There are many issues that raise debate, if not disagreement, between Iran and the Arab Gulf states, and perhaps a joint statement by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on a gas field has brought one of those issues back to the fore.
Although the Dorra gas field is owned by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, an agreement between Riyadh and Kuwait last month to develop it raised objections from Tehran.
Yesterday’s development was embodied in the invitation extended by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Iran to negotiate over the gas field.
A statement by the Saudi and Kuwaiti foreign ministries said that the two countries, “as one negotiating party,” renew Iran’s call to demarcate the eastern borders of the submerged divided zone between the two Gulf countries.
The two countries stressed that Tehran did not respond to previous calls for negotiations, according to the statement reported by the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) and the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Wednesday.
The statement added that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia “previously called on the Islamic Republic of Iran to negotiate the demarcation of the eastern border of the submerged divided zone, but these calls were not answered.”
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding on December 24, 2019 to accelerate the development and exploitation of the Al-Durra oil field, located in the offshore divided zone.
The statement added that the two countries affirm “their right to exploit the natural resources in this region, and will continue to work to implement what was agreed upon according to the minutes of the meeting signed on March 21, 2022.”
Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman and Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Oil Minister Muhammad Abdul Latif Al-Faris agreed in March to start work on the Al-Durra field, according to the statement.
On March 29, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah, said that the offshore Al-Durra gas field is a Kuwaiti-Saudi field, stressing that Iran “is not a party” to it.
His announcement came after statements by Iranian Oil Minister, Javad Oji, in which he said that his country would start “soon” exploration in the Arash gas field (the Persian name for the Dorra field) in the Arabian Gulf in response to a Kuwaiti-Saudi deal to develop the joint gas field.
Oji said on March 28 that while Iran is inclined to negotiate and cooperate with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to develop the gas field, their “unilateral actions will not prevent” Tehran from moving forward with its own plans.
In March, the Iranian Foreign Ministry considered the agreement signed between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait an “illegal” step, stressing that Iran would reserve the right to invest in the common field between the three countries.
The ministry’s spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said at the time that “the Arash (Al-Durra) field is a joint field between the countries of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and there are parts of it within the unspecified waters between Iran and Kuwait.”
He added, “Any step for investment and development in this field must be carried out in coordination and cooperation between the three countries.”
The spokesman stressed that Tehran “also reserves the right to invest in the joint Arash/Durra field.”
The dispute between the Gulf neighbors comes at a time when oil and gas prices are witnessing a significant increase, against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and fears of its impact on the quantities supplied.
Over the years, Iran and Kuwait have held talks to settle the dispute over the area of the continental shelf on the maritime borders between the two countries, but they have not yielded any results.
The dispute between Iran and Kuwait dates back to the sixties of the last century, when each party granted the right to explore in offshore fields to two different companies, rights that intersect in the northern part of the Dorra field.
The recoverable gas reserves of the Dorra field are estimated at 200 billion cubic metres.
“Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator.”