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Kuwait plays down row with Saudi over shared oilfield

Staff writer |
Kuwait has played down a row with Saudi Arabia over its decision to halt production at an offshore oilfield jointly operated by the two Gulf neighbours.

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Oil Minister Ali al-Omair said the dispute over operations at the Khafji field would not affect strong ties.

"We hope to resolve this matter through dialogue, contacts and the open-door policy existing between the two nations," Omair said, cited by KUNA.

A Kuwaiti oil trade union and Kuwaiti media have accused Saudi Arabia of unilaterally halting the field's production of 311,000 barrels per day, which had been shared equally between the two Arab states.

Foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said the decision to halt output at the field was taken on technical and not political grounds.

"Relations between the two sisterly countries are too strong to be undermined by a difference in viewpoints," over oil production in the neutral zone, Jarallah said, speaking on the sidelines of a Gulf foreign ministers' meeting in the Saudi capital.

"The stoppage of production at Khafji in the divided zone with Saudi Arabia was for purely technical reasons and not political," he said, cited by KUNA late Sunday. Brothers in Saudi Arabia want to carry out maintenance work and deal with environmental issues which are understood by the Kuwaiti side. Production will resume to its normal level when these technical matters are sorted out."

Khafji is part of the neutral zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia which is jointly operated by the two nations and had produced around 700,000 bpd of shared crude.

Both countries have excess production capacity and are likely to make up any loss in output if the problem is not quickly resolved.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, is pumping around 9.6 million bpd and has just under 3.0 million bpd of spare capacity.

Kuwait has production capacity of more than 3.2 million bpd and is pumping an average of 3.0 million bpd.

The two governments signed the neutral zone agreement almost 50 years ago.

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