HC Deb 31 May 1954 vol 528 cc887-8
34. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to make a statement on the situation in the Buraimi area of the Middle East.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I regret to say that the difficulties in the way of establishing the conditions for submitting the Buraimi question to arbitration, to which my right hon. Friend referred in his answer to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 26th October last year, have not yet been overcome. Discussions are still proceeding between Her Majesty's Government and the Saudi Government.

I should like to add that recent Saudi allegations that British Forces are starving the villagers of the oasis by imposing a blockade upon the entry of food supplies are without any foundation. In order to limit the illegal activities of Saudi tribesmen in the oasis, restraints have been put on their movements by the forces of the Sultan and of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, aided by the Trucial Oman Levies. But enough food enters the area for its inhabitants, and I am assured that there is at present no shortage.

Mr. Henderson

In view of the serious allegation made by the Government of Saudi Arabia, would not the Minister express the willingness of Her Majesty's Government that United Nations peace observers might be sent into the area to establish the facts?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that is necessary at the moment. The position with regard to the Saudi Government is that we have come very near to agreement on arbitration and I think that would be the most satisfactory way of dealing with the difficulties. Unfortunately, there are one or two points outstanding on which there is no agreement and I hope very much that the false propaganda about an alleged understanding will not make it more difficult to reach arbitration which I think is desired by both sides.

Major Legge-Bourke

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take steps to ensure that his admirable answer to the original Question this afternoon will have some publicity in the area most concerned, if only to rebut some of the propaganda put over from the other point of view?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly will try to carry out what my hon. and gallant Friend suggests. I do not think that the inhabitants of the area are under any misapprehension.