NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Statement by the United States and the United Kingdom Groups

top secret

The Problem: Retention of British Military Rights in Egypt.


It was the consensus of both the American and British groups that it was extremely important in the interests of the maintenance of the security of the Middle East and of the preservation of world peace that the British have certain strategic facilities in Egypt. The British should have the right to maintain these facilities during peace time in such a condition that they could be effectively and speedily used in case of an immediate threat to the security of the Middle East and right of reentry in order to make full use of these facilities in accordance with the provisions of the Charter, and with the principles of the United Nations in case of such a threat.
In order to ensure such rights, it is necessary to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with Egypt which, because of political difficulties already encountered in negotiations between the British and the Egyptians, might best be conceived within a common framework of regional defense agreements between Britain and the Arab states.
Failing an agreement within a regional framework, renewed efforts should still be made for the negotiation of a bilateral Anglo-Egyptian treaty ensuring to the greatest possible degree the desiderata specified in paragraph one.
The durability and effectiveness of any such bilateral agreement might best be assured by its negotiation with a majority, or national, Egyptian Government as contrasted with the present minority Government. The advent of a majority or national Government in Egypt would therefore be welcome, but any overt attempt to achieve that end would require most careful consideration. The principal obstacle which [Page 585] prevents the formation of such a government is the long standing antipathy of the King to the Wafd.
The successful negotiation of an Anglo-Egyptian agreement hinges furthermore on convincing the Egyptians that it would be in their own interest since Egypt could only stand to lose by instability in the Middle East.
Regarding tactics to be followed the British group said that they wished to make no further move for the present, in view of current British negotiations with Iraq and of the situation in Palestine. The American group said they wondered whether, prior to any move to resume negotiations, it would be good tactics for the British Government to signify its intention to evacuate British troops without insisting upon a quid pro quo, thus creating a more favorable atmosphere for negotiation. If such a course should be decided upon, they thought that the American Government would be prepared to exert all its influence with the Egyptian Government in supporting the British during the negotiations. The British group foresaw the danger that a British gesture of this kind might be interpreted as a sign of weakness and would only have the effect of encouraging the Egyptian Government to take a still more unreasonable line. Both sides agreed that this was a danger which deserved consideration. The American group indicated that in any event they would recommend that the United States Government be prepared to exert all its influence with the Egyptian Government in supporting British efforts to retain or obtain the necessary strategic facilities.
The American group stated:
that the American Government was not itself interested in acquiring military rights in Egypt in the present circumstances;
that they were prepared to recommend that the American Government lend such assistance as might seem to it appropriate, in close consultation of course with the British Government, in endeavoring to convince the Egyptian Government that it would be in the interest of Egypt itself and of the cause of world peace for Egypt to arrange that Great Britain should have such military facilities—and in case of immediate threat from without to the security of the Middle East rights of reentry in order to be able to make full use of such facilities—as will enable Great Britain to play its full part in assuring the security of the Middle East; and to convince the Egyptian Government that such arrangements could be effected in a manner which would not be derogatory to the independence and sovereignty of Egypt.
that while the details of such supporting action remain to be worked out, one idea would be an approach to King Farouk, who might possibly be invited to visit the United States;
that in assisting in making it clear to Egypt that the full right of Egypt to have free intercourse with other countries would not be affected by such arrangements with the British Government, the American Government might, after consultation with the British Government, indicate to Egypt that it was prepared, in case such arrangements were effected, to take various steps to strengthen relations between the United States and Egypt. For instance, it might indicate its readiness in such circumstances to consider favorably certain Egyptian requests for military advisers, various military supplies, other kinds of technical and financial assistance, etc. In doing so, the American Government, in order to prevent the creation of the impression that such assistance was being granted in a spirit of rivalry, would be prepared to point out that it was its understanding that the British Government looked with favor upon such a course of action.
that they will recommend that during the course of such proceedings as there might be in the United Nations relating to the obtaining or maintaining by Britain of the facilities in Egypt required for the preservation of the security of the Middle East the Government of the United States give such support to Britain as would be consonant with the provisions of the Charter and with the principles of the United Nations.
they would consider it dangerous in the present world situation for the British Government to abandon such strategic facilities to which it is entitled by treaty in Egypt, unless there were provisions of some kind for good alternative facilities elsewhere in the area.
The British group stated that American assistance at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner would be welcomed.
Both groups considered that full consultation on all these questions should be maintained.