S/A (Jessup) files, lot 53 D 65, “Foreign Ministers Meetings—New York, October-December, 1952”

No. 1493
Memorandum of Conversation, by Edwin Plitt, Adviser, United States Delegation to the General Assembly

secret

Subject:

  • Secretary Acheson’s Conversations With Foreign Ministers of the NEA Area Attending the Seventh General Assembly of the United Nations

Participants:

  • H.R.H. Prince Faisal Al-Saud, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia2
  • Shaikh Ali A. Alireza. Saudi Arabian Delegation
  • The Secretary
  • Edwin A. Plitt, U.S. Delegation

In the course of a meeting with the Secretary this morning H.R.H. Prince Faisal set forth the views of his Government in regard to the existing controversy between Saudi Arabia and the UK on the subject of Al Buraimi and the neighboring areas.

[Page 2499]

For the better understanding of the problem, His Royal Highness summarized the well known background of the situation within the area involved in the dispute and outlined to some extent the difficulties confronting the Saudi Arabian Government at this juncture, and solicited the Secretary’s help in overcoming them. His Royal Highness recalled his meeting recently with Mr. Eden when the latter in lieu of a long delayed formal reply to the Saudi Arabian Government’s note on the subject, informed His Royal Highness of the British Government’s proposal to arbitrate the controversy which, His Royal Highness told the Secretary, is most unsatisfactory because the British Government includes in its proposal not only Al Buraimi but the entire territorial problem from Qatar to Aden as well as Kuwait and other sheikdoms. His Royal Highness pointed out that the Saudi Arabian objection is based principally on the fact that in the eyes of his Government there is no dispute in regard to Al Buraimi which has always been an integral part of Saudi Arabia dating far back to the King’s ancestor’s association of this area with Saudi Arabia. Any recognition of its now being in dispute would entail grave consequences for King Ibn Saud, Faisal explained. “It is more than a mere question of sovereignty over a small area of sandy desert” His Royal Highness added. The problem of religion enters most decisively into the picture. The inhabitants of Al Buraimi are of the Sunnite sect whereas in the contiguous areas other forms of Moslem worship are followed. Religious traditions accepted by them are rejected by the others and these disputes greatly influence political claims. The importance of this political and religious interrelationship in the area is such that it cannot be too strongly emphasized and must be fully taken into account in arriving at a solution of the problem.

Referring to the origin of the Al Buraimi difficulty, he ascribed it to British interference for the purpose of creating trouble to serve British policy. When this occurred last summer the inhabitants of the Al Buraimi area asked for Saudi Arabian help and, in response, the King sent a representative and some twenty assistants. His Royal Highness explained that this was the natural thing to do and in line with the customary procedure followed in any other part of the Kingdom where a serious situation demanded it. In so far as Al Buraimi is concerned, there exists no dispute whatever from the Saudi Arabian point of view and consequently His Royal Highness’ Government cannot agree to any arbitration procedure which would be an acknowledgment of its dominion over that area being open to question. On the other hand, the Saudi Arabian Government does not object to a plebiscite. The Buraimi inhabitants could then make their own decision and could not blame the King for abandoning them as might be the case if he had agreed to abide [Page 2500]by a decision left to arbitration procedure which might rule against him.

The Secretary asked for a further clarification of the problem and whether His Royal Highness maintained that arbitration referred only to the Al Buraimi area or to all of the sheikdoms involved. His Royal Highness responded to the effect that in some of the areas concerned special treaty relations exist and that some of the affairs of the Sheiks are handled by the British Government in agreement with them. As a result of developments beginning last August, considerable tension has developed over conflicting territorial claims in the settlement of which His Royal Highness said that the British Government had not been cooperative even though an agreement in principle had been on the verge of being reached looking toward a settlement through direct negotiations. These, unfortunately, did not develop because of disagreement over the method of procedure for the reopening of direct talks.

His Royal Highness referred again to his Government’s preparedness to accept a plebiscite under the auspices of a commission to be composed of a representative from his country, one from the UK, and one from the United States, whose findings could form the basis of defining boundaries and reaching a settlement among all the parties concerned.

His Royal Highness offered his excuses for having taken so much of the Secretary’s time to go into the details he had described. He said that his Government placed so much importance on the Secretary’s being fully informed of this grave problem with which his Government is faced, particularly in view of the serious consequences which a deterioration of the situation might entail, that he not only felt it his duty to bring it to the Secretary’s personal attention upon implicit instructions of His Majesty the King, but to solicit urgently the Secretary’s help. He concluded by saying that an early response from the Secretary would be welcomed by His Majesty who had been pressing him to see the Secretary with as little delay as possible.

The Secretary thanked Prince Faisal for having called on him and asked to have a little time to consider what His Royal Highness had set forth to him in the course of this meeting. He added that he would profit from the opportunity of having His Royal Highness here to discuss the subject further with him just as soon as he could do so.

No other subject was alluded to during the meeting which lasted nearly an hour.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was typed on Dec. 4.
  2. Prince Faisal arrived in New York on Nov. 19, 1952, to assume the leadership of the Saudi Arabian Delegation to the Seventh Session of the U.N. General Assembly.