396.1 LO/5–1750: Telegram

The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers Meeting to the Acting Secretary of State


Secto 290. Further discussion SA held at meeting yesterday with Hare and Palmer for US and Wright, Furlonge and Rogers for UK.

UK representative stated they had given careful consideration our suggestion re possibility direct negotiations between SAG and Sheikhs with UK advising latter. Foreign Office legal advisers, to whom suggestion referred, have taken point of view that such negotiations would be inconsistent with UK treaty relationship with Sheikhdoms. Hare pointed out that, according our information, treaty with Bahrein permits direct negotiations by ruler with UK consent (Tosec 1801). UK representatives observed Bahrein not concerned in present negotiations. Moreover, they doubted that even in case Bahrein would UK wish depart from present policy of not authorizing direct negotiations.

UK representatives then inquired again re information on which we based our suggestion Ibn Saud might be more generous if he dealt directly with Sheikhs. We reiterated reason given in D–15b.2 UK representatives said their estimate of situation was that King had never shown himself to be particularly generous to brother Arabs. If he negotiated directly with Sheikhs, they felt he would be more inclined to browbeat them and exploit opportunity in effort establish hegemony over them. They did not think direct negotiations would be likely result in equitable settlement. If Ibn Saud had wished to make compromise agreement, he would have done it in negotiations with UK. If he now desires negotiate directly with Sheikhs, they felt it is in expectation of greater benefits for him. Moreover, negotiations re frontiers are most important and difficult task for any state and UK is apprehensive re ability Sheikhdoms to undertake such negotiations, particularly in view of inequalities of power involved. Hare emphasized that essential part of our suggestion is that UK should act in advisory capacity. In this way, UK would be in position to prevent [Page 1060] Sheikhs from yielding to any excessive demands. UK representatives observed that further difficulty was fact that all Sheikhs involved wanted UK to undertake negotiations on their behalf.

Hare then inquired again whether UK had thought of associating Sheikhs with negotiations in some manner. UK representative replied that they have followed this procedure on occasion in past and that they were prepared again to bring Sheikhs in as “consultants” if this would meet Saudi desires (Wright balked a little at use of word “consultants”, suggesting we not try to spell this out, and indicating UK might be prepared go even further in associating Sheikhs with negotiations than bringing them in in a consultative capacity).

Hare said he wished to make it clear that we do not wish to undermine British position in Persian Gulf. He thought it important, however that we recognize anachronistic nature of present arrangements, as well as practical reasons for maintaining them for present. In view this situation, we felt that it was necessary to preserve large degree of fluidity with respect to these arrangements and we hoped that UK agreed with us re desirability of preserving flexibility in approach to problems in area. It was with this thought in mind that we had suggested direct negotiations.

Wright replied that he appreciated our point of view. He wanted to make it clear that UK did not want to adopt a hard and fast approach to these problems. Their main objection to our proposal re direct negotiations was that they did not feel that it would lead to better results. UK has been giving careful consideration other alternative approaches. Wright then asked Rogers outline proposal for accepting Ibn Saud’s suggestion for fact finding commission which Rogers described along lines of British memo referred paragraph 2 Tosec 202.3 In his presentation Rogers brought out fact that UK was making its acceptance of King’s suggestion re fact finding commission conditional on Saudi statement in support its claims because Saudis in past have merely advanced extreme claims without justifying them. Re condition UK right to negotiation on behalf Sultan of Muscat, Rogers emphasized that Sultan had requested UK to act in this capacity, that UK had accepted and that it felt that SAG should recognize this fact. Hare noted that we had long standing treaty with Muscat. He did not know how present negotiations might affect that treaty, if at all, but he wished to mention fact.

[Page 1061]

Rogers went on to say UK had also been considering other possible alternative ways of settling this dispute. It had heard that SAG might suggest arbitration, and, if so, UK would probably accept. He emphasized legal aspects of dispute and said he was afraid fact finding committee might find it difficult to deal with legal points involved. If King persisted in trying to obtain territory which was not legally his, it might prove necessary to refer matter to arbitration.

Hare observed at this point that, although there was undoubtedly a legal flavor to the problems involved, nevertheless if one attempted to solve this dispute on a strictly legal basis he foresaw that it would take an inordinate amount of time. He hoped that UK would not so judge it and that it would be possible find a solution, which while not ignoring legal aspects would be based on realistic agreement. Couldn’t parties simply sit down and try draw mutually acceptable line? Wright replied that whole UK effort in past negotiations has been directed toward trying to find an equitable agreement based on compromise. UK entirely agreed with us that what was desired was a quick settlement. If any other device than fact finding committee could be found for promoting an early settlement, UK would wish examine it carefully. UK has in past tried sit down with Saudis in endeavor draw reasonable line and would be willing try this again. He doubted very much, however, whether King would be any more inclined now, than in the past, to adopt reasonable attitude. For that reason it seemed desirable establish facts, which is why UK had decided agree to suggestion for fact finding committee. In any event he wished assure us that all UK wanted was reasonable, practical and early solution of this problem.

At time foregoing discussion we had received Tosec 180, but not Tosec 202.

Sent Department Secto 290, repeated information Jidda 29.

  1. Not printed.
  2. The reason given in FM D D–15b, dated May 4, not printed, was: “Since King Ibn Saud has consolidated his position in the Arabian peninsula and since he now enjoys a greatly increased income from the development of the oil resources in Saudi Arabia, the King would probably adopt a magnanimous attitude in dealing with the smaller Persian Gulf Sheikdoms.” (CFM Files: Lot M–88: Box 149: May FM Meeting C, D Series)
  3. Not printed; the proposal referred to in Tosec 202 read as follows:

    “On condition that SAG produce a detailed statement in support of their claim and admit the right of His Majesty’s Govt to negot on behalf of the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and Sultan of Muscat in respect of areas claimed by them, His Majesty’s Govt are willing to enter into a joint study of the frontiers with the SAG, the discussion of the boundaries of individual states, being, of course subj to overall agreement on the frontiers as a whole.” (396.1 LO/5–1550)