NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Statement by the United States and the United Kingdom Groups

top secret

The Problem

Assurance of British strategic facilities in Cyrenaica.


It was the consensus that, even if the British were to succeed in maintaining certain strategic facilities in Egypt, they should also have strategic facilities in Cyrenaica.
Although Britain was at present in occupation of Libya, including Cyrenaica, the future status of that colony was still uncertain and a Four-Power Commission named by the Deputies of the Council of Foreign Ministers was carrying out an investigation with the object of making a report containing factual material required by the Deputies in their consideration of the disposition of this and the other former Italian colonies. Since the future of Cyrenaica, in accordance with the Italian Peace Treaty, would be determined by the Council of Foreign Ministers or, failing an agreement within one year in the Council, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the building up of facilities by Britain in the area presented considerable difficulties. There were a number of possible alternative courses of action which might ensure British strategic facilities in Cyrenaica for at least a considerable term of years.
These were (a) to work for the early independence of Cyrenaica and for a treaty with the Emir providing British bases; (b) to obtain for Britain a strategic trusteeship; (c) to obtain for Britain an ordinary trusteeship; (d) failing agreement on any of the above courses, merely for the British to remain in occupation.
It was recognized that a secret agreement with the Emir would be dangerous and further that there were no means of insuring that, when independence had been reached, a satisfactory treaty would in fact be obtained. It was also recognized that Soviet assent in the Security Council to a strategic trusteeship for Britain in Cyrenaica would be virtually impossible to obtain except in return for some unacceptable quid pro quo. An ordinary trusteeship seemed therefore to be the least unpromising since it might be possible to obtain for this course the support of two-thirds of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It should in any event be possible to obtain the support of more than one-third of the votes cast in the General Assembly to block any undesirable alternative proposal. The question arose whether adequate strategic facilities could be secured under an ordinary trusteeship. The course of remaining indefinitely in Cyrenaica in the absence of any formal agreement would be unsatisfactory because of the embarrassment which would be caused by the perpetuation of such an anomalous situation.


The American group agreed to recommend that an assurance of British facilities in Cyrenaica was desirable in the interest of preserving the security of the Middle East and of the maintenance of world peace and that in order to attain that end American support should be given to the granting of a British trusteeship over Cyrenaica. Members of the American group tentatively suggested that this idea might [Page 588] be extended to include a British trusteeship for all of Libya, which would have additional strategic advantages, but the views of both groups on this point were reserved owing to the political complications involved.
An informal suggestion was made by the American group that, pending a decision on the future of Cyrenaica, the British strategic position there might be consolidated and that certain stores and troops might be quietly moved in from Palestine, Egypt, or elsewhere.
The American group also considered that some kind of a provision should be included to the effect that the trustee is to prepare the inhabitants for self-government, that at the end of, say, ten years the question of the future of Cyrenaica will be reviewed by the United Nations; and that before the trusteeship is relinquished the inhabitants will be given an opportunity to express their desires as to their future governance.
The possibility of including provision for adequate strategic facilities in an ordinary trusteeship for Cyrenaica should be studied. Close consultation would be maintained.
The American group suggested that the possibility should not be dismissed completely of ceding Cyrenaica to Egypt as an autonomous area provided (1) such a solution would appear to be desirable to Egypt and to the inhabitants of Cyrenaica and (2) Egypt should agree to a framework of regional defense agreements between the Arab countries and Britain and would give the British strategic facilities in Egypt and in Cyrenaica on a long-term basis in order that the British might be able to make their appropriate contribution to the maintenance of Middle Eastern security. The British groups saw considerable difficulties in this arising from the probable objections of the inhabitants of Cyrenaica and from the fickle character of Egyptian politics. They were, however, prepared to discuss this matter further with the Americans at any time.
It was the opinion of both groups that the question of Cyrenaica should not be discussed at the next meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers but that it would be preferable to await the report of the Four-Power Commision.