911.534/10–2250: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in Egypt 1


358. Analysis legal position Egypt in imposing contraband control on movement vessels Suez Canal as well as position USG as non-signatory Suez Canal Convention now completed.2 Conclusions fol:

Art X of Convention gives Egypt right interfere with free use Canal when necessary in defense Egypt.
Arts I and XI require this interference be as limited as possible.
Interference with free use Canal may be exercised only when reasonably required.
Rights of US as a non-signatory of Convention not clearly defined.
Even if legal argument cld be advanced as to rights US under Convention, to do so might have adverse effect upon legal position US that Hay–Pauncefote Treaty does not confer rights upon third parties with respect to use Panama Canal.
In view present circumstances existing in Near East protest to Egypt on grounds measures not required in defense Egypt wld appear reasonable.

With respect to Egypt tanker reg, masters of vessels unable certify as to end use of cargo. Dept understands however no serious practical difficulty being encountered by operators. This indicates Egypts apparently not enforcing reg to ltr. Dept has requested further info from US shipping interests how reg now being applied and difficulties being encountered thereunder, as well as info re difficulties likely be encountered in event vessel blacklisted and denied port services.

View above Emb requested as matter of record formally reject Egypt reply of Sept 53 and reiterate US view reg unreasonable and [Page 316] impracticable. Emb shld concert its action with Brit, Nors, Neth and Fr Missions.

Emb London, Hague, Oslo, Paris authorized inform govts to which accredited Dept’s conclusions except No. 5 above and to inform them of instrs to Emb Cairo outlined above.

Missions shld also inform other govts that in view conclusion number 6 above, Dept prepared consider desirability raising gen issue Egypt measures interfering with normal shipping and air transport eastern Medit area but believes few concrete results likely be achieved unless concerted and properly timed approach made. Dept wld welcome views other interested govts.4

  1. Repeated to London as 2079, The Hague as 483, Paris as 2104, and Oslo as 303.
  2. For documentation concerning the Department of State request for an opinion from its Legal Adviser and the final memorandum by Departmental lawyers on this question, see file 974.5301.
  3. Egypt’s reply rejected protests against the latest restrictions on Suez shipping made by the united Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Norway, and France on August 25.
  4. These instructions were modified on October 31 when the Department of State informed the Embassy in Egypt that it “did not intend that unreasonableness of regulation wld be tied to legal view as stated in numbered conclusion 6. Dept intended that phrase ‘unreasonable’ wld be left open ended and for time being at least we wld contend that regulation unreasonable in terms of the burden it places upon ship operators.” (Telegram 384 to Cairo; 911.534/10–3150)