780.022/4–353

No. 1513
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Arabian Peninsula-Iraq Affairs (Fritzlan)

secret

Subject:

  • Saudi Arabian Boundary Disputes

Participants:

  • Mr. John E. Jernegan, NEA
  • Mr. James Terry Duce,Aramco
  • Mr. Philip Kidd, Aramco
  • Mr. Richard Young, Legal Consultant to SAG
  • Mr. Stephen P. Dorsey,NE
  • Mr. A. David Fritzlan,NE

Mr. Duce opened the conversation by stating that at the request of King Ibn Saud Mr. Ohliger had gone to Riyadh to confer on Buraimi. The Saudis had asked for Aramco assistance in bringing into the country a number of United States newspaper men who could effectively present the Saudi case on Buraimi in the United States press. It was felt such action was necessary in view of the mounting British “propaganda and misrepresentations.” Aramco did not think this a good idea but had suggested that the Saudis obtain the services of a competent publicity agent. Before submitting names, Aramco wanted to clear the matter with the State Department.

Mr. Jernegan stated that while the Department hoped anything which might blow up the dispute would be avoided, it could not object to such a proposal which might be in the interest of the Saudi Government. Similar action, Mr. Jernegan noted, had been taken by a number of other Near Eastern Governments.

The discussion then centered around the recent history of the Buraimi dispute, and Mr. Young indicated that he was returning to Riyadh in the near future in order to be of service to the King in a legal capacity. He recalled the highly emotional view taken by the King of Buraimi, . . . . He stated flatly that Aramco had no present intentions to seek oil in Buraimi, or any other disputed area, and that the company had informed King Ibn Saud that if at any time it would alleviate his boundary problems the company would renounce its concessionary rights in disputed territories. He [Page 2534]wondered if the British would change their attitude on Buraimi if they were satisfied oil was not in the picture. Mr. Jernegan doubted this, saying that he thought the British would act as they have purely out of their own prestige considerations. Mr. Duce mentioned that he is planning soon to go to London to talk with American and British oil representatives. He did not disclose the exact purpose of the talks but indicated that IPC and probably the Foreign Office were interested.

Mr. Jernegan related in a general way our attitude on Buraimi and the support we had given in recent talks with Prince Faisal to the principle of arbitration. We had told the Saudis that we would not participate in a plebiscite commission. There are a number of reasons why we did not consider a plebiscite fair, the principal reason being that the Saudis have been in occupation of the disputed area for some months and have engaged in a good deal of political and proselytizing activity.

Mr. Duce felt that the situation in Buraimi was deteriorating and would continue to do so as the result of the recent British action. He and Mr. Young thought the matter might well be referred by the Saudis to the Security Council, although in the past Mr. Young had counseled against such action since neither side would probably get more than partial satisfaction of its demands. He thought the Saudis were now in a mood to take such drastic action and he thought it might be embarassing to us. Mr. Jernegan said he hoped such action might be avoided in view of the difficult position we would be put in. He thought, however, that if the matter were taken up in the United Nations a decision might be reached to establish a United Nations Commission to settle the whole of the disputed boundaries in the Arabian Peninsula. He personally thought this idea had a certain degree of merit, but recognized the possible drawbacks arising from the relatively low prestige of the United Nations in the Near East.

Mr. Duce expanded on the idea that the Saudis consider it their legitimate right to work for the unification of the whole Arabian Peninsula, excepting the Yemen. He excluded the Yemem because of religious differences. Mr. Fritzlan pointed out the fact that the Ibadhi sect of Oman had also traditionally been at odds with the Wahabi and all foreign influence, and would doubtless resist a compaign of unification.

Mr. Duce suggested that the United States continue to use its good offices for settlement of the Buraimi problem. He wondered if we would be willing to serve on an arbitration commission and thought that King Ibn Saud might conceivably agree to arbitration if the United States member presided over the body. Mr. Jernegan said we would be most reluctant to assume this role, and Mr. Duce [Page 2535]replied that we might have to face taking a stand in the Security Council or acting on an arbitration body. Mr. Jernegan was inclined to accept the former if faced with a choice.

Mr. Young made a further plea for understanding the view of King Ibn Saud, which was based on highly emotional attachment to Buraimi. Mr. Fritzlan inquired why King Ibn Saud’s attachment to Buraimi had become so highly emotional only in the last few months, in view of the fact that his family had not occupied or controlled the place since 1869. Mr. Young replied, jokingly, that Mr. Fritzlan had been reading British propaganda, but the latter stated that his statement was based on the scholarly work on Oman produced under the supervision of George Rentz (Aramco official).

In departing Messrs. Duce and Young stated they would confer with Department officials upon their return from London and Riyadh.