Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State


Subject: Palestine Arms Embargo

Participants: Sir Oliver Franks, British Ambassador
The Secretary of State
Mr. John D. Hickerson, Director for European Affairs

Sir Oliver Franks came in to see me at 12 noon today by appointment made at his request. He handed me the attached self-explanatory memorandum dated April 27, 1949 entitled “Palestine Arms Embargo.”1 Sir Oliver summarized briefly the contents of this memorandum, stressing the British Government’s concern about internal security in the Middle East countries and stating that Mr. Bevin is convinced of the urgent need to make some immediate and favorable response to repeated Arab requests for arms. Sir Oliver stated that in all cases except Egypt the arms would be entirely for the maintenance of internal security. As regards Egypt, he stated, the first steps toward technical military talks between the British and Egyptian authorities2 are now being taken and the British Government proposes to furnish the Egyptian Government, in order to secure British military requirements there, assistance in building up Egypt’s own military strength.

I inquired whether the British Government contemplates talking to Dr. Bunche about this matter. Sir Oliver replied that his government did not contemplate approaching Dr. Bunche about this in view of his announcement that he considers his mission complete. I also inquired about the time element and Sir Oliver replied that while his government regarded the matter as urgent, he did not believe that he could mention any particular time element within which they desire to act.

I inquired whether he had any information about the type and quantity of arms involved. Sir Oliver replied that he had very limited information on this subject. He went on to say that he understood that nothing more than small arms would be involved for countries other than Egypt. For Egypt the British Government contemplates supplying not only small arms but probably some light artillery and some light tanks.

I told Sir Oliver that we would examine his memorandum carefully and sympathetically and get in touch with him later about it, I pointed out that I had inquired about timing largely for the reason that the furnishing of arms to Middle East countries by the British Government [Page 959]may introduce an element of importance in connection with the consideration in Congress of our Military Assistance Pact. Sir Oliver commented that this had probably not been considered in London and that he would call Mr. Bevin’s attention to this aspect of the matter which he himself considered as one of importance.

Sir Oliver commented in passing that it was not clear whether his government contemplated formal action for lifting of the Palestine Arms Embargo by UN action or whether, if the U.S. Government agreed, his government simply contemplates assuring the Middle East governments in question that the arms will be furnished without formal action by the UN.

  1. See p. 952.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 186 ff.