The British Embassy to the Department of State


In the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of Alliance10 which was signed on the 26th August last (Article 13 and its annex) His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Egyptian Government agreed to certain arrangements with a view to bringing about without delay the abolition of the capitulations in Egypt and to instituting a transitional regime for a reasonable and not unduly prolonged period. (A copy of the Treaty is attached for convenience of reference). The Egyptian Government accordingly issued invitations to the Governments of the capitulatory Powers to take part in a conference to open at Montreux on the 12th April next for the purpose of bringing about by negotiation the changes foreshadowed in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. The Department of State announced in a communiqué dated the 16th February11 that the United States Government were accepting the invitation to participate in this conference.

His Majesty’s Government have promised to support the Egyptian Government in persuading the capitulatory Powers to agree to the abolition of the capitulations in Egypt on condition that a transitional régime is set up in accordance with the scheme outlined in the Treaty, and they earnestly hope that the United States Government will receive proposals in conformity with the Treaty scheme with the greatest sympathy. His Majesty’s Government agree entirely with the view which has been expressed by the Egyptian Government that it is an anachronism that Egypt should continue under modern conditions to be fettered to the extent that she is at present by the capitulations.

It is understood that the Egyptian Government propose to issue shortly a further circular note to the Powers concerned making detailed proposals for the above-mentioned transitional régime, and it should be explained in this connexion that His Majesty’s Government, though committed to the scheme in the annex to Article 13 of the Treaty, are not necessarily committed on all points of detail in this further Egyptian note.

The United States Government will be aware that there is a strong desire in Egypt to abolish the capitulations unilaterally and that moreover the Egyptian Government are convinced that they have a sound legal right to do so. While there can be no doubt that Egypt possesses the legal right to terminate the Mixed Courts at one year’s notice, His Majesty’s Government reserve for the present their attitude [Page 623] with regard to the unilateral abolition of the capitulations, both on the political and on the legal side of the question, since the Egyptian Government are committed by their Treaty with the United Kingdom not to attempt to denounce either the Mixed Courts or the capitulations until after the holding of the capitulations Conference and its eventual failure. His Majesty’s Government, however, feel it their duty to intimate confidentially and without delay to the United States Government that it is by no means clear that the Egyptian Government could not make a good legal case for a right to abolish the capitulations unilaterally. In these circumstances, His Majesty’s Government feel certain that the Governments of the capitulatory Powers will receive sympathetically the laudable willingness of the Egyptian Government to deal with the matter by negotiation and to offer a transitional régime giving guarantees to foreigners and affording a necessary period of transition from the capitulatory to the non-capitulatory era. It appears to His Majesty’s Government incontestable that more will be achieved by a sympathetic reception of the Egyptian proposals than by an attitude of obstruction.

  1. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. clxxiii, p. 401.
  2. Released to the press February 17; Department of State, Press Releases, February 20, 1937, p. 102.