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Saudi Arabia, Kuwait's gas dispute with Iran tests recent detente

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia consider the Durra gas field to be theirs, but Iran claims a part of it. The issue shows disagreements remain between Riyadh and Tehran following the resumption of diplomatic relations.
A picture taken on October 13, 2021 shows Kuwait's largest oil refinery at the Al-Ahmadi complex, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital Kuwait City. - A fire broke out on October 18, 2021 in Al-Ahmadi refinery, with no interruptions to site operations or petrol exports. The fire was reported at the site of Mina al-Ahmadi, located on the Gulf coast just opposite Iran, according to an AFP photojournalist. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

A dispute over the Durra gas field in the Gulf is affecting improved relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it also complicates the gas development plans of both countries as well as Kuwait.

Durra — known as Arash in Iran — is located in the northwest part of the Gulf off the coast of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait consider the field to be located in their neutral zone, but Iran claims a northern part of the field. The dispute dates back to the 1960s and has delayed the field’s development.

The issue has escalated recently. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait signed an agreement last year to finally develop Durra. Iran called the deal “illegal” in response. In late June, the National Iranian Oil Company said that it is preparing to start drilling in Durra. On Monday, Kuwait said that it “rejects” these plans. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reiterated its rights to the field along with Kuwait’s and called on Iran to negotiate, according to state media.

The dispute comes on the backdrop of Saudi Arabia and Iran agreeing to resume diplomatic relations in March in a deal brokered by China. The two rivals cut ties in 2016.

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