Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Abu Dhabi-Saudi Territorial Negotiations (1970-71): And the End of Britain's Dominance in the Gulf

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Abu Dhabi-Saudi Territorial Negotiations (1970-71): And the End of Britain's Dominance in the Gulf

Article excerpt


The subject matter of this paper is the examination of the UAE-Saudi territorial negotiations from 1970-1971. This study discusses Britain's mediation role in the Abu Dhabi-Saudi negotiations. Of particular note is Britain's role, which focused on managing the dispute instead of settling the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border disputes. This serves as an example of Britain's wish to avoid damaging its economic interests and political relations with either the UAE or Saudi Arabia. In line with this, the paper will examine King Faisal's proposal of 1970, Shaikh Zayid's position towards it and Saudi Arabia's and Abu Dhabi's negotiation strategies and tactics in settling the disputed areas. The paper offers a full explication of the major factors that hindered the dispute's resolution before Britain officially withdrew from the Gulf.

Keywords: Twin Pillar policy, neogitations, strategy, tactics, Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company ADPC, Exclusive Agreement

1. Introduction

Despite the fact that scholars have studied the British period extensively, there is a fairly large gap in existing literature related to UAE-Saudi Arabia territorial negotiations 1970-1971. There is a reason fortius: only recently have enough government documents have been de-classified and released to the public to enable scholars to reassess the subject. In the absence of Saudi and Emirati governmental records, this study has had to rely heavily on British governmental records. Most British documents on the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute used in this study were declassified only a few years ago and so period from 1970-71 is relatively unstudied field. Declassified British government documents have been available to the public only for a few years, since 2009. A selection of the most important documents was subsequently edited and Schofield in Arabian Boundaries, 1966-1975 (2009), Volumes 10 to 16. This important selection of documents has enabled me to examine the territorial negotiations of 1970-71 between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, an area that has been somewhat overlooked and should be addressed.

Britain's mediation in order to settle the border dispute between Abu Dhabi1 and Saudi Arabia during its last two years in the Gulf is examined, focusing on its "honest broker"2 role. It examines Britain's position towards the boundary question, which focused on its own interests in the disputed areas. This paper also examines how Abu Dhabi's position in the negotiations with Saudi Arabia weakened substantially when British played the honest broker role, while Saudi Arabia's position was strengthened considerably by the US government's Twin Pillar policy. This analysis will take place in reference to Shaikh Zayid's resistance to the British mediation role, and the Saudi proposal and is undertaken in order to answer one of the research questions: to ascertain what form Britain's role as mediator took and how it shaped the boundary question between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia and their respective positions.

This paper has been divided into six major sections. Section one examines Britain's mediation in the boundary question between Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia and its implementation practices. In section two, King Faisal's proposal of 1970 will be examined, with reference to the disputed areas. This extends to an illustration of Shaikh Zayed's position towards King Faisal's proposal. Section three will examine how British interests, represented by the Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company's activities in the Zararah oilfield, played a vital role in directing Britain's policy towards the UAE-Saudi border disputes. Section four will analyse the factors involved in the context of the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border dispute, the question of the UAE federation and the Twin Pillar policy that complicated the boundary question and negotiations intended to take matters forward. Section five will analyse the Saudi-Abu Dhabi negotiation strategies and tactics that used in order to settle the border issue. …

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