Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Edward B. McEnerney of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. T. E. Bromley, First Secretary, British Embassy
Mr. E. C. [E] Jones, Attaché, British Embassy
J. C. Satterthwaite, NEA
D. A. Robertson, NEA
J. D. Jernegan, GTI
S. W. Boggs, OIR/GE
G. E. Gray, L/P
E. G. Moline, PED
G. H. Mattison, NE
Mrs. M. E. Hope, NE
Mr. E. B. McEnerney, NE

Mr. Robertson referred to Mr. Bromley’s letter of July 201 to Mr. Mattison, enclosing a telegram to the British Embassy from the Foreign Office dated July 17, 1948, concerning the Persian Gulf offshore oil question. He said that the Department was very happy to have learned that the Foreign Office had accepted the American recommendation [Page 25]that Iran not be presented with a “fait accompli” and that she be informed of the US-UK recommendations along with the other Persian Gulf states. He also noted that in the British telegram of July 17 it had been suggested that the UK approach the Sheikhdoms under British protection and the Sultan of Muscat, while the US and UK might approach Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. He said that he wondered whether the approach to the Sheikhdoms was to precede that to the other countries, or whether both approaches were to be simultaneous. Mr. Bromley said he believed they were to be simultaneous. Mr. Mattison mentioned that, if the UK were to approach the Sultan of Muscat, it should do so on behalf of the US, since we are in direct diplomatic relationship with the Sultan, although we do not at present have a representative accredited to him. Mr. Robertson also suggested that it would be necessary to determine whether the approaches to the Sultan of Muscat, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were to be joint or parallel. It was agreed that they should be parallel.

It was agreed between the Americans and the British present that any statement by either Government which might be made to the oil companies, concerning the possibility of securing concessions covering the offshore area, should not be made until declarations had been made by the individual rulers announcing the offshore area under their jurisdiction. No public statement would be volunteered by the US and UK concerning the role which they had played in submitting recommendations to the riparian states. Mr. Moline suggested that it might be advisable, however, for the US and UK to prepare some statement concerning their role which could if necessary be made available should inquiries be made by the UN or other bodies. Mr. Jones said that he felt, as a matter of fact, that a certain amount of publicity concerning the Anglo-American discussions had already gone the rounds in oil circles. Mr. Robertson inquired whether the British thought any other countries, such as Iraq, had learned of our discussions. Mr. Bromley replied that, so far as he knew, Iraq had not.

Mr. Satterthwaite asked if the British Government’s policy was to encourage competition among the British oil companies and not to select any chosen instrument. He pointed out that the US Government favors open competition as regards American companies. The British representatives replied that the British Government is also favoring open competition. Mr. Jones pointed out that actually very few British companies would be in a position to undertake offshore exploitation, since only a few possessed the necessary technical skill and equipment.

Mr. Robertson then referred to the use by the British in their telegram of the words “sovereignty” and “annexation”. He said that the [Page 26]Department would like again to express its desire that these words not be used. He pointed out that neither in the Continental Shelf Fisheries Proclamation nor in the companion Natural Resources Proclamation issued by the President had these words been used. He felt that it would be much wiser to follow the language of the President’s Continental Shelf Proclamation, i.e., “jurisdiction and control,” in this problem of the Persian Gulf. He said that if we were to depart from the language of the declaration a considerable delay might be caused, because it would then be necessary to consult with the fishery experts of the Department and with the Department of Interior, which had been responsible for the text of the President’s declarations. The Department of State could not endorse the use of “sovereignty” and “annexation” as regards the Persian Gulf without prior agreement by the Department of Interior.

Mr. Boggs pointed out in this connection that when the President’s Continental Shelf Proclamation was drawn up great care had been taken in the choice of the language used, and he felt sure that the drafters had avoided the use of “sovereignty” and “annexation” with good reason.

Mr. Gray said that from the legal standpoint he also felt that it would be advisable to follow the language of the President’s declaration. He felt particularly that, were some expression such as “sovereignty over the subsoil and seabed” to be used, complications and misunderstandings might result as a consequence of which it might be believed that the riparian states were annexing the complete area affected, including the high seas. He then inquired specifically of the British whether they had in mind any such annexation of an area as was involved in the case of the Gulf of Paria, between Venezuela and Trinidad. The British replied that they had not.

Mr. Boggs said that he felt the question of annexing the resources of the subsoil was similar to that of acquiring fishing rights. In the latter case one would assert rights over the fish alone, and it seemed to him that in the former case it would be sufficient to assert rights over the resources alone.

Mr. Bromley said that he would endeavor to clarify the question with the Foreign Office. He added that the primary British objective was to assure, for the riparian states, that no other state would ever be able to assert rights in the Gulf in opposition to those asserted by the riparian states. He had in mind in particular any Russian effort to establish a position in the Gulf. Mr. Robertson suggested that it might be possible to work out some kind of formula which would preclude any such intrusion into the Gulf by a third party.

Mr. Mattison pointed out that from a political point of view it might be easier to persuade the riparian states to accept a concept of [Page 27]jurisdiction rather than one of sovereignty since if it were merely a question of jurisdiction, the difficult problems of fishing rights and pearling rights, such as those of Bahrein, would not arise.

Mr. Robertson then asked whether it was the British intention to cancel the possibility of a conference in London, or whether it was merely to be postponed. Mr. Bromley replied that the British desire at the moment was to move ahead as fast as possible without holding the proposed conference and to work out general principles before working out the specific principles which would govern the drawing of a map. Mr. Robertson asked if the British had had any reaction from London on Mr. Boggs’ map and memorandum. Mr. Bromley said that they had, inasmuch as London had said they were working on their own memorandum in reply. Mr. Robertson said that it would be advisable to have the map worked out before specific recommendations were made to the riparian states. Mr. Mattison said that it would be much easier for the riparian states to accept the US-UK recommendations if they had the advantage of a visual presentation showing which segment of the Gulf would fall to each state. Mr. Bromley agreed that the map should be prepared before recommendations were made. It was therefore recognized that the discussions from now on would fall into two stages. The first would involve reaching agreement on basic principles, and the second would involve reaching agreement on the implementation of the principles through drawing of a map.

Mr. Bromley agreed to submit, as soon as possible, a precise statement of what the Foreign Office would consider a proper statement of principles to be submitted to the riparian states. These could then be discussed between the State Department and the British representatives with the view to working out the final agreed set of recommendations.

Mr. Gray then introduced the question of what form the proclamation which might be issued by a riparian state should take. It was felt in general that a sample form might be submitted to all of the states, but it was to be hoped that each state would not promulgate the same identical text in each case.

Mr. Robertson said that the State Department was faced with a specific problem about which he desired to ask the opinion of the British. The Saudi Arabian Government had asked the United States Government for advice concerning the granting of a Saudi offshore concession, and the USG had asked the Saudi Government to defer action until receipt of US-UK recommendations. The problem now was one of deciding when we could inform the Saudi Government that we felt it might feel free to grant a concession. Would the US and UK insist that agreement be reached by all the riparian states before we would recommend to any individual state that it grant a concession? [Page 28]Mr. Bromley said that he felt that we should not wait for any such general agreement. When the US and UK had reached agreement on the solution of “the problem” posed by the SAG we would simply submit our recommendations to the riparian states. They would then be free to take whatever action they chose. Mr. Robertson said that he believed the US and UK might desire to be sure that Saudi Arabia would accept our principles before approving the taking of action by any other riparian state on the basis of our recommendations. Once Saudi Arabia was satisfied, the US and UK would not insist upon general agreement among all the riparian states. Mr. Mattison pointed out that of course we would not approve the granting by King Ibn Saud of a concession over any offshore territory which would rightfully belong to some other state.

Mr. Boggs pointed out that in the President’s Continental Shelf Proclamation it had been stated that in cases where continental shelf running from the shores of the US was shared by it with an adjoining state or with a state lying opposite the US, it would be necessary for agreement to be reached by the US and the other state on the basis of equitable principles before the shelf could be considered divided between them. Mr. Jones repeated that, as he saw it, all that was involved was a presentation by the US and the UK to the riparian states of principles which we desired them to adopt, and that formal agreement between themselves did not appear necessary. It was agreed that negotiations between states was unnecessary.

Mr. Boggs said that he hoped that the Foreign Office, in raising the whole question of offshore oil to the British cabinet, would be sure to include the question of principles affecting the drawing of the median and transversal lines. He said that he felt most anxious that this should be done since he is working on problems of division in another area where there are no islands involved and he would like to see scientific principles adopted. Mr. Bromley then remarked that the question of islands was indeed a difficult one and that the Saudi Foreign Office had discussed the question of jurisdiction over islands with Ambassador Trott. They had in particular been discussing the status of Farsi Island.

At the close of the meeting Mr. Robertson pointed out that it would be necessary for the US and the UK to determine whether they would look with favor upon the granting by Iran of the concession covering Iran’s offshore area. Mr. Robertson said that the US Government would not be anxious to see such a concession granted, and Mr. Bromley said that similarly the British Government would not like to see one granted.

In conclusion, it was agreed that attention should now be given to (1) drafting a set of principles and (2) drafting a suggested proclamation.

  1. No. G59/—/48, addressed to Gordon H. Mattison, then acting as Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs. The note and its enclosure not printed.