Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian and African Affairs (McGhee)


Subject: General Discussion regarding Points of Interest to Egypt and the United States.

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Participants: Mohamed Salah Bey El-Din, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mohamed Kamil Bey Abdul Rahim, Egyptian Ambassador
Ali Hosni Zein El-Abedine, Counselor of the Egyptian Delegation to UNGA
George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary—NEA
Fraser Wilkins, Acting Director, NE

The Egyptian Foreign Minister accompanied by the Egyptian Ambassador and their Aide called on me this afternoon for the purpose of exchanging views regarding the important questions in which both Egypt and the United States are interested. Our conversation covered the following matters:

(1) Anglo Egyptian Relations:

I commenced the conversation by expressing appreciation for the assistance which Egypt had thus far been able to give in supporting the West with respect to outstanding international problems. I pointed out what a vital position the territory of Egypt occupied in the Near East and how important it was that this area be properly defended. It seemed to us that the presence of British troops in Egypt represented a stabilizing factor in world peace and at the same time consituted an element in the defense of Egypt. I added, however, that we considered the question of British troops in Egypt as one for settlement by Egypt and the United Kingdom.

The Foreign Minister replied that Egypt was willing to take over British responsibilities in Egypt and was able to fulfill these responsibilities with matériel assistance from the West. He described in considerable detail, by references to previous Egyptian experiences with the British with respect to the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, his belief that the British had no intention of withdrawing from Egypt and even in 1956 would point out that Egypt was not in position to take over its responsibilities and, for that reason, the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty could not be terminated on that date. This led him into the next point:

(2) Arms from the U.K. and the U.S.:

The Foreign Minister said that the British were deliberately cutting off shipments of arms to Egypt with the intention of keeping Egypt weak so that the British would not have to withdraw in 1956. He added that it almost seemed that there was a “conspiracy” between the UK, US and France to restrict the shipments of arms to Egypt.

I immediately contested his thesis and said that I could assure him there had been no arrangement whatsoever that might be termed a [Page 313] “conspiracy”, that I was convinced that the British, as was the case with the US, had been unable to ship all of the arms which Egypt desired because of military priorities elsewhere. I pointed out that the West was no less interested in the Near and Middle East, but that because of the international situation in Europe and in the Far East and the position of Greece, Turkey and Iran, it was necessary to place the latter in a higher priority for military assistance than the countries of the Near and Middle East. I pointed out that we had been and would continue to grant export licenses for light matériel which could be found in our commercial market for export to Egypt and to other countries of the Middle East.

(3) Anglo Egyptian Sudan:

The Foreign Minister asked if I had anything further to say in respect to the Sudan, observing that it was the Egyptian view that the British had no intention of withdrawing from the Sudan and were making no effort to bring the Sudanese into the administration of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. I recalled that we considered the question of the Sudan one for settlement between Egypt and the UK; that we believe the eventual status of that area should be decided by the Sudanese people, and that we understood the British were pursuing the policy of bringing the Sudanese into the government of the area.

(4) Point IV:

I informed the Foreign Minister that we were gratified recently to learn that the Egyptian Council of Ministers had approved the plans’ of the Minister of Social Affairs for technical assistance under Point IV. I felt sure that trainees in rural welfare should prove most helpful to the Egyptian Government. The Foreign Minister replied that his government was endeavoring to progress along these lines and appreciated the assistance of the United States Government.

(5) Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation:

I expressed the hope that the Egyptian Government would shortly find itself in a position to include [conclude?] a treaty of establishment and commerce. I added that I understood agreement had been reached with respect to the establishment provisions, but that discussions were still taking place with respect to the commercial provisions. The Foreign Minister did not seem acquainted with recent developments, although both he and the Ambassador indicated they were in favor of the conclusion of a treaty at an early date. They remarked in passing that our treaty structure was complicated and that for this reason time was required. This led me into discussion of the next point.

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(6) Egyptian Restrictions on Foreign Oil Companies:

I noted that the Egyptian Government had imposed restrictions upon foreign oil companies in Egypt, such as the ceiling price on locally produced oil below that of the world market price and that all companies operating in Egypt must have 51% Egyptian ownership. I pointed out that such restrictions not only might deter the continued operation of foreign oil companies in Egypt, but would undoubtedly prevent American companies in oil and other fields from investing in Egypt. I described in considerable detail the limited structure of the Egyptian oil fields, comparing them with the more productive oil fields of the Middle East and stressed the point that this factor made it necessary for American oil companies in Egypt to have a greater understanding of their problems on the part of the Egyptian Government. The Foreign Minister said that he had not realized this was the case and that in view of my remarks he would look into the problem on his return to Cairo and see what could be done.

(7) MATS Landing Rights:

I noted that during recent months we had not been able to reach agreement with respect to MATS flights through Egypt and pointed out how difficult it was for MATS to plan its service if permission had to be received for each separate flight; that I hoped the Egyptian Government would shortly see its way clear to some form of blanket permit. The Foreign Minister replied that he was not familiar with the details of this matter, but would look into it on his return to Cairo.

(8) Peace with Israel:

I asked the Foreign Minister if he had any views with respect to a possible peace between Israel and Egypt and whether in determining present Egyptian policy he had weighed the long-term dislocations in the Near East which would result from it. The Foreign Minister replied that relations between Egypt and Israel were now governed by an armistice agreement and that Egypt considered itself at peace. The Egyptian Foreign Minister said that he could categorically assure me that Egypt had no intention of attacking Israel. As for normal relations with Israel, it was out of the question—Egypt desired to have nothing to do with Israel.

(9) Re Appointment of Secretary General Trygve Lie as Secretary of the UN:

I remarked that we understood that: (1) the Security Council on October 12 had voted to recommend to the General Assembly that Mr. Lie be reappointed but that Soviet Russia had vetoed this proposal; (2) an Indian resolution providing for a secret ballot was [Page 315] being circulated; (3) we understood the Soviet Union was maneuvering to prevent the reappointment of Mr. Lie. I expressed the hope that the Egyptian Delegation would support the reappointment of Mr. Lie at the next meeting of the Council on October 20. The Foreign Minister said that they had been in favor of the Indian resolution but that he would get in touch with Fawzi Bey, their Delegate at the United Nations, and discuss the matter further with him.