No. 1543
The British Foreign Office to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1


Saudi Arabia Frontier Dispute

H. M. Ambassador at Jedda has been instructed to tell Sheikh Hafiz Wahba (now in Saudi Arabia), with whom we have conducted extensive discussions here and who is already aware of the lines on which our minds are working, that we are ready to go to arbitration on the following basis:

That the Tribunal should be asked to decide:
The common Saudi/Abu Dhabi frontier; and
Sovereignty over the Buraimi zone (i.e. a circle of 20 kilometres round Buraimi village).
That we should be ready to agree:
To the withdrawal from Buraimi oasis of Turki and his men to undisputed territory in Saudi Arabia and of the Trucial Oman Levies to undisputed territory on the Trucial Coast, and the substitution in the oasis of a small police group of up to fifteen men on each side.
To withdraw to undisputed territory our five Levy posts at present in the other disputed areas in the West, on condition that no armed men shall be introduced into or maintained in the disputed areas by the Saudi Government.
All the above provided the oil operations of I.P.C. and A.I.O.C. go on. The former Company (to whose land concession the latter [Page 2577] Company’s marine concession is contiguous) acquired its present interests before the Saudis advanced their 1949 claim and brought the area into dispute. Much time and money have already been spent on oil prospecting there, and it is quite unreasonable to ask that operations should now stop. Nor would it be to anyone’s advantage.

Her Majesty’s Government recognize that the Aramco concession from the Saudi Government would automatically extend, as things stand, to any area which as a result of arbitration might pass to Saudi sovereignty; and neither Her Majesty’s Government nor their Oil Companies have any wish to impair Aramco’s concessionary rights. Nevertheless, if the Saudi Government and Aramco were agreeable, the two British Oil Companies would in due course be interested in negotiating concessionary rights in any disputed area which might pass to Saudi sovereignty.

The idea of some oil arrangement came originally from the Saudis, who have from time to time told us that they would be ready to give I.P.C. and A.I.O.C. concessions in any disputed area which, as a result of arbitration, might pass to Saudi sovereignty. Latterly, we were also told, informally, that the Saudi Government had spoken with Aramco on the subject. But we have nothing in writing about this, and no firm indication of what, if anything, was said to the Company.
H.M. Ambassador at Jedda has therefore been instructed, in the clearest terms, to make plain to the Saudis that we have no wish whatever to prejudice Aramco’s existing concessionary rights. It is only with the agreement of that Company that our two oil Companies would negotiate a concession in any disputed area that might pass to Saudi sovereignty. Our primary concern is that our oil Companies should go on working throughout the long period of arbitration; the area was brought into dispute by Saudis only so late as 1949, long after the I.P.C. concession was obtained from the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and after the Company had begun work. It was not right that the work should now be delayed indefinitely simply because the Saudis have advanced a new claim.
  1. This memorandum was handed to an officer of the Embassy by an official of the British Foreign Office and was transmitted to the Department of State as an enclosure to despatch 2768, Feb. 15, not printed. (780.022/2–1554)