Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs (Berry)1 to the Secretary of State

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Subject: Egyptian Foreign Minister’s conversations with you and Secretary Marshall

Tentative arrangements have been made for the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Salaheddin Bey, to call upon you on October 17. Salaheddin Bey is at the present time in charge of his country’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. He will see General George Marshall, the Secretary of Defense, on October 18.

There is attached a summary of United States views and policies with respect to the various questions which the Egyptian Foreign Minister is expected to raise (Tab A). It is believed that we should continue to adhere to these views and policies in our conversations with him.

In view of the desirability of adopting a uniform position on these matters in the conversations with the Foreign Minister, there is also attached a proposed letter to Secretary Marshall (Tab B)2 transmitting a copy of the summary of United States views and policies for his guidance. General Marshall’s comments and suggestions have been invited.


It is recommended:

That you discuss the matters which the Egyptian Foreign Minister may raise as outlined in the summary of United States views and policies (Tab A);
That you sign the attached letter to Secretary Marshall transmitting a copy of the summary (Tab B).

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[Tab A]

The Department of State’s Views and Policies Concerning Certain Problems With Regard to Egypt

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The following is a summary of the views and policies of the Department regarding questions which it is expected the Egyptian Foreign Minister may wish to raise in his discussions with Government officials:

Anglo-Egyptian Treaty Relations
Possibility of Egypt’s Association with NATO
Arms Shipment to Egypt from the United Kingdom
Arms from the United States

1. Anglo-Egyptian Treaty Relations

There have been indications that the Egyptian Foreign Minister may request this Government to mediate between Egypt and the United Kingdom in their dispute regarding the stationing of British troops in Egypt and the administration of the Sudan. The Egyptian Ambassador in Washington has stated that his Government would be happy to receive the suggestions of the United States regarding this matter, and the press in Cairo has carried reports that a request for mediation would be made.

Background: In 1936 the United Kingdom and Egypt signed a Treaty of Alliance which permits the former to maintain bases and troops in Egypt and which confirms the arrangement by which Egypt and the United Kingdom jointly administer the Sudan. This Treaty is to terminate in 1956 unless revised earlier by mutual agreement.

Immediately following World War II, Egypt indicated its desire to revise it, and negotiations with the United Kingdom were begun, only to be broken off in 1947 by Egypt. The Egyptian Government took the question before the Security Council, claiming that the presence of British troops in Egypt was a threat to the peace, but the Council action was inconclusive.

The Treaty has been discussed again, over the past few months, by the parties on an informal level. No solution has been reached. Egypt insists upon the evacuation of British troops, and has gone so far as to state that it considers evacuation more important than the defense of Egypt. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has refused to withdraw its forces until the Egyptian attitude has modified to the extent that discussions on future arrangements are more advanced. The matter of the Sudan has also been brought into the discussions by the Egyptians, who insist that the whole Nile Valley, including the Sudan, be controlled by Egypt alone, without the United Kingdom.

The Egyptians have suggested that some arrangement might be [Page 305] worked out whereby the British would remove their combat troops to the Gaza strip, while maintaining the Air Force and certain technical and administrative troops in the Canal Zone area. The United Kingdom is considering the proposal but believes that there are a number of serious objections to it, arising from the nature of the Gaza strip (it is very small and overpopulated) and from the fact that Israel, which surrounds the strip on two sides, might object.

The United States believes that it is extremely important in the interests of the maintenance of the security of the Middle East and the preservation of world peace that the British have certain strategic; facilities in Egypt. We believe that the British should have (a) the right to maintain these facilities during peacetime in such a condition that they could be effectively and quickly used in case of immediate threat to the security of the Middle East and (b) the right of reentry in order to make full use of these facilities. We, therefore, hope that the United Kingdom and Egypt will be able to work out a reasonable solution, and to this end that it will be possible to convince Egypt that it is in its own interest to arrive at such a solution.

The Department and the American Ambassador in Cairo have made clear to Egyptian officials that we strongly support the United Kingdom in its desire to maintain strategic facilities in Egypt. We have also indicated that insistence on evacuation would seem undesirable and dangerous in the light of present world conditions. We have, however, pointed out that we consider this question as one primarily for solution by the two parties concerned.

With regard to the Sudan, the Department believes that the eventual status of that area should be decided by the Sudanese people. Meanwhile we approve the British policy of bringing Sudanese into the government of the area.

Recommendation: In view of the importance which the Department attaches to the maintenance of British troops in Egypt for purposes of defense, it is recommended that this matter be discussed with the Foreign Minister along the following lines:

While the Department appreciates the point of view of the Egyptians on this question, it believes that under the conditions presently existing in the world the evacuation of British troops from Egypt would be dangerous.
If Egypt would reach an agreement with the United Kingdom by which substantial numbers of British troops could remain in the country, the presence of these troops could no longer be said to constitute an infringement on Egyptian independence, but would instead represent part of Egypt’s contribution to the defense of the area.
If the Foreign Minister raises the question of United States mediation, it is suggested that it be emphasized that we consider the problem primarily as one for solution between the United Kingdom and Egypt.

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2. Possibility of Egypt’s Association with NATO

The Egyptian Government, through the Embassy in Washington, has informally raised with the Department of State the question of possible Egyptian association with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.3 In discussing the question with the Department, the Ambassador indicated that the desire of Egypt for some such association was prompted by the invitation recently extended by the NAT Council to Turkey, suggesting that that country cooperate in such appropriate phases of the military planning of the NATO as concern the maintenance of the security of the Mediterranean. The Egyptian Government has expressed its disappointment at being left out of the planning for the area of which it is a part, and may possibly press this Government and the NAT Council for an association similar to that offered Turkey and Greece.

Background: Turkey has been anxious for some time to become a member of NATO. However, it was the view of this Government and of the NAT Council that it was undesirable to extend the Treaty to Turkey because of the military commitment it would entail and the precedent it might create, and because the NATO was itself in the early formative stages. The Turkish Government was, therefore, informed that at the present stage of development of NATO it would not be feasible to extend the treaty to Turkey.

In view, however, of the difficult domestic position in which the Turkish Government had placed itself by openly requesting membership, some form of association was considered, particularly in the light of certain military advantages which would accrue from associating Turkey with such appropriate phases of military planning as are concerned with the defense of the Mediterranean. There was no question of admitting Turkey to membership in the NAT, although as a European state it was eligible for membership, since this would involve the disadvantages set forth in the preceding paragraph. Therefore, an arrangement was worked out whereby Turkey could be associated with certain phases of military planning on a limited basis without becoming a member. The precise nature of this relationship is to be determined by the NAT Defense Committee. A similar arrangement is also to be made for Greece.

In the September, 1950, discussions of the NAT Council there was general agreement that no further extension of the Treaty should at this time be made, whether through membership or special association.4

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Recommendation: If the Foreign Minister should raise the question of Egypt’s possible association with NATO, it is recommended that the following reply be made:

It is the belief of the NAT Council that it would be undesirable to extend the Treaty further, since the NATO is still in the process of formation and development and since in any event its primary purpose is the maintenance of the security of the NAT area, particularly Western Europe. The Treaty itself is limited to European states.5
Greece and Turkey are European powers both of which have had a long and active association with the West in its economic and security efforts. They are recipients of ECA aid and are members of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation and the Council of Europe. With regard specifically to security factors, Greece and Turkey represent what might be termed the right flank of the noncommunist states of Europe.
Greece and Turkey have not been invited to become members of the NATO, but only to associate themselves, in a limited way, with certain aspects of its military planning.
If Egypt desires to cooperate in the defense of the Near East area, there are a number of ways open to it to do so. In particular, it could adopt a more conciliatory attitude in its discussions with the the United Kingdom, and it could cooperate more fully in the efforts of the United Nations to develop an effective security system, including for example, efforts which have been directed toward the restoration of Korean independence.

3. Arms Shipment to Egypt from the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has suspended the shipment to Egypt of certain military equipment which had been promised to Egypt and some of which had been partially paid for. It is expected that the Foreign Minister may request this Government to intercede on behalf of Egypt, and urge the United Kingdom to recommence the shipments. The Acting Foreign Minister has addressed such an appeal to the American Ambassador in Cairo who replied informally that he believed the action to have been dictated by military necessity.

Background: Following the lifting of the United Nations embargo on arms shipments to the Near East on August 11, 1949, the British Government began the shipment of armaments to the Arab States, particularly those, like Egypt, with which the United Kingdom has treaty relations. In the case of Egypt, the United Kingdom planned to form an Anglo-Egyptian military partnership to defend the Near East in the event of Soviet aggression. These plans called for the strengthening of the Egyptian army, partially through the shipment to Egypt of a certain amount of heavy tanks and jet planes.

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On September 11, 1950 the British Government informed Egypt that it intended to suspend the shipment of jet planes, tanks, and certain types of radar which the Egyptian Government had ordered. The British Government stated that this action was necessitated by military considerations involving increased arms requirements in higher priority areas. It was thought possible, however, that some of the tanks, which Egypt had partly paid for, could be supplied before the end of the year.

A great deal of bitterness resulted in Egypt, where the move was generally interpreted as retaliation for Egypt’s uncooperative attitude with respect to treaty negotiations with the United Kingdom. The Egyptian Government protested vigorously to the British Ambassador in Cairo and requested the British Government to reconsider its decision.

The Department believes that it is in the security interests of the United States that the Near East be militarily strengthened for defense against possible Soviet aggression, and that the countries in that area obtain their arms from reliable and friendly sources. However, this Government appreciates that other areas are at the present time of greater military importance than the Near East, and does not desire to question the decision of the British Government that this fact required diversion elsewhere of equipment destined for Egypt.

Recommendation: If the Foreign Minister raises this question, and suggests that the United States intercede with the British Government on behalf of Egypt, it is recommended that he be informed that, while this Government is in general sympathetic to the desire of Egypt for defensive arms, it is aware of the urgent need for arms in other areas. Therefore, we do not believe it desirable to question the diversion of these arms by the United Kingdom to areas of more immediate concern. If the Foreign Minister expresses the belief that the British Government is withholding arms in retaliation for Egypt’s position on the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty negotiations, it might simply be stated that we understand the action was taken on the basis of military priorities.

4. Arms from the United States

The Egyptian Foreign Minister may request that this country supply Egypt with quantities of arms in lieu of the shipments from the United Kingdom, which have been suspended. It has been rumored in the Egyptian press that he would make such a request under the terms of the Tripartite Declaration on arms and security of the Near East, issued by this Government, the United Kingdom and France on May 25, 1950.

Background: When the United Nations Security Council, on August 11, 1949, lifted the embargo on arms shipments to the Near East, representatives of the United States, France and the United [Page 309] Kingdom in the Council stated that their respective countries did not wish to see an arms race take place in the area. The United States subsequently decided to permit the export of reasonable amounts of military material to Israel and the Arab States. In view of our desire not to be drawn into an arms race, it was decided that these shipments should be limited to such equipment as we might consider necessary for the maintenance of internal security and for legitimate defense.

In May, 1950, the Government of the United States, the United Kingdom and France issued the Tripartite Declaration, in which they recognized the need of the Near Eastern states to maintain a certain level of armed forces for the purposes 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.

The Department has examined each application for the export of arms on its individual merits in the light of the policy originally set forth following the lifting of the arms embargo and as stated in the Tripartite Declaration. From time to time the export of certain military equipment has been authorized to Egypt and other Near Eastern States. Egypt has recently received eighteen AT–6 trainer aircraft, heavy calibre ammunition for training purposes and a considerable quantity of 75 and 37 mm guns for the armament of tanks and other vehicles already in the possession of Egypt.

Recommendation: It is recommended that, if the Foreign Minister requests that the United States supply Egypt with larger quantities of military equipment, the following line be taken:

Egypt is not at the present time authorized to receive military equipment from this country on a grant or cash reimbursable basis. Any arms which it desires it must obtain on the domestic commercial market.
At the present time, the supply of military equipment is extremely limited in this country due to extensive domestic requirements and to large-scale commitments to countries in more immediately vital areas.
With regard to such equipment as Egypt may locate on the domestic market, the Department will consider applications for its export in the light of the policy set forth above. Certain material has already been exported to Egypt in this manner, as described above.

  1. Berry was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State on August 30.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The Egyptian Government also raised the question of possible NATO membership with the British. (Telegram 444 from Cairo, November 3, 641.74/11–350, and telegram 466 from Cairo, November 9, 641.74/11–950)
  4. For documentation on this subject, which relates to Turkish and Greek requests for membership in NATO, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  5. On November 17 the Department of State sent telegram 450 to London instructing the Ambassador to inform the British Foreign Office that the Department did not believe that Egypt’s association would be feasible or desirable at this time. (740.5/11–1050)