Saudi Arabia has said it enjoys "full rights" along with Kuwait to a disputed gas field in the resource-rich Gulf, pushing back against claims by Iran, state media reported late Tuesday (4 July).
The field, known as Arash in Iran and Dorra in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, falls under "joint ownership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Kuwait, and they alone have full rights", the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a foreign ministry source.
The Saudi statement appeared one day after Kuwait reinvited Iran to participate in talks on their sea borders.
The dispute over the field -- whose recoverable reserves are estimated at some 220 billion cubic metres (seven trillion cubic feet) -- dates back to the 1960s, when Iran and Kuwait awarded overlapping offshore concessions.
Last year, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to develop the field, despite objections from Iran which branded the deal as "illegal".
Mohsen Khojsteh Mehr, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company, said last week that "there is full preparation to start drilling in the joint Arash oil field".
"Considerable resources have been allocated to the board of directors of the National Iranian Oil Company for the implementation of the development plan for this field," he said in remarks carried by Iranian state media.
Iran and Kuwait have held unsuccessful talks for many years over their disputed maritime border area, which is rich in natural gas.
Saudi Arabia is also a part of the dispute since it shares with Kuwait maritime gas and oil resources in the area.
Iranian drilling of the field in 2001 spurred Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to agree on a maritime border deal which stipulated that they jointly develop the offshore zone.
In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a surprise Chinese-brokered rapprochement deal, agreeing to restore ties after a seven-year rift, raising hopes for reduced tensions between the Middle East heavyweights.