HC Deb 15 March 1961 vol 636 cc123-4W
66. Mr. P. Noel-Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal what was the outcome of the negotiations between a British political officer and the delegates of the exiled Imam of Oman, held recently at a hill resort near Beirut; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Heath

I am now able to make a statement.

The former rebel leaders, who fled from the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman at the beginning of 1959, later took the initiative in seeking terms for their return. After consulting the Sultan Her Majesty's Government agreed that British representatives might take part in informal and exploratory contacts with some of these leaders. The Sultan for his part was willing to grant an amnesty to rebel leaders and their followers and permit them to return in safety subject to satisfactory guarantees of keeping the peace.

The statements made by the rebel leaders to a British representative at a meeting in January, 1961, afforded some hope that a settlement satisfactory both to the Sultan and to the rebel leaders could be achieved, although patient negotiations might still be necessary. At a further meeting in February, however, the rebel leaders completely reversed their previous attitude and demanded the recognition of sovereign status for a part of the Sultan's territory, Oman. This went even beyond the interpretation previously placed by the rebel leaders upon the 1920 Agreement of Sib, which they had in effect repudiated by their earlier actions but to which they now appealed. Still more did it go beyond the interpretation placed on that agreement by Mohammed bin Abdullah al Khalili and the other Shaikhs who signed it.

The situation at the present time is that there is quiet in Oman and general security in the country. The Sultan is rightly determined that these peaceful conditions shall not be disturbed from outside. But he has only last week confirmed that his offer of an amnesty has not been withdrawn and applies to the rank and file—a number of whom have already returned—as well as to the principal rebel leaders.

Her Majesty's Government continue to wish sincerely for a settlement under which the rebel leaders could return to Oman under terms satisfactory both to the Sultan and to themselves, and their good offices will always be available if there should seem to be prospects of success.