NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State

top secret

Suggested Remarks by the Acting Secretary at the Opening of the US–UK Talks on the Middle East 1

Mr. Ambassador: We are very happy indeed to have this opportunity to talk over frankly and informally some of our mutual problems relating to the Mediterranean area and the Middle East. We appreciate the fact that Mr. Wright,2 Mr. Greenhill,3 General Hollis,4 Mr. Mallaby,5 and Air Vice Marshal Foster6 have been willing to come to Washington for these talks rather than our going to London.

You will recall that during the numerous exchanges of views between our two Governments in recent months with respect to withdrawal of British troops from Greece, Mr. Bevin informed Ambassador Douglas that one of the important considerations which influenced his Government in this connection was the fact that the policy of the American Government in the Middle East was unknown to the British Government. Mr. Bevin then went on to suggest that the two Governments jointly review the whole position in the Middle East, including Cyrenaica, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and Persia, for the purpose of arriving at a “gentlemen’s understanding” on a common policy and joint responsibility throughout the area.

It is our understanding that these talks are to be quite informal and that the participants, at least during the early stages, are to be free to exchange views without in any way committing their Government. In order that these discussions may have the widest scope, it is my suggestion that a series of meetings be arranged in which Mr. Henderson, Mr. Hickerson, Mr. Kennan, Mr. Wailes and Mr. Hare, with such assistants as they may call upon for aid from time to time, will represent the Department of State, and in which the Embassy will be represented by such persons as you may care to designate.

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It will probably be found helpful for representatives of the military to attend some of these meetings as observers. Furthermore, the military undoubtedly will desire to hold a number of conversations regarding strategic matters without diplomatic attendance. Attendance at all of these various meetings can be arranged on an informal basis. The participants can keep in touch with their superiors and the military and the political representatives can also maintain close contact so that from their talks it might be possible for suggestions and recommendations to emerge which you and I can consider at subsequent meetings.

I also suggest that no minutes be kept of the various discussions although anyone can make such notes as he may consider helpful. If decisions are made or understandings arrived at, they will of course eventually be reduced to writing in order to obviate so far as possible misunderstandings with regard to their nature.

In view of the false significance which undoubtedly would be attributed by certain elements to these discussions if it should become known that they are taking place, it is extremely important that every practical measure be taken to keep the fact that we are holding them from becoming public. It has therefore been suggested that future meetings to be attended by the military be held in the Pentagon Building where it is easier for privacy to be maintained.

We are agreed, I believe, that our talks are to cover the Middle East and certain areas of the Mediterranean, with Greece and Turkey included, where necessary, as any strategic review of the area could not ignore these two key countries.

The primary objective of our talks, according to our understanding, is to enable each of the two governments, in the interests of world peace, to have a better understanding of what the policies of the other government are with regard to the areas under discussion and to coordinate, wherever possible, these policies with the purpose of promoting the security of those areas and the welfare of the people inhabiting them.

It is clear that any helpful exchange of views regarding our respective policies must be in the framework of a common concept of the strategic situation of the areas under discussion. We hope that with the aid of the military each government will have clearer ideas regarding the strategic situation before our discussions come to a close. Discussions regarding the strategic situation will, I assume, be based upon our common determination to discourage aggression and to maintain the security of the areas under discussion, the preservation of which is vital to the maintenance of world peace.

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Our talks of a political and economic nature, similarly are for constructive purposes. It is, I understand, our common desire to work together towards the end of assisting the countries of the areas to maintain their political independence and territorial integrity. It is also our common desire to assist the peoples of these areas in attaining higher standards of living and culture so that they will be able to contribute more effectively to world prosperity and to the cause of world peace.

It is our view, and your very presence here causes us to believe that it is also your view, that our respective governments will be facilitated in their efforts to aid in raising the economic and cultural levels of the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East if their approach to the problem is coordinated. In the present world situation it is extremely important that the contributions of an economic and cultural nature which each of our governments may make to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East should be complimentary rather than conflicting. In these times we can not permit the growth of petty rivalries of [or?] small-minded competition to handicap our efforts. We believe that it is possible through mutual understandings of our respective policies to bring about and maintain a spirit of cooperation in the economic and cultural spheres which would guarantee the maximum results of our efforts and at the same time not in any way restrict the freedom of international economic and cultural intercourse of the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

We have not prepared any set agenda for this meeting and we would now be happy to hear any views which you may wish to express with regard to our procedure or the subjects to be discussed.

  1. A marginal notation states that the suggested remarks were “Delivered by close paraphrase or reading.”
  2. Michael R. Wright, Assistant Under-Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office.
  3. Denis A. Greenhill of the Middle East Secretariat of the British Foreign Office.
  4. Lt. Gen. Sir Leslie Hollis, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence.
  5. Presumably Howard G. C. Mallaby, Assistant Secretary in the Offices of the British Cabinet and Minister of Defence.
  6. Air Vice Marshal R. M. Foster, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Policy).