Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge, Arabian Peninsula Affairs (Awalt)


Subject: Meeting with Aramco on Boundary Dispute in Southeastern Arabia.

Participants: Judge Manley O. Hudson, International Law Counsel to SAG and Aramco
Mr. Richard Young, Assistant to Judge Hudson
Mr. J. Terry Duce, Executive Vice President of Aramco
Mr. George Ray, Legal Counsel of Aramco
Mr. William Owen, Aramco
L/NEA—Mr. Maktos
PED—Mr. Newton
U/FW—Mr. Taylor
NE—Mr. Kopper
NE—Mr. Awalt


This meeting was a continuation of a series of similar meetings held from time to time since January 1949. Like previous meetings this one was characterized on the part of Aramco by outspoken criticism of the general British attitude in the area and Mr. Ray stressed the need of offsetting the British in “throwing their weight around” in the Gulf. Judge Hudson took over the conversations in the early part of the meeting. He said that on February 9 Aramco received a request from the King that it provide information and other assistance to the SAG in preparation for the meeting of the joint fact-finding commission at Bahrein which is expected to be held in the near future. The King specifically asked for the services of Mr. George Rentz whose research forms the principal basis for the Saudi Arabian claims in the area in dispute. Mr. Ray reiterated at this point that Aramco’s interests were absolutely non-political and that it had no desire to encourage the SAG to extend its claims to any particular area. He said that they were obliged, however, to do exploratory development work in any area which the SAG considered to be theirs.

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Mr. Young is leaving for Saudi Arabia in the next few days to assist the Saudi Arabian Government in preparing for the first session of the fact-finding commission. He said that the commission would devote its attention to geographical features, tribal considerations and to any other factors which either government believes will assist its case. The area in which the commission will interest itself will be the territories in dispute between Saudi Arabia and the Sheikhdoms of Qatar and Abu Dhabi eastward to Buraimi and south to the twenty-second parallel of latitude. It was brought out in connection with the terms of reference of the commission that although the British have gone on record to the effect that zakat and tribal migrations are irrelevant to territorial claims, the commission can investigate these and any other matters without prejudice to the case of either side.

Mr. Ray and Judge Hudson both emphasized again the desirability of direct contact between the SAG and the ruling Sheikhs of the areas concerned. It was explained that the Department was in agreement and had made such a recommendation to the British in London in May 1950. The British refused to entertain the suggestion as damaging to their prestige and position in the Gulf but they did accept the idea of Sheikhal representation in consultative capacity. The occasion was also taken to remind the visitors of other instances where the Department had taken positions which were helpful to the SAG. The Department had suggested mutual restraint upon both sides in order to keep areas in dispute free of any oil company activity which might prejudice the claims of the opposing side or incite sharper rivalry in the area. The Department had also pointed out to the British that it was unfair of them to expect the SAG to provide a justification of its claims to the disputed areas unless both sides did so simultaneously. It was also pointed out that we had suggested to the UK that it cite its authority for negotiating on behalf of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. It was also explained that we had expressed our disappointment over British action in destroying some of the island markers which had been erected by the Saudi Arabian Government. We did not consider such action conducive to creation of a suitable atmosphere for conducting friendly negotiations for settlement of the disputes in question. Judge Hudson and Aramco representatives were very pleased to know that we were departing from what they considered to be an attitude of aloofness and had assumed one of constructive impartiality.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was prepared on March 21.