Kuwait, Saudi Arabia set to sign neutral zone deal

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Kuwait - Yasmine El Tohamy - Kuwaiti oil minister Khaled al-Fadhel, attend

By A Saleh

KUWAIT: Well-informed official oil sources said a high-ranking Saudi delegation headed by Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman will arrive in Kuwait to sign an agreement on resuming oil production in the shared neutral zone jointly run by both countries. The sources expected the agreement will be signed tomorrow or on Wednesday.

The sources added that protocol arrangements are being made to sign a demarcation agreement and resume oil production at the Khafji and Wafra oilfields as soon as possible after a four-year suspension. The sources said that the green light for resumption of production would be made in Kuwait after signing the agreement and positively settling all political and technical concerns for the best of both countries’ interests. “Oil production will resume in phases and is expected to reach the maximum capacity of 500,000 barrels per day within a few months,” the sources said.

Earlier yesterday, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Khaled Al-Fadhel had hoped Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will resolve the neutral zone issue by the end of 2019. “We hope that by the end of the year things will be cleared out and things will go back to normal,” Fadhel told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in Kuwait.

“Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have always been in agreement (regarding the neutral zone conflict),” Fadhel added. However, resuming oil production from the zone remains a political issue that needs to be discussed at higher levels, he added. In October, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said negotiations between Kuwait and Riyadh on the neutral zone issue were “very positive” and an agreement has been reached.

The disagreement between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait started over the Wafra field, which is operated by Chevron Corp. Saudi Arabia extended the original 60-year concession of the field, giving the US company rights over Wafra until 2039. Kuwait was furious over the announcement and claims Riyadh never consulted it about the extension.

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