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Kuwait says in talks with Iran over gas-rich border

KUWAIT, June 27 (Reuters) - Kuwait said on Tuesday it is currently holding intensive talks with Iran to resolve a dispute, also involving Saudi Arabia, over oil and gas-rich areas in the northern Gulf.

The official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) quoted Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled Sulaiman Jarallah as saying "intensive discussions" were taking place between Kuwaiti and Iranian officials to resolve their continental shelf dispute.

Jarallah did not elaborate about the contacts between the two countries, but said talks would continue.

"An agreement will be reached in the near future thanks to the increased honest efforts and joint cooperation," he said.

The long-standing row over unsettled maritime borders between Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia resurfaced in May after Riyadh and Kuwait protested against Iranian gas drilling operations in the offshore Dorra field.

Iran has since ended operations in the area while Kuwait and Saudi Arabia reopened border talks. But Tehran also stressed at the time that it was operating within its territorial waters.

Jarallah reiterated Kuwait's appreciation for the halt in Iranian drilling "until a fair and final accord is reached to meet the needs of the two friendly states," KUNA reported.

In 1997, Iran and Kuwait agreed to postpone their continental shelf talks until the Gulf Arab state reaches an accord with neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

A Kuwait-Saudi pact is crucial to identify a tripartite point in the Gulf to divide the waterway's riches between the three states but the two Arab countries have failed for years to finalise their border talks.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah is due to visit Kuwait on Saturday for three days of talks that would include the row.

Kuwait earlier this month said it would soon reach a political accord with Saudi Arabia on the row and would then try to resolve its dispute with Iran .

Kuwait has said it would send an envoy to Iran to discuss the issue but did not specify a date or the level of contact.


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