396.1 LO/5–1150: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State 1

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

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 not in excess of those required for attainment area security objectives [Page 159] 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 stability 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, Jordon, 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 160] 2 suggested declaration as revised by Department (Tosec 153).2 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 194)3 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.

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.)4

[Here follow discussions on the Palestine Relief Agency, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea, Libya, and economic matters.]

  1. Acheson had arrived in London to attend meetings of the Foreign Ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, and France.
  2. For text of telegram Tosec 153, May 9, 1950, see footnote 4, vol. iii, p. 1029.
  3. Dated May 8, p. 150.
  4. In telegram Secto 256 from London, May 14, summarizing the highlights of the tripartite meetings to date, Acheson reported that Foreign Secretary Bevin had “agreed in principle” to a US–UK–French initiative to forestall any threat of aggression within the Near Eastern area. “Now working out drafting and procedure with British after which French will be approached.” (CFM files, Lot M–88, Secto telegrams, London FM)