KUWAIT: Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah (right) speaks with HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah during a National Assembly session yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: MPs yesterday overwhelmingly ratified the neutral zone agreement with Saudi Arabia signed last month, paving the way for the resumption of oil production in the area after almost five years of stoppage. Fifty-five members, including all Cabinet ministers, voted for the pact, while seven members opposed it. Head of the foreign relations committee MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said the agreement has given Kuwait a permanent border with Saudi Arabia in the neutral zone, where oil production is shared equally between the two countries.

He said the agreement also gives Kuwait total control of its territory in its half and in nearby areas against paying compensation to Saudi Chevron for buildings it will vacate as per the pact. He insisted that Kuwait made no territorial or financial concessions under the agreement, which came to reconfirm agreements signed in 1965 and 2000 to demarcate land and maritime borders respectively.

Kandari said under the agreement, Kuwait will be able to access its Al-Zour port, adding that the signing of the agreement came after a row erupted when Saudi Arabia renewed its agreement with Chevron without consulting Kuwait. The row had led to halting production in the area.

MP Adnan Abdulsamad however said some oil experts say that Kuwait has lost some of its oil wealth as a result of the deal, adding that the foreign relations committee should have invited them to its meeting. Kandari however denied the claims and said the committee invited many personalities to its meeting. A large number of lawmakers insisted that the agreement is a major gain for Kuwait and also Saudi Arabia, and urged their colleagues to vote for it.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Mariam Al-Aqeel said yesterday that the “pockets of citizens” will not be touched under any scenario for economic reforms, adding that the position of the Kuwait sovereign fund is very strong. The minister was speaking after Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem asked her to clarify statements she made while releasing the new budget about the need to press for reforms and reconsider wages. Ghanem said that the fiscal strength of the country does not mean that there are no distortions in the economy, which should be treated but not at the cost of people.

Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Ghadeer Aseeri denied that she intended to quit after 10 MPs filed a no-confidence motion against her following a grilling on Tuesday. The minister’s denial comes amid reports that the number of lawmakers supporting the motion may have topped 20 already – her opponents need just 25 votes to oust her – just a few weeks after she was appointed to the Cabinet.

MP Ali Al-Deqbasi hinted during the Assembly session yesterday that expatriate spies may have been responsible for the hacking last month of Kuwait News Agency’s Twitter account. He said that the hacking was not the first one and was the result of the administration’s failure to employ more Kuwaitis in KUNA and dependence on expatriates. He said that the hacking could have been done by spies. He said that it is no longer acceptable that expatriates continue to work in the political news section at KUNA, adding that many spies are normally planted in the media and other sensitive places.