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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to form co-operative council

The two countries will probably resume production on two joint oilfields in the south of Kuwait

King Salman and Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah in Jeddah on June 6, 2017 to discuss the GCC crisis. Bandar Al Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace
King Salman and Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah in Jeddah on June 6, 2017 to discuss the GCC crisis. Bandar Al Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will form a cooperation council that will likely see the two GCC countries restart production on joint oil fields.

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed, met with Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabian minister of foreign affairs, who travelled to Kuwait on Tuesday to sign the agreement with his counterpart.

Khaled Al Jarallah, the Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister, told Kuwaiti state news agency KUNA that the two countries were considering restarting operations on a common border oilfield and that he was hopeful for an agreement to be made.

Kuwaiti Minister of Oil Bukhait Al Rishidi told parliament last month that both sides are working on re-operating facilities in the two countries' neutral zones. Wafra oilfield in Kuwait was closed in 2014 for environmental reasons and Khafji oilfield halted operations in 2015 due to “technical difficulties.”

“The council aims at further boosting bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Mr Al Jarallah said, according to KUNA.

The move entails increasing co-operation between the two countries and further developing financial ties.

“Given how ineffective the GCC has long been in developing economic co-operation between states, in terms of boosting joint commerce, this is perhaps progress,” said Dr David Roberts, assistant professor at King’s College London.

In recent weeks, Kuwait has increased its military co-operation with Saudi Arabia by sending an army division to the kingdom's border with Yemen. Kuwait is also part of the Saudi-led coalition which is intervening in the civil war in Yemen on behalf of the internationally recognised government of President Abdradu Mansur Hadi.

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Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait benefit from the perks of being members of the GCC, which includes freedom of travel and permission for GCC members to work in any of the six countries.

The bilateral agreement is seen as a way for Saudi Arabia to increase co-operation with other GCC countries.

It also shows co-ordination within the GCC since the Gulf crisis broke out a year ago, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut relations with Qatar.

Kuwait, acting as chief mediator in the crisis, held the annual GCC summit in Kuwait City despite fears it would be cancelled last year. But the summit was cut a day short due to poor attendance by members.

“GCC states have long preferred bilateral co-operation to multilateral co-operation. But this nascent institutionalisation of bilateral mechanisms, as opposed to de facto but uninstitutionalised bilateral co-operation, is an interesting development,” Dr Roberts said.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, tweeted that the move was a sign of further co-operation between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia formed a similar co-operation council with the UAE in February.

In their first meeting, the two decided to “consolidate close relations and intensify co-operation and integration in various fields", according to a statement run on the Centre for International Communication.

If based off the Saudi-Emirati council, then both countries will benefit from economic integration and in other fields.

High-level ministers from both countries will look to meet on an annual basis to invest in developmental projects.

Kuwait hosted a joint chamber of commerce meeting in April that indicated both countries were keen on allotting resources for combined endeavours.

“It's a tentatively positive sign, although we should remember it's easy to sign a document and make an announcement. We will have to wait a few years to judge whether it had been successful or not,” Dr Roberts said.