The Chargé in Egypt (Morris) to the Secretary of State

No. 1156

Sir: I have the honor to refer to instruction No. 260 dated October 11, 1937, relative to the Department’s desire to give consideration to the draft of a consular convention between the United States and Egypt, and instructing the Legation to ascertain discreetly the intentions of the most interested powers in connection with the negotiation of consular conventions with Egypt.

The draft convention forwarded by the Department was submitted to the consular offices in Egypt and copies of the letters received from the Consulate at Port Said and the Consulate at Cairo containing the observations of the officers in charge at those posts are enclosed.53 From the Consulate General at Alexandria there was received a lengthy comparative analysis of the draft convention made by Vice Consul Daniel Gaudin, Jr., who studied existing consular conventions between the United States and other countries and particularly the German and Norwegian conventions. A copy of Mr. Gaudin’s memorandum is enclosed together with my own comments.53

With respect to the intentions of the other most interested powers I have ascertained the following:

Mr. Besly, Legal Adviser to the British Embassy, told Secretary Gordon P. Merriam that the British Government has not taken any action and has not yet given thought to the subject. Some of Mr. Besly’s thoughts and interpretations in respect to the negotiation of a consular convention with Egypt and the stipulations which it should contain are summarized in an extract from a memorandum54 prepared by Mr. Merriam, a copy of which is enclosed with this despatch.

The First Secretary of the French Legation said that his Government is not taking any action at present looking towards the negotiation of a consular convention and it is not contemplating action in the near future.

An official at the Italian Legation said that the consular judge at Cairo was engaged in the study of the question. This study will be submitted to the Italian Minister at Cairo who will presumably forward it to the Foreign Office at Rome.

The Greek Chargé d’Affaires told me that when he left Athens early in October informal discussion had arisen at his Foreign Office where the responsible officials thought it would be advantageous to Greece to propose to Egypt to retain the personal status and privileges [Page 670] of consular officers just as heretofore on a basis of full reciprocity. The Greek Foreign Office officials were apparently going to set about to obtain the consent of their own Finance Department to this proposal but they were not at all certain that the Finance Department’s cooperation could be counted upon. They hoped the consent of the Finance Department to this proposal might be obtained in view of the fact that Greece would benefit considerably by such an arrangement as there are decidedly more Greek consular officers in Egypt than there are Egyptian consular officers in Greece. The Greek Chargé d’Affaires expressed doubts of the acceptance of such a proposal by the Egyptian Government. In any case these discussions were informal and may come to nothing. Officially the Greek Legation has not taken any action and is not expecting any immediate instructions to do so.

The Department invites comment as to whether negotiations should be proposed in the near future or deferred to await the outcome of negotiations of other principal powers with Egypt. I am of the opinion that negotiations undertaken promptly have the best chance of being brought to a satisfactory conclusion. In principle it seems to me desirable to take advantage of the good feeling engendered by the conclusion of the Montreux Convention. This feeling exists at the present time in respect of the former Capitulatory Powers. The Egyptian officials who successfully negotiated the Montreux Convention have continued at the head of the Government. It is a reasonable assumption that they would be well disposed towards negotiations proposed by one of the powers which had shown such friendly disposition towards Egypt by giving consent to the termination of important rights and had thereby incidentally enhanced their personal prestige. If power should pass to the hands of other Egyptians who did not directly participate in the Montreux negotiations, their viewpoint might be entirely different. It is not unlikely that anything connected with or resulting from the activities of the Government which negotiated at Montreux might, as a matter of principle, be carped at and criticized by their successors, and ill founded but none the less active opposition might be encountered tending to defeat or at least to delay unreasonably the object of the negotiations for reasons of interior politics alone.

Furthermore, apart from the foregoing considerations, an important advantage might lie in the fact of being the first to propose negotiations. The Egyptian officials would more likely deal with the negotiations in a prompter and more elastic fashion than if already wearied and with the edge of their interest blunted by several similar previous contacts. Again, to await the outcome of other negotiations might risk the acceptance by other powers of less advantageous [Page 671] conventional stipulations not of so much interest to them but, on the other hand, of greater concern to the United States.

If anything further is learned in the meanwhile as to the intentions of other powers in respect to the subject matter, the Department will be promptly informed thereof.

Respectfully yours,

Leland B. Morris
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