780.022/5–1452: Despatch

No. 1473
The Chargé in Saudi Arabia (Abbey) to the Department of State1

secret
No. 333

Ref:

  • Embtels 540 April 3,2 535 April 23 and 532 April 2.4

Subj:

  • Saudi-British Dispute Over Buraimi

On March 31, 1952, the Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office by Tahir Bey Ridwan, Acting Chief of that Ministry. For the Ambassador’s information, Tahir Bey reported that he had that morning, acting on instructions from the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahaikh Yusuf Yassin, called in the British Ambassador [Page 2469]to protest the presence of British officials in the oasis of Al Buraimi. This group of approximately ten towns or hamlets lies some ninety miles east of Abu Dhabi. Tahir Bey told the British Ambassador that the Saudi Government does not recognize the authority of the Shaikh of Muscat, the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi or of any other Trucial shaikh in Buraimi. The Saudi position is that the people of Buraimi have been independent but are under Saudi tutelage.

Reports from the Saudis as to what actually took place in Buraimi are vague but it appears that the Political Officer of Sharja, identified only as a Mr. Wilton, appeared in Buraimi late in March, either accompanying him or visiting Buraimi at about the same time, according to the Saudis, were members of the British Desert Locust Control Mission. The Saudi Foreign Office believes that the purpose of these visits was to bring the Amirs of Buraimi into the British orbit of the Trucial Shaikhdoms influencing in advance any decision as to ownership of the Buraimi area.

This incident or incidents prompted the Foreign Office to notify the British Ambassador that the Saudi Government was informing the Amirs of Buraimi who, according to the Saudis, recognize the sovereignty of King Ibn Saud, that His Majesty does not recognize the authority of any Trucial Shaikh in Buraimi. At the same time the British Government is requested to put an end to activity in Buraimi and to keep British officials out of the area. The Foreign Office reminded the British Ambassador of the agreement reached at London and confirmed at Dammam to avoid sending parties into the disputed areas and asked that this agreement continue until the delineation of the frontiers.

The British Ambassador replied in an aide-mémoire of April 23 refusing to acknowledge the allegiance of the Amirs of Buraimi to Saudi Arabia and strongly protesting the Saudi approach to them. It was pointed out that the London and Dammam agreement did not restrict British administrative officials in the execution of their duties.

When asked about Buraimi during recent conversations with the American Ambassador, Shaikh Yusuf said that inasmuch as Buraimi is under Saudi jurisdiction the matter is not an appropriate subject for discussion with the British Government. The Ambassador recalled that in 1949 when Shaikh Yusuf and David Scott Fox, Counselor of the British Embassy, had agreed to discuss all boundary questions, Buraimi had been included. The Ambassador asked how the status of Buraimi had changed since then. Shaikh Yusuf replied that the Saudi Government’s position was that the people of Buraimi had the right to determine their allegiance but that since 1949 they had asked to be associated with Saudi Arabia and [Page 2470]that they had therefore exercised that right and made their choice. It is true that there are no Saudi amirs in Buraimi but the Saudi Government considers Buraimi under Saudi tutelage.

The history of Buraimi as known to the Embassy is very complicated and can hardly provide anyone with a clear title. Shaikh Yusuf finally agreed that the matter merited further study before action could be taken.

Glenn A. Abbey
  1. Repeated to London and Dhahran.
  2. Not printed; it reported a message from Prince Faisal to the effect that the King was eager for stability in the area and friendly cooperation with the British, but difficulty was being caused in Buraimi by the British political officer in Sharja. (780.022/4–352)
  3. Not printed, but see footnote 3, Document 1471.
  4. Not printed. (780.022/4–252)