The signing of a border agreement between Saudi Arabia and Yemen on 12 June promises an end to the 66-year-old dispute between the two countries. The pact, signed in Jeddah by Yemen’s Foreign Affairs Minister Abdul-Qader Bagammal and his Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal, lays down arrangements for the demarcation of 1,500 kilometres in land and maritime borders under which the forces of the two countries will withdraw about 20 kilometres on both sides.

Joint committees, headed by the interior ministers of both countries, will supervise implementation of the pact. A company will be selected to demarcate the borders, Yemen’s President Saleh said after the signing.

Though much of the actual border line had already been agreed by both countries, the dispute had continued because of a series of unresolved issues, including a Yemeni call to return territory occupied by Saudi forces in 1969, formerly belonging to South Yemen.

Tensions between the two had increased after Riyadh expelled more than 1 million Yemeni workers resident in Saudi Arabia following Sanaa’s support for Iraq in the Gulf war of 1990-91.

Relations have been marred by continued clashes along the border, the most recent of which involved Saudi military operations in the Najran region, close to the Yemen frontier during April of this year.

In 1995, a memorandum of understanding was signed to set up joint committees to resolve the dispute. The improvement in relations was sealed in May when Crown Prince Abdullah attended celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the unification of north Yemen with the former Marxist republic in the south.