641.74/10–951: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Department of State 1

top secret

1734. We have just talked to Bowker who has been with Morrison all morning re Egyptian situation. Bowker says Foreign Office regards Nahas’ action in presenting legislation to Parliament re defense and Sudan questions to be obvious maneuver calculated to enhance his bargaining position in connection new proposals which Egyptian Government knew would be forthcoming. While Foreign Office recognizes this development constitutes something of set-back re our new approach, it nevertheless does not feel it is fatal nor that we should be deterred from presenting our new proposal. It has noted that decrees have been tabled in form of requests for legislation which reinforces their belief that Egyptians regard this as bargaining gambit. Furthermore, they derive some hope from press reports that Nahas’ stated action did not preclude consideration new proposals which UK might advance in near future.

Foreign Office is preparing telegrams to Washington, Paris and Ankara along foregoing lines and expressing hope other parties concerned in quadripartite approach will agree that we should carry on with our present plans. It is also drafting instructions to Stevenson to proceed, provided other powers willing, with approach to King and, almost immediately thereafter, to Egyptian Government, putting proposals in writing with view to publication in event their rejection by Egyptian Government. Bowker indicated Foreign Office attaches importance publication under these circumstances so that their reasonable nature will be apparent to world at large in event UK finds it necessary stand on 1936 treaty.

Foreign Office is also drafting press statement deploring Egyptian Government’s taking this action at time when it knew new proposals were about to be put to it. Statement will mention in this connection, recent letter Stevenson addressed to Salah El Din informing him proposals would be put by tenth. Statement will conclude by making plain that UK maintains its position with respect 1936 treaty and [Page 396] 1899 condominium agreement. (Foreign Office, when we left, still uncertain whether it would say “maintains”, “stands by” or “reserves” its position with respect to these agreements.)

Bowker asked for our opinion as to how Department would feel re proceeding with approach. We said we had no way of knowing, but recalled that we have always been worried about weakness of UK proposals on Sudan. We said we felt Nahas’ action last night made it more doubtful than ever that proposals which UK prepared to put forward would be adequate to meet situation and therefore underline necessity finding something more positive say on this score. Bowker seemed inclined to agree, adding that Robertson, Chief Secretary Sudan, will be in London within next few days and that although Foreign Office has not yet received text of decrees introduced by Nahas re Sudan, examination of these while Robertson is here might result in UK being able find some common ground which would permit formulation proposals which would still be acceptable to Sudanese. He emphasized, however, that proposed decree to amend Farouk’s title to make him King of Sudan would be unacceptable to Sudanese, implying he did not see how UK could make any concession on this basic question. Bowker suggested that since any re-examination of Sudan proposals would require time, it might be possible tell Egyptians when approach made on MEC that UK has formulated some proposals on Sudan but that it wished re-examine these in light decrees put forward by Nahas.

At end of conversation we asked Bowker what UK would do in event complete stalemate reached with Egypt on defense question. Bowker replied that he could not say with certainty at this time. UK was again looking urgently into question of alternative locations for headquarters and base. If alternative sites found feasible, it would require time to re-locate facilities and it is HMG’s intention to stand firm, resting on treaty rights in meantime. If alternative sites not feasible UK would simply stay put.2

  1. Repeated for information to Paris for MacArthur, to Ankara, and niact to Cairo.
  2. Following a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Attlee, then on an electioneering tour, Morrison issued a statement on the Egyptian abrogation of the 1936 and 1899 treaties late on the afternoon of October 9 which Ambassador Gifford characterized in telegram 1746, niact, from London, as “markedly stronger than that outlined by Bowker earlier today.” Gifford added: “Foreign Office tells us Morrison made these changes personally before release ‘to season to taste’.” (641.74/10–951)