786A.022/4–2450

Memorandum by Mr. Fraser Wilkins of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs (McGhee) and to the Director of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs (Berry)

confidential

Subject: April 25 Meeting with Aramco on Saudi Arabian Boundary Problems.

Mr. Duce of Aramco has proposed a meeting in the Department at which Aramco officers, their international law advisor, Judge Manley O. Hudson, and officers of the Department might discuss the following subjects:

(1)
British attitude on jurisdiction over the island of Farsi;
(2)
British attitude toward the desire of the Saudi Arabian Government to deal directly with the Rulers of the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms;
(3)
British attitude toward Qatar and Trucial Oman boundaries of Saudi Arabia.

The meeting is scheduled from 11:00 a. m. to 1:00 p. m. on April 25, 1950 in Room 2180 New State. It is expected that Mr. Berry will chair the meeting and that Mr. McGhee and Mr. Hare1 will join the group about 12 o’clock.

A brief memorandum containing background information on the three subjects proposed for discussion has been prepared for distribution to the Departmental officers participating in the talks for their information only (Tab A).

The Department’s attitude toward the jurisdictional disputes of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf is set forth in the paper on this problem prepared for the London Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Tab B). While carefully refraining from taking sides in the dispute or otherwise becoming embroiled, we have consistently urged upon both sides the need to settle these boundary issues promptly and amicably (before the discovery of oil in the area can complicate the problem further).

In the conduct of the meeting, it is recommended that the Departmental officers:

(1)
welcome an exposition by the Aramco representatives of the problems involved and of the company’s views on them;
(2)
engage in an informal discussion of the problems with the company’s representatives;
(3)
adhere to our previously expressed position that we urge the early and amicable settlement of the boundary issues by the two parties, while avoiding any statement or commitment which could be interpreted as involving the Department in the dispute or as taking sides on the issues.

The Chairman, in his discretion, may wish to advise the Aramco representatives informally along the lines of certain of our recommendations on this problem prepared for our Delegation to the London Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, such as:

(1)
that a stalemate in the Persian Gulf area is not conducive to its orderly development and tranquility, and that the recent settlement of the Abu Dhabi–Dubai boundary by arbitral award sets an admirable example.
(2)
that as stated previously, a fact-finding investigating commission agreeable to the two governments might be able to reduce the field of differences between the Saudi Arabian Government and the United Kingdom acting on behalf of the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms.
(3)
suggest that, as previously stated, any remaining differences in the boundary problem might be resolved by means of a neutral commission of arbitration.
(4)
that we will continue to urge both the United Kingdom and the Saudi Arabian Government to move toward settlement.

[Tab A]

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs (Berry) to the Officers Concerned With Persian Gulf Boundary Problems

confidential

Subject: Saudi Arabian Territorial Disputes.

Mr. Duce of Aramco has proposed a meeting in the Department at which Aramco officers, their international law adviser Judge Manley O. Hudson, and officers of the Department might discuss the following subjects:

1)
British attitude on jurisdiction over the island of Farsi.
2)
British attitude toward the desire of the Saudi Arabian Government to deal directly with the Rulers of the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms.
3)
British attitude toward Qatar and Trucial Oman boundaries of Saudi Arabia.

The meeting is scheduled from 11:00 a. m. to 1:00 p. m. on April 25, 1950 in Room 2180 New State, The meeting will be chaired by Mr. Burton Berry and it is anticipated that Mr. McGhee and Mr. Hare will join the group at noon. After the meeting the participants are invited to a luncheon as guests of Aramco.

[Page 38]

The following information is offered for briefing on the three subjects to be discussed:

(1)
The island of Farsi lies about midway across the Persian Gulf from the northeast coast of Saudi Arabia. It is one of a group of five islands (Harkus, Karan, Kurain, Arabi and Farsi), which are claimed by the United Kingdom for Kuwait. Saudi Arabia also claims it, and so does Iran. Farsi is uninhabited. Its value lies in the fact that jurisdiction over it will advance the seabed rights of the owner state, and the sub-seabed is a potential source of petroleum. In order to substantiate its claim to Farsi, the Saudi Arabian Government erected a marker on the island last November. The British Government in behalf of Kuwait, has requested the Saudi Arabian Government to remove the marker, or the United Kingdom will do so unless the Saudi Arabian basis for its claim is submitted. The Saudi Arabian Government has replied that it would be glad to discuss all boundary disputes with the United Kingdom whenever it is ready to do so.
(2)
The Saudi Arabian Government has made claims to territories in the southeastern part of the Peninsula which lie in the hinterland of the Trucial Coast and the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. It has offered to discuss with the United Kingdom the conflicting territorial claims between Saudi Arabia and the Trucial Sheikhdoms, but it stated that it preferred to discuss directly with the minor independent Sheikhs of the Buraimi area its boundary problems with them. The Saudi Arabian Government took the same position in regard to its boundary problems with the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. This position was taken in view of the fact that the United Kingdom did not have the special treaty relations with Muscat and Oman that it enjoyed with the other Persian Gulf principalities. The Saudi Arabian Government position was correct in that the United Kingdom does not have the treaty right to control the foreign relations of the Sultanate, but the United Kingdom has recently received from the Sultan authority to negotiate in his behalf the boundary dispute with Saudi Arabia.
The British Government considers the Saudi Arabian attitude “impertinent” and appears to attribute the desire of the Saudi Arabian Government to deal with the Sultan directly as indicative of a similar intent to do likewise with Rulers of the Sheikhdoms. There is no evidence of such an intent in the Saudi Arabian Government note, except for its claim that the Sheikhs of the Buraimi area are not under British jurisdiction. The King did address a letter directly to the Sheikh of Bahrein in November of last year when the jurisdiction over Abu Saafa shoals came into dispute, and another one to the Sheikh of Kuwait over the conflicting claims to the island of Arabi. Both letters suggested direct negotiation of all territorial disputes.
(3)
The boundary disputes between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Abu Dhabi (one of the Trucial Sheikhdoms) date back to the 1913–14: inconclusive negotiations between the United Kingdom and Turkey. Negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom took place in 1934 and again in 1937–38, but both failed to reach agreement. The disputed areas are little known and have importance now only because of their potential sub-soil resources. The governments [Page 39]concerned and their concessionary oil companies, whose concessions follow national boundaries, are of course eager to advance territorial claims as far as possible and negotiations were begun last year between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia to settle the Saudi Arabian-Qatar and Abu Dhabi boundaries. Conversations were desultory until the Saudi Arabian Government set forth claims going somewhat further than had previously been considered. In effect these claims included a good part of the southern Qatar Peninsula and a long sweep of coast between Qatar and the Trucial Coast which the United Kingdom considers to be Abu Dhabi’s. The British reply was a threat to return to the old 1913–14 line drawn during the United Kingdom–Turkish negotiations. This line is at least as extreme as the United Kingdom considers the Saudi position to be. The Saudi Arabian Government rejected that basis for negotiation and offered to undertake a joint study of the facts, but the United Kingdom has not replied. No further progress has therefore been made.

[Tab B]

Paper Prepared in the Department of State for the London Foreign Ministers Meeting in May

restricted

Jurisdictional Dispute of Saudi Arabia

problem

To persuade the British Government, acting on behalf of the Sheikhdoms of Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, and Trucial Oman, and of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, of the desirability of progress in the settlement of boundary issues in eastern Arabia and of conflicting claims to islands and adjacent sea-bed areas in the Persian Gulf.

background

Saudi Arabia has land boundary disputes with the Sheikhdoms of Qatar and Abu Dhabi. A large area in the southeastern corner of the Peninsula has never been delimited between Saudi Arabia, some of the Trucial Sheikhdoms and the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. The unratified Anglo–Turkish Convention of 1913–14 had delineated the area between Nejd (eastern region of Saudia Arabia) and the coastal area under British protection. In 1934, and again in 1937–38, negotiations were entered into between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom in which compromise proposals by both sides suggested a frontier to the east of the 1913–14 line. This compromise proved unacceptable. In 1949 conversations on the subject were renewed. Potential oil resources in the area had, however, prompted Saudi Arabia to extend its claims into the Qatar Peninsula, and to large areas of the hinterland of Trucial Oman. In view of this extreme claim, the [Page 40]United Kingdom has threatened to return to the 1913–14 line as a basis of negotiation. Although the Saudi Arabian Government has been unwilling to accept this line as a basis for negotiation, it has suggested the creation of an investigating commission to determine the facts. Thus far the U.K. has not replied.

Saudi Arabia claims 18 islands in the Persian Gulf. Of these, the U.K. claims 5 for Kuwait (Harkus, Karan, Kurani, Arabi and Farsi). In addition to these claims, Iran asserts sovereignty to one of them (Farsi) and the island lying between Saudi Arabia and Qatar may be claimed by the latter (Anaibar). Furthermore, if Saudi Arabia is able to establish its claim to the coastal areas between Qatar and Abu Dhabi, other islands lying off these coasts may be involved (Natta, Ghara, Kafai, Makhasib, and Shuraveh).

The Saudi Arabian Government began erecting markers on the above-mentioned 18 islands last November in order to substantiate its claim to them. The British Government took issue with Saudi Arabia over the marker on Farsi Island and has asked that it be removed or that Saudi Arabia submit the basis for its claim to Farsi. The Saudi Arabian Government has replied that it would be glad to discuss all boundary disputes with the U.K. whenever the latter is ready to do so. Thus far the British Government has not accepted this offer.

discussion

The United States is involved in this general question because of the substantial American investment in Saudi Arabia through Aramco on the one hand, and the similar American investment in the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms through Bapco, IPC, Superior, and Kuoco on the other. The potential value of untapped petroleum in the areas under dispute has focused attention upon them by claimant governments and by rival concessionary oil companies. The U.S. believes that claims can best be settled before oil is discovered and has endeavored to impress upon both sides the desirability of early settlement.

During recent weeks British Foreign Office spokesmen have indicated that the U.K. was content to let the boundary question drift and have even suggested that American and British oil companies could work out a practical arrangement as to units of concessions without reference to the governments concerned. We do not believe that this thorny problem should be handled in this way because such practical arrangements, even if desirable, would not be binding on either the concessionary companies or the governments of the areas in which the concessions are situated. The U.S. has pursued a policy of strict impartiality on these boundary questions. It has at the same time, as occasion warranted, urged both the U.K. and the Saudi Arabian Government to adopt a conciliatory attitude and to make [Page 41]strenuous efforts to reach a settlement through utilization of investigating commissions and, if necessary, by means of a neutral commission of arbitration.

An early settlement would, in addition, reap rich dividends in the attitude of King Ibn Saud toward the British. During the past few years the King has become convinced that the British are endeavoring to encircle him through their control of the Hashemites of Iraq and Jordan and through their special treaty relationships with the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms. It may, therefore, be seen that an amicable arrangement regarding boundaries would remove an irritating factor In U.K.–SAG relationships.

recommendations

1.
The Delegation should point out to the British Delegation that the U.K. threat to return to the 1913–14 proposed line of demarcation appears as extreme as the Saudi Arabian claim.
2.
The Delegation should suggest to the British Delegation that a stalemate in the Persian Gulf area is not conducive to its orderly development and tranquility, and that the recent settlement of the Abu Dhabi-Dubai boundary by arbitral award sets an admirable example.
3.
The Delegation should suggest that a fact-finding investigating commission agreeable to the two governments might be able to reduce the field of differences between the Saudi Arabian Government and the United Kingdom acting on behalf of the Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms.
4.
The Delegation should also suggest that any remaining differences in the boundary problem might be resolved by means of a neutral commission of arbitration.

  1. Raymond A. Hare, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs.