The Chargé in Egypt (Morris) to the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

Dear Wallace: I am preparing an answer to the Department’s instruction no. 260 of October 11 relative to the question of negotiating a consular convention between the United States and Egypt. I expect to forward it to you in the next pouch. In the meanwhile I enclose a memorandum prepared by Allen of his conversation with Bedaoui Pasha.52

Allen had prepared this as an enclosure to a despatch in answer to the instruction above cited. As the instruction did not contemplate a discussion of this nature I considered it more discreet to send it to you informally. It certainly is an interesting discussion and I am sure you will find it helpful. The last paragraph is of course the most important. I have examined the text of the convention carefully and I think Bedaoui Pasha is right in his contention that Article 11 does not bind Egypt to conclude consular conventions.

After the receipt of my despatch, if you should conclude that the Legation ought to propose the negotiation of a convention, your instruction [Page 667] will no doubt furnish guidance as to whether the formal proposal should hinge upon Article 11 or whether it should be without any reference to the convention. From what I understand Bedaoui Pasha is the one person who can make or mar the negotiations. Therefore if we can approach him in the manner that he likes we would apparently get off to a better start. Even though the Department may hold an opinion contrary to Bedaoui’s respecting Egypt’s obligation under Article 11, might we not still propose the negotiation of a convention without referring formally to Article 11, and then if later on obstacles arose which might require the citation of Article 11, could it not be invoked then?

Yours sincerely,

Leland Morris

Memorandum by the Third Secretary of Legation in Egypt (Allen)

At my interview today with Bedaoui Pasha regarding the Extradition Treaty (file no. 200), I mentioned the subject of a consular convention, and said that although the Legation had not been instructed to institute negotiations looking to the conclusion of such a convention, I would like informally to inquire whether any other power had broached the subject with Egypt. He said that no country had yet approached the Government in the matter, although he supposed such negotiations might be requested soon.

I said that M. Garreau, one of the French delegates at Montreux, was of the opinion that an understanding had been reached at Montreux by which Egypt would institute the negotiations with the various powers regarding consular treaties, in order to prevent Egypt’s being overwhelmed by too many negotiations at once. Bedaoui said that he was not aware of any such understanding, and that furthermore Egypt might find that it was not interested in negotiating any new consular treaties. He said that since Egypt is a country where large numbers of foreigners reside and since there are relatively few Egyptian colonies abroad, foreign consular establishments in Egypt are in general much larger than Egyptian consular establishments abroad. On a basis of reciprocal treatment for consular officers therefore, Egypt would generally lose. For this reason Egypt might not be willing to agree even to strict reciprocity in fiscal matters regarding consuls. He said that the second paragraph of Article 11 of the Montreux Convention constituted itself the essentials of a consular treaty, and that nothing further was absolutely needed.

I asked whether he interpreted the third paragraph of Article 11 as obligating Egypt, at least morally, to enter into negotiations within three years with any of the former Capitulatory Powers that might [Page 668] request consideration of a consular treaty. Bedaoui Pasha replied vehemently, “Not in the least. Article 11 does not obligate us to consider any request for the negotiation of a consular treaty if we do not find it in our interest to do so. The three-years provision of Article 11 applies only to fiscal matters, and at the end of three years all consular fiscal privileges will cease definitely unless a bilateral consular convention shall have been concluded in the meantime. We will have to examine each case carefully to determine whether it would be in our interest to conclude bilateral consular conventions, and if we do not find such to be the case, we shall not be interested in negotiating consular conventions”.

To this I replied, in all good humor, “Do you mean to say, Sir, that if one of the signatory powers to the Montreux Convention should approach you tomorrow with a request to negotiate a consular convention, you might reply that you were not interested in such negotiations?”

“Exactly”, said Bedaoui Pasha. “I do not mean to say that our refusal would be as abrupt as that, but we did not bind ourselves at Montreux either technically or morally to entertain consular convention negotiations with anybody.”

I said that while Article 11 did not expressly provide that Egypt undertook to entertain such negotiations, I believed that it was generally interpreted among the Diplomatic Corps in Cairo to imply that Egypt was willing to negotiate consular conventions and expected in general to do so within three years unless, of course, a basis of agreement could not be reached.

Bedaoui Pasha replied that the Montreux Convention did not imply any obligations on Egypt that were not expressly stated in the wording of that Convention.

I asked, then, whether, placing all considerations of the Montreux Convention aside, he did not think Egypt might be assuming considerable responsibility under international practice if it should flatly refuse to negotiate a consular convention with a friendly power. I suggested that in the case of any two members of the family of nations, taking England and Norway for example, if one of the powers should approach the other with a request for the negotiation of a consular convention and the power approached should flatly refuse, even to discuss the subject, the latter country would doubtlessly feel called upon to justify its refusal.

Bedaoui Pasha said, “Ah, but that is an entirely different matter. If any Power should approach Egypt on a basis of entire equality and express a desire to conclude a consular convention, without claiming that Egypt was bound to do so under the Montreux Convention, Egypt would be very pleased to undertake the negotiations.”

George V. Allen
  1. An official in the Egyptian State Legal Department.