974.5301/7–1751: Telegram

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


342. While awaiting Egypt explanation Empire Roach incident in reply to Brit note2 (expected to fol Egypt cabinet mtg understood scheduled for tomorrow), FonOff inclined believe incident attributable excess zeal and nasty manners local Egypt officials.

Vessel was stopped 4½ miles SSW Enterprise Channel within 3-mile limit Egyptian territorial waters, but not protected zone. Morrison had difficulty in Commons yesterday (Embtel 339 July 17)3 because he cld not say that FonOff legal advisers concede right Egypt [Page 777] stop (but not detain) foreign vessel in territorial waters for simple inspection purposes. Roach, in fact, had been stopped briefly once before, but there was no inconvenience and master thought fact not worth reporting. What UK really objects to is abusive manner in which recent detention carried out. However, FonOff feels it cannot now afford let Egypt know it condones any detention. Also, strong feeling in UK Parliament inhibits any equivocation over technicalities.

FonOff hopes incident will not be repeated and believes companion vessel to Roach, engaged on same Suez–Aqaba run, has since completed voyage thru gulf entrance. FonOff denies any validity to news report, evidently emanating Cairo, that UK wld declare certain ships UK public vessels and these wld then be granted clearance by Egypt.

Partial release to press of report from Empire Roach’s master confirm looting and provocative manner of search.

  1. Repeated for information to Cairo.
  2. The text of the British note of July 11 to the Egyptian Government is printed in Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 490, col. 1409. See also Documents (R.I.I.A.) for 1951, p. 448. For the text of the reply of the Egyptian Government on July 23, see ibid., p. 449.
  3. Not printed.