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


Subject: Meeting with Aramco on Jurisdictional Dispute in Persian Gulf and Southeastern Arabia.

Participants: Mr. Richard Young—International Law Counsel to SAG
Mr. J. Terry Duce—Executive Vice President, Aramco
Mr. George Ray—Legal Counsel, Aramco
Mr. Alec Chapman—Washington Representative, Aramco
OIR/GE—Dr. Boggs
L/NEA—Mr. Maktos
U/FW—Mr. Taylor
PED—Mr. Newton
NE—Mr. Jones
NE—Mr. Awalt


Mr. Jones welcomed the opportunity to hear Mr. Young and invited him to open the discussion on the subject as he saw fit. Mr. Young [Page 319] said that he was in Saudi Arabia from the end of March to mid-June where he had discussed extensively with Saudi Arabian officials the problem of the boundary and island disputes and the best means of preparing the case for the Saudi Arabian Government. He said that the British note of April 25, 1951, while friendly and conciliatory on the whole, had broadened the problem to include certain islands over which Saudi Arabian sovereignty had never heretofore been challenged. He said that he had no explanation why this was done because he thought that claims to these islands would tend to weaken the British case inasmuch as their geographic position so strongly supported Saudi Arabia’s claim. He suggested that the British may possibly have wished to create an issue upon which they would be willing to give way readily in the hope thereby of creating good will and improving their bargaining position. He said that Sheikh Yusuf Yassin had suggested the advisability of enlarging the boundary discussions to include the area below latitude 22 degrees north and define the frontier between Saudi Arabia and the Hadramaut. Mr. Young said that he had dissuaded Sheikh Yusuf from inclusion of this question until such time as definite facts could be ascertained regarding this area.

Mr. Young said that it was his impression that the fact finding commission, whose initial session was intended for early fall, would be postponed because of Emir Feisal’s visit to London.2 His reasoning, he said, was based on two points; first, that the subject would probably be discussed in substance in London and secondly, because Sheikh Yusuf had told them that he planned on making no reply to the British to their note of April 25 until after the Feisal conversations in London had taken some form. Meanwhile, he said, he and Judge Hudson had been asked to prepare material on the jurisdictional disputes for the London session. He also said that Sheikh Yusuf and Sheikh Abdullah had expressed the hope on behalf of the SAG that the United States would support Saudi Arabia in its negotiations so that it could deal with the British on an equal basis.

Mr. Jones expressed his surprise that Mr. Young had such a distinct impression that the London visit of Emir Feisal would lead to detailed [Page 320] discussion of specific agenda items. The Department’s information, he said, was that the SAG preferred such conversations on the jursidictional problem should rest with the fact finding commission and that Emir Feisal’s visit was primarily for the creation of good will for discussions on a very general basis of various outstanding problems. It was hoped thereby to create a friendly atmosphere of broad benefit to general United Kingdom-Saudi Arabian relations. Mr. Ray said he thought it would be very difficult to create a friendly tone without discussion of substance especially in face of the general hatred and suspicion of the British throughout the whole Middle East. He added that it was his belief that the invitation to Emir Feisal was a British effort to delay the meeting of the fact finding commission and he urged that this Government should use its influence with the British to avoid any such delay. Mr. Jones replied that the Department would be disappointed if the London meeting is in fact a delaying tactic because we have consistently urged that the negotiations progress as rapidly as possible and have anticipated an early meeting of the fact finding commission.

Mr. Maktos referred to Mr. Young’s mention of Saudi Arabia’s hope for US support and asked him if there are any legal positions which are so strong that the USG could legitimately take a position or whether it was a case of supporting Saudi Arabia for political reasons. Mr. Young said he thought there might be a strong legal position with respect to some of the islands. Mr. Maktos suggested that even in the case of the islands, jurisdiction might be effected by territorial water and seabed considerations which perhaps should be settled first.

Mr. Jones observed that we are meeting in the shadow of Iran which is the beginning rather than the end of a chapter. During this period, he said, we may need every factor in the picture that is useful to us and one of those is the special British position in the Gulf, generally, including the Sheikhdoms. Mr. Ray said that the British must develop good will in the area for its own salvation and one of the best ways of doing this, he thought, was to allow direct negotiation between King Ibn Saud and the Sheikhal rulers. He said that Britain will have trouble in the area so long as they insist upon being dictators and bulliers rather than negotiators. It was pointed out to Mr. Ray that the Department concurred in his view that direct negotiation between the parties immediately concerned would be very helpful toward a prompter and more friendly solution to the problems and that we had made such a recommendation to the British in London in May 1950. Our recommendation, however, was unacceptable and while we deplored it, it was thought that modifications of British control in the area was something which would have to come slowly and not be forced. Mr. Jones pointed out that the United States must also show [Page 321] solidarity with the British in the Near East, generally, and that we hope the Iranian affair will persuade the British of the wisdom of a fair and friendly approach. Our formal position, he said, must be that we are friends of both parties in these jurisdictional disputes and that we want them to reach agreement as soon as possible. He also observed that in his estimation Saudi Arabia was not in a position where the British could bully it considering the important special interests of the United States in that country as well as its expert legal assistance.

Mr. Ray complained that he had learned that the Department had taken the position in a memorandum it sent to the Embassy at Jidda that Saudi Arabia was overreaching itself in some of its claims. He said that Aramco had always cooperated 100 percent with the Department in making information known to it and Aramco hoped that the Department would similarly cooperate with it. It was pointed out to Mr. Ray that the Department had never made a secret of its attitude toward some of the Saudi Arabian claims or to a similarly exaggerated position assumed by the British. Moreover, he was informed, the Department had frankly told Aramco of its attitude on more than one occasion and in particular it had been so advised at a meeting similar to this on March 19, at which Mr. Ray, himself, was present.

Mr. Young said that he understood that certain work was being done by the British on division of the seabed in the Persian Gulf. He was told that such a division had been worked out between Bahrein and Qatar and was a matter of public property but that no other delineations had been made that the Department was aware of. Mr. Young said that it was also his understanding that a large scale division had been made in the “BoggsKennedy Report” and asked whether the Department did not believe Saudi Arabia might object to our collaboration with the British in such a project without reference to Saudi Arabia. It was observed that the BoggsKennedy Report had no political implications and that it was strictly technical and explanatory only. He was also informed that it had not been accepted by the Department as an official position. Mr. Boggs confirmed that this was the case and observed further that he had done work of this kind in most other parts of the world also and that his studies had never been the subject of complaint by states concerned.

  1. This memorandum was prepared on June 21.
  2. Telegram 712 from Jidda, June 4, advised the Department of State that an invitation had been received by Prince Faisal to go to England in August to review Saudi Arabian-British problems, including the matter of the boundary dispute between Saudi Arabia and the Shaikhdoms of the Persian Gulf. The Ambassador reported that he had suggested Faisal accept the invitation, with the understanding that it would be a courtesy visit only, but Faisal could take advantage of the situation to discuss Saudi Arabian concerns on broad lines, rather than negotiating on specific questions. (711.56386A/6–451) Telegram 725 from Jidda, June 7, informed Washington that Faisal had accepted the British invitation to visit London on the understanding there would be general discussions of mutual interests, rather than a specific agenda (711.56386A/6–751). Information on Prince Faisal’s visit to London is in the memorandum of conversation of September 25, p. 330.