Memorandum of Conversation, by the
Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Hart)
- Controversy between Saudi Arabia and the U.K. regarding Buraimi.
- Mr. B. A. B. Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy.
- Mr. R. W. Bailey, First Secretary, British Embassy.
- Mr. Thomas Beale, BNA.
- Mr. Parker T. Hart, NE.
Mr. Burrows came in at my request. I informed him of the conversation of September 29, 1952 between the Saudi Ambassador and Mr. Byroade1 in which the Ambassador indicated that Sheikh Hafiz Wahba, Saudi Ambassador to the U.K., had been instructed [Page 2479]by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud to discuss with Foreign Minister Eden the question of Buraimi. Burrows had no knowledge of such a conversation. I also inquired whether Mr. Burrows had any further information regarding a recent conversation in Jidda between Riches, British Chargé d’Affaires, and Crown Prince Saud regarding Buraimi. Burrows had no information on that conversation to impart beyond that which had already been communicated to me: namely, that the Crown Prince had invited Riches to come in and talk about Buraimi and that a general and friendly discussion had ensued, but without reported result.
I told Burrows that I hoped these conversations indicated a willingness of both parties to pursue direct conversations regardless of the recent developments in Buraimi. I then stated that we had been given reason to believe that unless some relaxation of the present tension over Buraimi took place in the near future we would be approached formally by the King of Saudi Arabia to mediate in the dispute. We were very anxious not to get “in the middle. on this issue and to do what we could to avoid such a formal request which probably would become public and which would be most difficult to reject. While I had no way of knowing whether we would accept or reject such a Saudi request, I felt that the odds were that we might be forced to accept it, subject to British concurrence in our role as mediator. This would then place the burden of refusal on the British Government, an eventuality which would be undesirable from both the British and American point of view. I inquired whether a resumption of the Dammam Conference was contemplated by London.
Mr. Burrows proceeded to outline the British position in the Buraimi dispute. . . . Burrows did not believe that London would agree to a resumption of the Dammam Conference until the Saudi Arab contingent in Buraimi had been withdrawn. Otherwise, the Saudi Arabs would have won their point . . . .
I asked Burrows whether any suggestion had been made by either party for a mutual withdrawal from Buraimi without prejudice to future claims. Burrows replied that no such proposal had been made and that he felt that the U.K. would not accept such a proposal since it did not consider the Saudi encroachment to have any legitimate basis. While Wilton and his party of Trucial Levies had a right to be where they were under Treaty obligations, Amir Turki with his Saudi retainers had no legal basis for their present position, which violated the territory of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. I asked whether the U.K. felt as strongly about the Sultan’s claim as it did regarding the alleged encroachment by the Saudi party in crossing territory claimed by the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi. Burrows replied that since the U.K. had been requested by the [Page 2480] Sultan to represent it vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and had agreed to do so, it therefore felt as strongly about the Sultan’s frontier position as it did regarding that of Abu Dhabi.
Burrows stated that he hoped that before the Department made up its mind as to acceptance of a Saudi request for mediation it would await the results of a telegram which he proposed to immediately send to London reporting this conversation. I agreed.