Iraq, Iran Agree to Solve Dispute over Border Oil Field

BAGHDAD (Dow Jones), Jan. 7, 2010

Iraqi and Iranian officials will meet next week to try to solve their border issues, including the dispute over a southern Iraqi oil well which Iranian forces occupied last month, foreign ministers of the two neighboring countries said Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki made the announcement after meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, in Baghdad.

"Everything will be solved," Mottaki told a joint news conference. "Joint technical committees will start meetings in a week from now, and the borders between the two brotherly countries will be marked," he added.

"We have agreed to normalize the situation on the two countries' borders and bring it back to where it was standing before," Zebari said. The issue of the oil well and all other issues can be solved bilaterally between the two countries, he added.

Iraqi officials said last month that Iranian forces occupied Well No. 4 on the al-Fakkah field, in Missan Province in southern Iraq, which straddles the two countries' frontier. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels and is part of a cluster of fields Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction last June.

Iraqi officials said Iranian forces have since withdrawn 50 meters away from the well but they still control the area and are preventing Iraqi oil workers from reaching the well.

The row over the oil-well occupation has, over the last few days, triggered anti-Iranian demonstrations across Iraq and angry statements from politicians accusing the government in Baghdad of supporting Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused certain "media" of giving too much publicity to the incident in order to damage the "close ties" between the two neighboring countries.

Iraqi and Iranian officials have frequently tussled over territory along their 1000-kilometer shared frontier, and brief incursions aren't uncommon. Oil officials recently traded accusations about oil theft from the shared field at the center of the dispute.

Iraq has accused Iran of siphoning crude oil from fields near the border, such as Abu Gharb and al-Fakkah, both located in Missan Province. Iraq also accused Iran last year of preventing Iraqi oil workers from developing the Abu Gharb field.

"Technical dialogue is being held between the two countries to invest jointly in these joint oil fields," Mottaki said. He gave no further details.

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