Practice on Provisional Arrangements in maritime Disputed Areas, JOINT DEVELOPMENT ZONES, Kuwait-Saudi Arabia case

A joint development zone in the Persian Gulf between Kuwait and Saudi
Arabia developed from the “Neutral Zone” established by the Al Uqair
Protocol of 1922 in their land border areas where a land boundary line
could not be agreed upon. This provided, that “. . . the Government of Najd
[Saudi Arabia] and Kuwait will share equal rights [in the Neutral Zone]
until through the good offices of Great Britain a further agreement is made . . .
concerning it”. The Neutral Zone covered a land area of 5,700 km2. Through
the history of exploration, common and co-ordinated modes of exploitation
have been established in the Neutral Zone. Similar practices of joint exploration
and exploitation also have been established in offshore areas of the
Neutral Zone.
In 1965 an international boundary line was drawn between the countries
in the Neutral Zone. The boundary line extends from land to the territorial
sea. However, the boundary does not affect the nature of the Neutral
Zone and its offshore areas in terms of exploitation of natural resources.
With respect to the submerged area beyond the territorial sea, the two countries
agreed to exercise their equal rights by means of shared exploration
unless the two countries would agree otherwise.

Map 1: Neutral Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
(Source: M. Miyoshi, The Joint Development of Offshore Oil and Gas
in relation to Maritime Boundary Delimitation, IBRU Maritime Briefing 1999)

Methods of Shaping the JDZ
As the background of the establishment of the Neutral Zone shows, the
Neutral Zone in the land territory corresponded to the area where the two
countries could not agree on land boundaries. The submersed maritime zone
pertaining to the Neutral Zone of the land also became a joint development
zone later on. However, the seaward limit of the joint continental shelf
seems obscure because there is no maritime boundary between Kuwait and
Iran until now.
Operational Mechanism and the Effectiveness of the Arrangement
The Protocol of 1922 does not provide a detailed mechanism to facilitate
joint development. What is clear from the Protocol is that the two States
have equal shares in joint and undivided property in the Neutral Zone. Each
government granted concessions to their own concessionaires but let their
concessionaires co-operate with each other. For example, the Pacific Western Oil Corporation (subsequently Getty Oil Company), which is the concessionaire of Saudi Arabia, entered into an agreement on joint drilling with
American Independent Oil Company (Aminoil) in 1956. The two companies
signed a joint operating agreement in 1960. The joint drilling and joint
operation of the two concessionaires were under the supervision of a Joint
Operating Committee. Later, in 1965, the two governments established a
Joint Permanent Committee. It is noteworthy that of the seven jointly
developed fields in the Persian Gulf, four, including the largest, are found
in the Neutral Zone.
Delimitation Issue
As there are two islands in dispute between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the
delimitation of maritime boundaries has proved to be difficult. The two
islands are Qarah and Umm al-Maradim. These have been under the Kuwaiti
control and claimed by Saudi Arabia. In 1961 Kuwait offered to Saudi
Arabia a half share of any income accruing from future exploitation in
return for the Saudi Arabian acknowledgement of the Kuwaiti sovereignty
over the islands. However, Saudi Arabia has yet to make a decision on the

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