359. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Jones) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Wallner)0


  • Inscription of Oman Item at United Nations General Assembly1


We understand that the Arab delegations in New York have decided to ask for inscription of the Oman issue at the General Committee meeting, but only after the General Committee has disposed of all items previously proposed. This raises the question of the United States position on the Oman issue.

As you know, quiet Saudi Arabian-United Kingdom-Hammarskjold talks have been taking place for some time with a view to bridging Saudi Arabian-United Kingdom differences, including resumption of diplomatic relations, resolution of certain disputed territory problems in southeastern Arabia, etc. Sufficient progress has been made to prompt Mr. Hammarskjold, with Saudi and United Kingdom concurrence, to send Mr. Herbert de Ribbing to southeastern Arabia on a fact-finding, exploratory mission. The Secretary General is expected shortly to circularize the Security Council on the de Ribbing mission.

The British are endeavoring to encourage the Sultan of Muscat and Oman and the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi to cooperate. In the circumstances, a protracted United Nations General Assembly debate on the Oman issue [Page 795] would scarcely be helpful. Instead, it would more likely set back the cause of a Saudi Arabian–United Kingdom rapprochement and make both the Sultan of Muscat and Oman and the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi more intractable and suspicious of the good offices of the United Nations. We understand that Azzam Pasha, the chief Saudi negotiator, is also unhappy about the Arab effort to inscribe the Oman issue, which seems to be spearheaded by the Iraqis. However, he does not feel he can actively oppose it in the face of other Arab pressure lest this be taken to suggest Saudi disinterest.

Of more direct concern to the United States, we recently concluded with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman—with whom we have enjoyed treaty relations since 1833—a new Treaty of Amity, Economic, and Consular relations. Ratifications were exchanged in May 1959, and the President proclaimed the Treaty as being in effect from June 11, 1960.2 Our relations with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman would be adversely affected if we now voted for inscription. The Sultan would undoubtedly interpret such action as acknowledgement by the United States of the substance of the Arab claim re Oman.


While I understand that the United States has traditionally not opposed inscription of any item, I believe that United States interest in insuring the continuing tranquility of southeastern Arabia would be best served if the Omani item were not debated in the General Assembly. NEA recommends, therefore, that the United States abstain on the issue of inscribing an Omani item. The United States delegation might explain that, without seeking to enter into the merits of the issue, we believe that General Assembly debate on this item at this time might adversely affect the objectives of the Secretary General’s initiative in sending his personal representative on an exploratory mission to the area. Moreover, since the matter seems to be being handled to the satisfaction of the parties directly concerned, it would scarcely appear to be an “important and urgent” matter within the meaning of Rule 15.3

  1. Source: Department of State, IO/UNP Files: Lot 72 D1960, Arabia, South, 1959–1960. Confidential. Drafted by Eilts and cleared by Meyer and Ludlow in draft.
  2. Ten Arab members of the United Nations (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Republic, and Yemen) requested inscription of an item entitled “The Question of Oman” on the 15th UNGA agenda. The sponsors stated that the “Imamate of Oman” was a sovereign and independent state that the United Kingdom invaded in 1955 and in which it continued its “military intervention.” On October 25 the General Committee of the UNGA took up the question of inscription. The British representative was opposed on grounds that inner Oman was not a political entity, but rather part of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, in addition to the fact that the U.N. Secretary-General was engaged in mediation of disputes in the Arabian Peninsula and inscription would hinder ongoing efforts. When inscription came to a vote, the U.S. representative abstained citing the latter British argument. Nonetheless, the “Question of Oman” was accepted as an item by the General Committee and although it was placed on the agenda of the Special Political Committee of the General Assembly, it was not taken up at the fall session and was rescheduled for March 1961. (United States Participation in the United Nations, 1960, Department of State Publication 7341, 1962, pp. 70–71)
  3. See footnotes 1 and 2, Document 358.
  4. For text of the Rules of the United Nations, see U.N. doc. A/520. Rev 15.