuwait Gulf Oil Company Khaled al-Otaibi said joint efforts to develop the field aim to produce 1 billion cubic feet of gas and 84,000 barrels of liquefied gas per day.

In March 2022, the Kuwaiti foreign minister said that the gas field belongs to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and Iran is "not a party" to the site. Meanwhile, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said that his country would "soon" begin drilling in the gas field.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said the deal "goes against past negotiations and is illegal" and has "no bearing on the legal status" of the Arash gas field, as it is known in Iran.

In 2019, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed a deal to expedite the development and exploration of the Durra gas field, which is located in the Submerged Divided Zone.