No. 1475
Memorandum of Conversation, by Robert Sturgill of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs



  • UK Views Regarding Recent Events in Al-Buraimi.


  • Mr. Ronald Bailey, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • NE—Mr. Sturgill


Mr. Bailey came in at his own request to deliver a message from the Foreign Office regarding the recent activities of the Saudi Arabian Government in the oasis of Al-Buraimi. Mr. Bailey said the Foreign Office had learned that the Saudis had sent 80 people, 50 of whom were armed, to occupy the village of Hamasa, which is claimed by the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. The Foreign Office considered this to be a violation of the 1951 “standstill” agreement.

The British Embassy in Jidda, Mr. Bailey said, had sent a note to the Saudi Foreign Office requesting information as to why the Saudi movement into Al-Buraimi had taken place. The answer received was terse and unsatisfactory, he said, and the Foreign Office now had decided to protest to the Saudi Arabian Government on the grounds that the Saudis had violated the standstill agreement by traversing Abu Dhabi territory to get to Al-Buraimi, that the presence of armed Saudis in Al-Buraimi was also a violation of the agreement which permitted both sides to undertake only the usual administrative actions in disputed areas, and that the Sultan of Muscat had requested the British to protest on his behalf. It was [Page 2472] the intention of the Foreign Office, Mr. Bailey, remarked, to have a plane fly over Hamasa and drop leaflets containing messages from the Sultan. And if the Saudi answer were not satisfactory, series of forts belonging to Abu Dhabi would be occupied to demonstrate to the Saudis that the British were not going to let the Saudi action go unopposed, he said.2

I told Mr. Bailey that in view of the fact that the Foreign Office believed Abu Dhabi and the Sultan have a claim in Al-Buraimi, I could understand their not wanting to let the Saudi occupation of Al-Buraimi go unnoticed but I wondered if the action contemplated would really help the situation. I expressed the view that the appearance of a British plane over Al-Buraimi would be regarded as an aggressive action, as would the occupation of the forts, and that it would not make any difference to the Saudis that messages from the Sultan were being dropped because the Saudis simply would not believe otherwise than that the whole scheme was purely a British undertaking and that the Sultan had no part in it. Mr. Bailey interposed, saying, “What would you have us do, take the whole thing lying down?” I replied that I hoped the UK would make every effort to do anything necessary to avoid precipitating a clash between the opposing forces in Al-Buraimi. He assured me the Foreign Office was keeping this very much in mind and had no intention of provoking a conflict. I asked Mr. Bailey whether or not in his opinion the Foreign Office would consider telling the SAG now, instead of in mid-October as they intended, of their willingness to resume the boundary conference broken off in February at Dammam. I expressed the view that the Saudis probably were of the opinion that the UK did not intend to resume the talks; and because of that and because of British activities in Al-Buraimi which they considered inimical to their interests in that area they had decided to send personnel into the area. I informed him that the Department had not known of events in Al-Buraimi until after they had occurred, that these events had been discussed orally with the SA Embassy, and that the Department had given the Saudis no aid or comfort in the matter. I again expressed the hope that the Foreign Office might see its way clear to inform the SAG now of its willingness to resume the boundary conference. Mr. Bailey thanked me for the information he had received and said he would pass the suggestion to the Foreign Office.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was prepared on Sept. 24.
  2. Telegram 1631 from London, Sept. 19, informed the Department of State that following a Saudi reply that Buraimi was not subject to the standstill agreement, the British had ordered Trucial levies to occupy positions in towns claimed by Abu Dhabi. (786A.00/9–1952)