Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait meeting over maritime boundary dispute

Amid a sudden deterioration in their bilateral relationship, Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to hold a meeting with Kuwait to settle their joint maritime border.

On 11th October, Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah announced that a tripartite meeting had been agreed in principle between the three sides. He said that it was “basically a technical issue but it will need a political decision from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait”. No date was set for the meeting.

Kuwait and Iran have been in discussions for years over demarcating their joint sea border, in which Saudi Arabia is also involved, with little progress. Regional political tensions and uncertainties over their respective borders with Iraq have caused major delays.

Determining who has the right to the region's continental shelf is of importance largely because of the presence of the Dorra gasfield in the disputed zone. The field is estimated to contain up to 200 bcm of natural gas.

At present, all three states share the Dorra field. Kuwait has been actively working on developing its share of the field, and in April a senior executive from Kuwait Petroleum Corp said that a plan to start drilling by 2013 was still on schedule. Kuwait has, however, been cautious in proceeding due to the lack of agreement over ownership.

The plan to resolve the outstanding technical issues of the joint maritime border comes as relations between Tehran and Riyadh hit a new low. News of an alleged plot by Iranian agents to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington has prompted fears of a new phase in the 'cold war' between the two regional powers.

Although unlikely to directly affect the border negotiations, a crisis in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia would make it more difficult for them to agree on sharing the resources of the Dorra field.

Sources; Al Arabiya, AFP

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