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

No. 2091

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction no. 416 of September 13, 1939,47 transmitting a draft consular convention for presentation to the Egyptian Foreign Office and to enclose a copy of a note dated May (?), 1940, received yesterday from the Foreign [Page 513]Office transmitting a printed model consular convention just completed by the Foreign Office. A translation of the note has been made and is enclosed but in as much as the note was received only yesterday and the pouch closes tomorrow morning there has not been sufficient time to prepare a translation of the model convention. Such a translation will be made, however, and forwarded to the Department at a later date,48 together with such comments thereon as may seem appropriate.

In the short time intervening between the receipt of the note from the Foreign Office and the writing of this despatch the only point in respect thereof which the Legation has been able to look into with any degree of thoroughness is that of the liability of consular officers to payment of customs duties, a point which, as brought out in the Legation’s despatch no. 2066 of April 17, 1940, is of particular interest at this time in view of the fact that the three year period prescribed in Article 11 of the Montreux Convention expires today. In this connection I may say that after my discussion of this matter with the Acting Chief of the Administrative Section of the Foreign Office on April 6, as reported in the Legation’s despatch no. 2066, certain less reassuring reports reached the Legation to the effect that drastic action curtailing consular customs exemptions would be taken, effective May 8, and I accordingly again took the matter up with the Acting Chief of the Administrative Section and with the Chief of Protocol who both professed to believe that there was no cause for apprehension but said that they would look into the matter and advise me of its status. I may say that in my discussions with both of these officials I was given the impression that in matters of this kind one branch of the Egyptian Government very often does not know what another branch may be doing. This is particularly true of legal matters in which Badawi Pasha, Chief of the Legal Department, usually has the final word and often reaches his decisions with little if any consultation with the Foreign Office, and it was gathered that the customs exemption question might be a case of this kind.

Upon the receipt of the communication from the Foreign Office yesterday, the Legation was somewhat reassured to note that it was stated that the Egyptian Government was in essential agreement with the draft submitted by the American Government, particularly as regarded the third paragraph of Article 11 of the Montreux Convention pertaining to the immunities of consular officers. However, the language of the Foreign Office note was so involved in its more specific discussion of this question that it was thought advisable to take the matter up with the Foreign Office with a view to ascertaining [Page 514]its specific intentions in respect of American consular officers after May 8 and pending the conclusion of the negotiation of a convention.

This point was accordingly taken up yesterday with Sharara Pasha, Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had signed the Foreign Office note in behalf of the Foreign Minister. Sharara Pasha said that the situation was very simple, that is to say, during the period after May 8 and pending the conclusion of a consular convention with the American Government American consular officers in Egypt would receive exactly the same treatment as was accorded Egyptian consular officers in the United States. I told Sharara Pasha that it was my understanding that Egyptian consular officers in the United States (see Department’s instruction no. 75 of March 12, 193550) enjoyed the privilege of importing articles for their personal use free of duty during their official residence without limitation as to the number of officers to whom the free importation privilege was granted. Sharara Pasha said that in that case the Egyptians would be prepared to extend similar privileges in respect of American consular officers and suggested that the Legation address a letter to the Foreign Office confirming my observations regarding the treatment accorded Egyptian consular officers in the United States. It is believed that on the basis of the instruction cited above such a letter might have been written without requesting further authorization from the Department but to avoid any possible misunderstanding such authorization is being requested today by telegraph.51

It may be noted in this connection that when the matter of extending customs exemption to all American consular officers in Egypt rather than to two officers at each post has been taken up in the past the invariable reply was that the Foreign Office was powerless to grant such a privilege on the basis of reciprocity so long as Article 9 of the Egyptian Customs Regulations was in force. That this aspect of the matter may have slipped Sharara Pasha’s mind when he said that Egypt would be prepared to grant complete reciprocity in this respect seems possible. However, the indicated course of action appeared to be to take him at his word and trust that we may be more successful in this instance than we have been in the past.

In conclusion the attention of the Department is invited to Article 31 of the Egyptian draft providing that the provisions of the convention would be applicable to diplomatic agents invested with consular functions, a point which the Department may wish to consider in connection with the anticipated giving of dual commissions to officers at this post.

Respectfully yours,

Raymond A. Hare
[Page 515]

The Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Aly Maher Pasha) to the American Chargé (Hare)

No. 28/76/7 (16 Cir.)

Mr. Chargé d’Affaires: The object of Article 11 of the Montreux Convention was to put an end to the special status which consuls of the Capitulatory Powers enjoyed up to that time in Egypt, the prerogatives and privileges of such consuls, henceforth having to be in conformity with international law and usage on condition of reciprocity.

However, with regard to immunities in respect of consular premises and with regard to taxes, customs duties and other public dues, the system then in force was provisionally maintained pending the conclusion of consular conventions, it being understood that this special regime should not continue in effect beyond a period of three years from the date of the signature of the Convention. Upon the termination of that period, the said regime was to end completely and be replaced by common law.

I have, therefore, the honor to bring to your attention that as from May 8, 1940, the immunities which consuls enjoy in Egypt with regard to consular premises and taxes, customs duties and other public dues, will be those recognized by international law and usage on condition of reciprocity.

In your letter no. 708 dated October 21, 1939,52 you communicated to me in the name of the American Government a draft consular convention which has been given attentive study by the Egyptian Government. After a study of this draft and of others presented by other countries, the Egyptian Government, being anxious to define by means of conventions its consular relations, not only with the United States of America but also with other countries, has drawn up a draft of a consular convention which you will find attached and which has also been communicated this day to the other signatories of the Montreux Convention.

This draft indicates how the Egyptian Government envisages, in consular matters, the rules usually sanctioned by international law and what it understands by international usage.

In fact, pending the conclusion of consular conventions, the Egyptian Government has the intention, in applying Article 11, to be guided, on the condition of reciprocity, by these rules and customs which moreover arise from existing conventions and international practice.

Moreover, comparison of the draft transmitted by your government with the Egyptian draft shows that both are inspired by the same [Page 516]principles and that there exists between them no fundamental difference, particularly with regard to the matters dealt with in paragraph three of Article 11 of the Montreux Convention.

I would appreciate your kindly transmitting to your government the draft of the convention which will meet, I hope, with its approval and will permit the conclusion of a consular convention between our two countries in the near future.

I take this occasion [etc.]

For The Minister of Foreign Affairs
M. Charara
  1. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iv, p. 477.
  2. Not printed; it was transmitted to the Department by the Minister in Egypt in his despatch No. 2229, October 16, p. 520.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See telegram No. 63, May 8, 4 p.m., infra.
  5. See despatch No. 1899, October 21, 1939, from the Minister in Egypt. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. iv, p. 486.