396.1–LO/5–1150: Telegram

The United States Delegation at the Tripartite Foreign Ministers Meeting to the Acting Secretary of State


Secto 218. US–UK ministerial conversations late yesterday morning and during afternoon1 covered Items 8, 14, and 12 of agenda in that order.2

Following question discussed under Item 8 Near East:
Arms and stability. Secretary emphasized importance to US of question of arms shipments to Near East. He stated we appreciate importance of military steps which are being taken in area from point of view of strengthening area security from external aggression. He understood US and UK military in agreement this question. However, arms shipments have caused public excitement, which should be alleviated both at home and Near East. He suggested we should examine situation from point of view of assuring arms shipments [Page 1028] not in excess of those required for attainment area security objectives and that we should also consider possibility of making public declaration expressing our opposition to arms race and to aggression, asking states in area at same time for assurances re non-aggressive use of any military items supplied. If such declaration made it would then be possible to go forward with necessary steps to make Near East secure. Bevin replied that he appreciated attitude which US Government had taken toward this problem which presents so many complications for UK. He mentioned risk that states in area would turn to USSR and satellites for arms if they could not get them from us.

This question reverted to during afternoon session. Bevin stated he thought proposed declaration re arms and stability3 was good idea and said he wanted agree in principle if he could. He suggested question be considered further at officials’ level. He said proposal raises certain complications for UK, particularly in connection UK treaty obligations with Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. UK cannot tell Arab states with which it has treaties that it will unilaterally alter or interpret treaties as it sees fit. He thought only thing to do was to go to four states in area principally concerned (Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Israel), tell them frankly what we are considering and ask them if they would comply by giving assurances. We would have their reactions by end of meeting and could then make our decision re declaration in that light. On question assurances, Bevin in off-record statement, said he had always been in difficulty with Egypt which UK had sometimes treated rather shabbily in past by furnishing it with “junk” in way of arms. Intensification of Egyptian nationalism had resulted in growing feeling for proper army in hope Egypt and UK would become Allies on equal terms. A great deal of disparagement of Egyptian as a soldier is unfair. Egypt is key point in Middle East. If we ask for assurances what would we say to Egyptian charges that we were limiting their army? Similarly, if Soviets began stirring up Kurds, would Iraq be able to say UK withholding from it weapons required to cope with situation?

Secretary replied that nothing we had suggested would have any limiting effect on complying with security needs of area. We should go right ahead with plans to strengthen security, if such plans are right. Need is for something to quiet intra-Near East unrest. States most vitally concerned already bound by armistice agreements. Moreover, they have told us they didn’t want to attack. If we can announce that everyone has given us assurances re non-aggressive intentions by series unilateral declarations, these declarations would add up to something short of, but having similar effect to, a non-aggression pact. US and UK could then follow up by saying our sole purpose in furnishing arms is to strengthen security of area. He then read paragraph [Page 1029] 2 suggested declaration as revised by Department (Tosec 1534). We would make clear at same time that if anyone violates assurances it has given we would immediately take action both within and without UN. This should have quieting effect on area and on public opinion in US. Bevin said he thought UK could agree in principle and Secretary then suggested words and procedure be considered at working level. He gave Bevin copy our revised draft and suggested possibility reversing order paragraphs 1 and 2 in order place emphasis on area security aspect. Bevin asked whether we should discuss proposed declaration with Near East states, but at Wright’s suggestion, it was agreed that question would also be pursued on working level. Bevin said he thought it important consult Jews and Arabs on subject since we did not want them to think we were sitting in London and deciding questions in violation of treaties. He felt, however, we must get this whole arms supplies question settled.

Secretary observed that proposed draft declaration has not been mentioned to French. He said he thought it would be useful to include French. They were supplying arms to Syria and this loophole should be plugged.

Wright here interjected suggestion which he had made to us May 8 (Secto 1945) re possibility widening scope of declaration to include Greece, Turkey and Iran but both Bevin and Secretary agreed problem these countries irrelevant to situation towards which proposed declaration directed. Question reassuring statement GTI should be considered separately from declaration on Arab states and Israel in view different problems involved. It was also agreed that any draft declaration should make absolutely clear it was directed only toward Arab states and Israel.

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Secretary then reverted question French participation and Bevin said he agreed in principle that they should participate. (After meeting, Wright took occasion observe that whereas Bevin agreed in principle French participation, he wasn’t certain whether Bevin had in mind participation in joint statement. He said he would try clear this matter up and let us know.)

b. PRA. Secretary reviewed present situation re contributions and inquired whether UK would be able increase equivalent 7 million now allotted. Bevin said he would make another attempt to increase amount but added this was very difficult problem.6 He asked what French were doing and Secretary said they had put up nothing yet, but that he had also taken occasion speak Schuman this subject in Paris. Schuman said he hoped French could reach decision in June. Bevin was interested in what other countries could do and Wright mentioned possibility raising subject with French and Canadians during Atlantic council meeting.

c. Saudi Arabia. Secretary referred our suggestion re direct negotiations between SAG and sheikhs with UK advising latter.7 Wright said UK proposed agree Ibn Saud’s suggestion for fact-finding committee. He suggested joint Anglo-American approach to King welcoming appointment of committee and expressing hope that final settlement could be reached after it had reported. Bevin asked Wright for progress report on whole question.

d. Iran. Secretary said he thought both US and UK were agreed Iran not in good shape. He outlined steps which we had been considering to improve situation. He then raised question ratification AIOC concession, observing that US and UK seemed to be in agreement re desirability prompt ratification in order help Iran’s economy. He understood there was some question of reserves and that because of this and other questions Iranians had not yet ratified agreement. Wright said agreement should come up for ratification in about six weeks. New UK Ambassador to Iran8 not pessimistic re passage. Moreover, Iranians realize ratification of direct advantage to them because of contribution which royalties will make to seven-year plan. Secretary emphasized that main thing is to get agreement settled. Bevin inquired what UK can do to settle this question and Wright replied it can make maximum effort of explanation and pressure on Iranians.

e. Economic development. It was felt that the type of Anglo-American cooperation re economic development problems in the area as evolved in 1947 and 1949 should be continued.

2. Following questions under Item 14:

Eritrea. It was felt that since we were agreed on our objectives and that the two delegations had worked out best tactics there was no need discuss this problem further. Possibility Sforza9 might wish discuss this problem during Atlantic Council meeting was noted.
Libya. Bevin stated we were in agreement re our objectives in Libya but there was question of subsidy to Libyan Government in order that we might obtain strategic facilities we required. Wright outlined Pelt’s10 view that his cooperation in securement of strategic facilities was contingent on economic assistance to Libya. Pelt had already taken this line with UK which has assured him its intention to make financial contribution. Pelt will undoubtedly have something to say to US on this question. UK interested our attitude this question since it will have helped prepare way with Tripolitanians for US strategic arrangements.

Secretary replied we plan provide technical assistance Libya when Point Four program approved by Congress and that we also considering ways and means providing other financial assistance for Tripolitania.

Wright said it would be helpful know our plans soonest possible.

3. It was felt in view close agreement on objectives as reflected subcommittee’s report11 there was no need discuss Item 2 [12] (Indian Sub-Continent) further but that situation should be carefully watched.12

  1. The fourth meeting was held at the Foreign Office. Attending for the United States were Secretary Acheson, Douglas, Cooper, Jessup, Bruce, Harriman, McCloy, Perkins, Bohlen, Hare, and Stinebower; for the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary Bevin, Younger, Strang, Davies, Makins, Jebb, Hoyer Millar, Dening, Wright, Barclay, and Hadow.
  2. The Near East, Libya and Eritrea, and India, respectively.
  3. For documentation on the discussion of a declaration concerning arms shipments to the Near East, see pp. 975 ff.
  4. The draft declaration transmitted in Tosec 153, May 9, not printed, read:

    “The Governments of the UK, Fr and the US, having had occasion to review certain questions affecting the peace and stability of the Near East, and particularly that of the supply of arms and war material to the states of the area, have resolved as follows:

    • “1. The three Governments are agreed that the shipment of arms or war materials from the UK, Fr, or the US to the Arab states and Israel will be permitted only on the understanding that the purchasing country has given formal assurances of its intention not to undertake any act of aggression against any other state in the area.
    • “2. The three Governments recognize that all the states in question need to maintain a certain level of armed forces for the purpose of assuring their internal security and their legitimate self-defense and to permit them to play their part in the defense of the area as a whole. AH applications for arms or war material from these countries will be considered in the light of this principle, and of the desirability of preventing the development of an arms race.
    • “3. The three Governments take this opportunity of declaring their interest in and their desire to promote the establishment and maintenance of peace and stability in the Near East and their unalterable opposition to the use of force or threat of force between any of these states. The three Governments, should they receive reliable information that any state in the area was preparing to violate existing frontiers or armistice lines would, consistent with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and without the UN, to prevent such violations.” (396.1 LO/5–350)

  5. Ante, p. 988.
  6. On May 17 the United States Delegation reported that Bevin had told Acheson that the United Kingdom contribution to the Palestine Relief Agency had been raised to the equivalent of $9 million. Secto 292, not printed (396.1 LO/5–1750).
  7. For discussion of this suggestion in Subcommittee Q, see Secto 98, May 3, p. 979.
  8. Sir Francis M. Shepherd.
  9. Count C’arlo Sforza, Italian Foreign Minister.
  10. Adrian Pelt, United Nations High Commissioner for Libya.
  11. MIN/UKUS/P/11, dated May 8, not printed (Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: CF 25). For the report on the meeting of Subcommittee R at which this item was discussed and at which the agreements were reached on which the subcommittee’s report was based, see Secto 142, May 4, p. 996.
  12. For a report on the second part of the fourth meeting, see Secto 217, May 10, p. 1031.