Arabian Boundaries 1966—1975

ISBN: 978-1-84097-240-5  Extent: 18 volumes, 11,000 pages, including 2 map boxes
Editor: R. Schofield, K.E. Evans  Published: 2009 
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available 


This 18-volume collection provides the most comprehensive record published anywhere of the negotiations, discussions and detailed consideration given over to territorial questions in the Gulf region in the critical 1966–1975 decade. Often more revealing than the actual agreements themselves are the policy discussions and debates that result in them. Here they are assembled for the first time.


This collection chronicles the most critical decade witnessed to date in the territorial evolution of the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region, a wholly unique area in geopolitical terms. Nowhere else is there such a concentration of microstates and these overlie the world's greatest concentration of hydrocarbon reserves, all within a semi-enclosed sea. The illuminating Foreign and Commonwealth Office record included here comprehensively charts the huge efforts made by Britain to get its territorial house in order by the time it left the region as protecting power in December 1971 but also provides unique insights into the major settlements of the era and their background:

  • Maritime boundary agreements between Iran and its western Arab neighbours (1968–1975)
  • The rescission of the Iranian claim to Bahrain (1969–1971)
  • Consideration of the Lower Gulf islands dispute in the years leading up to the Sharjah–Iran Memorandum of Understanding over Abu Musa (1971) and the response to that settlement
  • The disposal of the Buraimi question and Saudi Arabia–United Arab Emirates (1974)
  • Iran–Iraq and the Shatt al Arab (1975)


Records have been identified which either specifically define the various boundaries concerned or throw direct light on their origin or evolution. Thus the records presented include treaties, letters, telegrams, memoranda and notes, the latter often being diplomatic summaries and assessments. The subject matter being dealt with here includes negotiations, agreements, disputes, incursions and claims.

The aim in this publication is to present a sequence of original file material in integral form for the benefit of the researcher. Detailed and original academic introductions by the editor, Richard Schofield of King’s College, London, are provided for every year covered by the collection and provide a clear and concise contextual analysis for the enclosed documentary content.

  • Iran–Iraq: the origins of linkage in treatment of the territorial and Kurdish questions
  • Operations of the Iraq–Kuwait Border Committee
  • Safe operating limits for oil concessions and the Hawar island dispute (Bahrain/Qatar)
  • Buckmaster and the delimitation of boundaries for the Shaikhdoms of the Trucial States
  • The boundary between Saudi Arabia and the Aden Protectorate
  • Yemeni claims to Asir, Najran and Jizan
  • Review of British policy towards islands of indeterminate sovereignty in the Arabian and Red Seas
  • Consideration of the Iran–Kuwait maritime boundary
  • Dissatisfaction with the enduring stalemate over Buraimi


  • Consideration of the future status and sovereignty of Kamaran, Kuria Muria, Perim and Socotra islands
  • Suggestions of linked packages to treat the Bahrain question and the Lower Gulf islands dispute
  • Nomenclature of the Persian Gulf
  • Persistence of the Hawar dispute threatens Britain's 'Gulfery' project
  • Stalemate over Buraimi hampers efforts to resolve Khor al Udaid dispute
  • Oil and the developing territorial consciousness of the Gulf shaikhdoms
  • The boundaries of the Aden Protectorate on Britain's decolonization


  • Sorting the three-way conundrum over the Khor al Udaid
  • Tidying up territorial claims near the notional Saudi/Abu Dhabi/Oman boundary tripoint
  • Recognition of boundaries for newly-independent South Yemen
  • Linkages and the suggested resolution of outstanding Arab–Iranian disputes
  • Iran–Saudi Arabia maritime boundary agreement of 24 October 1968 [see Map 17]
  • The rise and fall of the envisaged territorial packages


  • Abu Dhabi–Qatar maritime boundary agreement of 20 March 1969
  • Iran–Qatar maritime boundary agreement, April 1969
  • Kuwait–Saudi Arabia boundary agreement (new delimitation effectively bisects old Neutral Zone), 18 December 1969
  • Shah of Iran's New Delhi announcement, January 1969: the inhabitants of Bahrain are free to decide their own political fate [see Map 18]
  • The Wadi'ah (Saudi Arabia/South Yemen) incident, November 1969
  • Crisis over the Shatt al Arab (Iran–Iraq), March–April 1969
  • Continuing deliberations over the Lower Gulf islands
  • Consideration of Britain's regional territorial aims and policy


  • Reactivation of Saudi–Abu Dhabi boundary dispute and suggestions for a way out of the Buraimi stalemate
  • King Faisal's package proposal for a resolution to the Buraimi dispute (and responses to it), April 1970
  • Monsieur Vittorio Winspeare Guicciardi's mission and the UN disposal of Iranian claims to Bahrain
  • Interdepartmental debates over policy to be adopted towards remaining Arabian territorial questions
  • Ramifications/implications of the 1969 territorial settlements and incidents
  • Consideration of status and alignment of Saudi–Qatar boundary and earlier treaty of December 1965
  • Kuwait–Iran communiqué of July 1970 regarding offshore boundaries
  • Question of future diplomatic recognition of future Federated Arab Union and resolution of boundary and territorial disputes with Iran and Saudi Arabia


  • Consideration of Iraq–Kuwait territorial relations following assassination, in Kuwait, of Iraqi Foreign Minister Hamdan
  • Bahrain's grant of oil concession to Superior in December 1970 reignites the Hawar dispute – reconsideration of British policy towards the dispute
  • Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and the continuing dispute over the Khor al Udaid
  • Final attempts to broker a package between King Faisal and Shaikh Zaid over Buraimi
  • International reactions to the Iran–Sharjah Memorandum of Understanding over Abu Musa, December 1971


  • Britain's reflections on the recent past and re-adjustment to new (and old) realities
  • Continuing concerns over Iraq–Kuwait disputes
  • Saudi–Kuwaiti island disputes and the question of fixing a maritime boundary
  • Sovereign status of Red Sea islands
  • Unresolved Abu Dhabi border remains a "bone in the throat" of Anglo-Saudi relations
  • UAE–Iran relations (and the question of mutual diplomatic recognition) in the wake of the Abu Musa settlement – breakthrough on Christmas Eve
  • Peter Ramsbotham's dispatch of April 1972: "Goodbye to the islands" and an analysis of the Shah's (and Iranian) territorial strategy


  • March 1973 al Samta police post incident (Iraq–Kuwait) and its fallout
  • March 1973 Saudi Arabia–Yemen Arab Republic joint communiqué declaring 1934 Taif treaty boundary line as "finally and permanently established"
  • Legal proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice between rival UAE offshore oil concessionaires over concession limits
  • Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates edge towards territorial settlement
  • Further analysis of Iraq–Kuwait territorial relations


  • Territorial component in a starkly deteriorating Iran–Iraq relationship
  • Activities along the Iraq–Kuwait borderlands and the gloomy predictions for immediate bilateral relations
  • Consideration of provisional alignment and status of Oman–Saudi Arabia international boundary
  • Saudi–United Arab Emirates joint communiqué of 29th July 1974 and the unusual boundary agreement of 21st August 1974 – conjecture, analysis and reaction 1975
  • Iraqi over the Shatt-al-Arab in the Algiers Accord of March 1975
  • Subsequent territorial (and other) treaties of June and December 1975
  • Analysis of possible Iranian and Iraqi strategies and motivations in landmark territorial settlement
  • Anglo-French deliberations and reflections on the climactic events in the northern Gulf
  • Implications (and fears) of Iran–Iraq territorial settlement for Iraq–Kuwait relations
  • Consideration of Britain's defence commitments to Kuwait
  • Continuing efforts to negotiate existing “holes” in the Persian Gulf median line


  • Iraqi over the Shatt-al-Arab in the Algiers Accord of March 1975
  • Subsequent territorial (and other) treaties of June and December 1975
  • Analysis of possible Iranian and Iraqi strategies and motivations in landmark territorial settlement
  • Anglo-French deliberations and reflections on the climactic events in the northern Gulf
  • Implications (and fears) of Iran–Iraq territorial settlement for Iraq–Kuwait relations
  • Consideration of Britain's defence commitments to Kuwait
  • Continuing efforts to negotiate existing “holes” in the Persian Gulf median line


This 18-volume set includes 2 map boxes containing 30 large folding maps showing boundary agreements:

 Map 01.   “Anglo-Saudi territorial claims in the Arabian Peninsula 1913–1955 (revised to 1962).”
Map 02. “Provisional British characterisation of boundaries for the newly-independent South Yemeni Federation, 1968.”Map 03. "Britain’s provisional 1947 award for a Bahrain–Qatar maritime boundary."
Map 04. "Approximate territorial definition in the Musandam Peninsula, 1967."
Map 05. "Approximate territorial definition to the south of the Musandam Peninsula, 1967."
Map 06. "Map attached to concession agreement of 15 December 1970, granted by the Government of Bahrain to Superior Oil Company."
Map 07. Chart No. 2888. "RAS JASK to JAZIRAT SIRRI. Operating limits of oil companies off Sharjah/Umm al Qawain. [1965]."
Map 08. Chart No. 2888. "RAS JASK to JAZIRAT SIRRI. Ras Al Khaimah to Muscat, line of equidistance."
Map 09. Chart No. 2888. "RAS JASK to JAZIRAT SIRRI. Ras Al Khaimah offshore operating area. [1968]."
Map 10. Chart No. 2888. "RAS JASK to JAZIRAT SIRRI. Ras Al Khaimah/Umm al Qawain/Muscat. [post-1963]."
Map 11. Chart No. 2888. "RAS JASK to JAZIRAT SIRRI. Trucial States Continental Shelf, subdividing seabed areas. [1963]."
Map 12. Chart No. 2837. "PERSIAN GULF EASTERN SHEET. Iran/Qatar/UAE, medium line on provisional seabed areas, probably as discussed in Tehran Conference. [1965]."
Map 13. Chart No. 2837. "PERSIAN GULF EASTERN SHEET. Abu Dhabi/Iran seabed boundary. Chart showing proposed Abu Dhabi/Iran seabed boundary based on results of Anglo/Iranian discussion in 1966 and 1967. [1966/67]."
Map 14. Chart No. 2837. "PERSIAN GULF EASTERN SHEET. Iran/Trucial States Median Line. [1967]."
Map 15. Chart No. 2837. "PERSIAN GULF EASTERN SHEET. Median lines discussed at Tehran conference. [1965]."
Map 16. Chart No. 2837. "PERSIAN GULF EASTERN SHEET. Operating limits of oil companies holding off-shore concessions in Qatar and the Trucial States . [1965]."
Map 17. Chart No. 2847. "PERSIAN GULF WESTERN SHEET. Chart illustrating the boundary line defined in the Agreement concerning sovereignty over the islands of Farsi and Arabi and the delimitation of the continental shelf between Iran and Saudi Arabia signed in Tehran on 2 Aban 1347 equivalent to 2 Sha’ban 1388 and 24 October 1968. [1968]."
Map 18. Chart No. 2847. "PERSIAN GULF WESTERN SHEET. Bahrain/Iran Seabed Boundary Agreement, 1971/72. [1972]."
Map 19. Chart No. 2847. "PERSIAN GULF WESTERN SHEET. Bahrain Continental Shelf, June 1970. [1970]."
Map 20. Chart No. 756. “RED SEA GULF OF ‘AQABA. Saudi Arabia/Egypt (Tiran Island), 1967”.
Map 21. Chart No. 3[3]707. "UMM AL QAIWAIN to RAS AL MATBAKH. Seabed boundary between Qatar and Abu Dhabi in accordance with the agreement of 1 Moharram 1389, corresponding to 20 March 1969, between Qatar and Abu Dhabi. [1968]."
Map 25. Chart No. 2886. "JAZH SHAIKH SHU’AIB to RAS AT TANNURA AND SHAH ALLUM SHOAL. Operating limits of oil companies holding offshore concessions in Dubai out OT Median Line, November 1965."
Map 26. Chart No. 3707. "UMM AL QAIWAN to RAS AL MATBAKH. Operating limits of the Dubai Off-Shore area, 1964/65."
Map 27. Treaty Chart No. 3842. "SHATT-AL-ARAB TREATY. Entrance to Shatt-al-Arab. Treaty No. I-14903 (Vol. 1017). [1971]."
Map 28. Treaty Chart No. 3843. "SHATT-AL-ARAB TREATY. Inner Bar to Kabda Point. [1972]."
Map 29. Treaty Chart No. 3844. "SHATT-AL-ARAB TREATY. Kabda Point to Abadan. [1973]."
Map 30. Treaty Chart No. 3845. "SHATT-AL-ARAB TREATY. Abadan to Jazirat Umm At Tuwaylah. [1966].”


From the Editor’s Introduction to 1975: 

This was a year in which the affairs of the northern Gulf would evidently surprise and intrigue Western governments. Justifiably, they also completely dominate the following short analysis. There had been few signs that a territorial/Kurdish question package settlement was on the cards at the turn of the year (see 16.01), so Iraqi Vice President Saddam Husain's abrupt climb-down over the sovereignty of the Shatt al Arab in concluding the Algiers Accord with the Shah of Iran during March 1975 took observers off guard. As Johnny Graham, Britain's Ambassador in Baghdad commented on the 8th March, only two days after the shock diplomatic breakthrough:

  • "as seen from here, Saddam deserves credit for statesmanship. He has paid a big price in the Shatt al Arab for the Shah's agreement to end his support for the Kurds, a price that most people here, including myself, doubted he would be willing to pay" (see 16.01)…

The seemingly bleak outlook for Kuwait–Iraq relations had been highlighted late in February 1975 within a lengthy despatch from Archie Lamb (soon printed as an FCO memorandum entitled “Kuwait and her Neighbours [and a Friend or Two]”) (see 16.03). Its summary read as follows:

  •   “the Iraqi threat. An apparently insoluble frontier problem causing tension between Iraq and Kuwait and the possibility of armed conflict. Kuwait cannot defend herself…Kuwait’s need for friends; she has no allies” (see 16.03).

This had been penned, of course, before Britain or its officials got wind of the impending Iraqi climb-down over the Shatt. And, as mentioned at the outset, many observers – following the established logic of northern Gulf geopolitics – reckoned that Kuwait had the most to lose from the Algiers Accord. This would result in a candid dialogue between Britain’s diplomatic representatives in the region over Kuwait’s existential conundrum. Graham would start the ball rolling in Baghdad late in March by speculating as to Iraq’s likely moves and intentions, allowing himself a ‘heretical thought’ in conclusion:

 “Certainly, I think that they will continue to inch forward at Umm Qasr, thereby putting on the Kuwaitis the onus of action to eject them; and I suppose they might use the same tactics on Warba and Bubiyan, though in the latter case it would be clear to all that they were trespassing.

  • This leads me to a heretical thought. In the last sentence of (the printed despatch), Lamb says that the consequences of war in this area (i.e., over Kuwait) could be far-reaching and very serious for the Western oil companies and even for détente. I wonder whether this is not overstating the case or perhaps, to put it another way, whether an Iraqi take-over of Kuwait, especially if it were achieved ‘peacefully’ would or should lead to war. Indeed in terms of Western interests, or even in terms of specifically British interests, is the continued independence of Kuwait really a matter of such great moment?” (16.03).

 Back at the FCO Weir would round off this exchange of views (Rothnie in Saudi Arabia and Parsons in Tehran also contributed) by concluding that there was no easy solution in sight to protect Kuwait from Iraqi designs and that it might be best all round if the emirate succumbed to Baghdad’s proposals for a boundary settlement:

 “Tony Parsons and Alan Rothnie’s letters make it clear that the Kuwaitis’ anxieties about the lack of any effective force to intervene on their behalf in a crisis are fully justified. Kuwait must therefore rely on the Ba’ath continuing to calculate that they have more to lose than to gain by mounting an attack…. Implication seems to be that Kuwait would be invited to acquiesce in an imposed settlement…provided that the Kuwaitis could be persuaded to accept it would probably be no bad thing from our point of view” (see 16.03).

 This open and candid discussion of the triangular territorial relationship in the northern Gulf and its potential contribution to inter-state conflict seems particularly prescient in light of what was to transpire over the next one and a half decades.