Editorial Note

On November 16 Prime Minister Nahas delivered the traditional “speech from the throne” that normally accompanied the opening of a new session of Parliament. With King Farouk observing the proceedings, Nahas vehemently demanded the total and immediate evacuation of Egypt by British forces and the unity of Egypt and the Sudan under the Egyptian crown. He also declared that the 1936 treaty was no longer a suitable basis for Anglo-Egyptian relations and claimed that his government would not hesitate to declare it void. While the Prime Minister spoke, widespread rioting occurred in the streets of Cairo to protest British policies in Egypt.

Bevin responded to this speech in a statement before the House of Commons on November 20. Although his comments were conciliatory in nature, Bevin declared that the treaty could only be revised or annulled by mutual consent of both countries. Once again, Egyptian students held massive demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria, and Port Said to protest the British refusal to evacuate their country. Documents concerning these speeches and the ensuing demonstrations can be found in Department of State files 774.00 and 641.74.

In light of these events, the British Labor government, under severe pressure from both the opposition and its own members, announced [Page 325] on November 22 that the shipment of sixteen Centurion tanks would be postponed until Bevin completed his pending discussions with Mohamed Salaheddin, Egypt’s Foreign Minister. The British Ambassador in Cairo strongly protested this decision and pointed out that “one of the most frequent Egyptian charges against Britain was that of bad faith and that in this case the charge would seem justified.” He informed the Foreign Office that he deplored the use of “political expediency at this delicate stage Anglo-Egyptian negotiations.” (Telegram 519 from Cairo, November 24; 641.74/11–2450)

As preparations were being made for the Bevin-Salaheddin negotiations in early December, the question of the future of the Sudan became a matter of urgency. Most political factions in the Sudan had carefully followed Anglo-Egyptian negotiations concerning evacuation but were generally disappointed that the question of the Sudan played such a minor role in the bilateral conversations. (Despatch 361 from Cairo, August 15; 745W.00/8–1550) On December 15 the Sudan Legislative Assembly passed a resolution requesting that the Sudan be granted self-government by the end of 1951. The Umma Party, which led the pro-independence forces, introduced the resolution because they feared that the current Anglo-Egyptian talks in London might result in the British making concessions to Egypt’s position of “unity of the Nile Valley”. In Caffery’s opinion, the resolution was “primarily a defensive anti-Egyptian reaction rather than a positive step.” (Despatch 1431 from Cairo, December 18; 745W.02/12–1850, and telegram 625 from Cairo, December 15; 745W.02/12–1550)

The pressure from the Sudan contributed to the tensions that surrounded the London talks that were held between December 4 and December 15. The discussions proved to be unproductive as both sides largely reiterated previous positions. Documents concerning the Bevin-Salaheddin talks were published by the British Foreign Office in British Cmd. 8419, Egypt No. 2 (1951): Anglo-Egyptian Conversations on the Defence of the Suez Canal and on the Sudan. December 1950–November 1951. In response, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published their documents relating to these negotiations, Records of Conversations, Notes and Papers exchanged between the Royal Egyptian Government and the United Kingdom Government (March 1950–November 1951), and attached a special Foreword which specifically refuted “the allegations and inaccuracies contained in the [British] White Paper.”