Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 158

Beale Minutes1
top secret

Lord Salisbury opened the discussion by stating that he would like to say a few words on the subject of Egypt, setting forth his Government’s point of view and outlining the proposals they have in mind. He said he would ask Sir Brian Robertson to discuss certain details concerning the base, as Sir Brian had the latest information of a technical character.

Lord Salisbury stated that the Prime Minister was grateful for the understanding tone of the President’s message of June 19.2 He mentioned the thought that the essential features of Case A might be reached and the suggestions that the negotiations should be renewed [Page 1632] promptly, and that an understanding on the minimum conditions should be reached first. He expressed the hope that understanding might result from the present discussions.

He referred to Secretary Dulles’ recent visit to the area3 and the special knowledge and authority which he possessed as a result. He recalled that the President’s message had referred to the agreement reached in March and expressed the thought that it might form the basis for agreement with the Egyptians, while emphasizing that the negotiators should have flexibility.4 On this aspect he wished to make two comments. First, it was obviously useless to enter into complicated negotiations in a rigid state of mind. Second, while considering the base as immediately operable was obviously the right answer, it must be recognized that a threat might take some time to develop.

He remarked that much has happened since the March document was agreed, and that better promise might be found in a formula which did not correspond to any of these cases. They had given much further thought to the problem and had come up with a new form. This was evolved from the package deal, but they hoped that it would be easier for the Egyptians to accept.

The outline of the plan provided by the British Delegation following the meeting is quoted below:

Outline of Plan

Evacuation: Withdrawal within 18 months. Not yet discussed with the Egyptians, but we think they may accept it in spite of their statements about a shorter period. We cannot accept less.

The Base: For practical reasons we cannot accept an agreement which does not retain the essential features of what was described as Case “A”, namely, that the technical control of the main installations in the Base should remain in British hands. As to how that is done, there is room for a certain variety of treatment, but the effective result is a matter on which we feel certain that we cannot compromise.

A connected question of very great importance is that of our right to get back into our Base and re-activate it when we need it. This has not yet been discussed formally with the Egyptians, but it is certain that they will make difficulties about giving us a sufficiently categoric and wide assurance. They will ask us to have confidence in their good intentions, but that is not good enough. It is no use to us to preserve our Middle East base in being unless we can have full access to it when we want it. We cannot accept vague verbal assurances from the present rulers of Egypt as adequate guarantees of Egyptian behaviour in the [Page 1633] future on such a critical matter. The formula which we propose to put forward to cover this point is as follows:

“In the event of a major war, or aggression or threat of aggression against Egypt by an outside power, the base area shall be at the full disposal of both the contracting parties. An aggression, or threat of aggression, by an outside power against Turkey, Persia, or any Arab state shall be regarded as a threat of aggression against Egypt for this purpose.”

Air Defense: The proposals upon which we agreed originally stipulated that the agreement should provide for an integrated Anglo-Egyptian Air Defense Organization, including the stationing of British Squadrons in Egypt. This was a feature of both Case “A” and Case “B”. It was an eminently sensible requirement; but in view of the very clear Egyptian resistance to it we have decided to drop it. We shall offer the Egyptians such help in air defense as they wish to accept. We think that they will be glad to have some technical advisers and to co-ordinate their air defense arrangements with ours in other parts of the Middle East. They will agree to British squadrons coming to Egypt occasionally to take part in joint training. We shall not press them to accept anything more.

Military Aid: The ideas previously discussed between us still hold good. There have been suggestions made recently that we might try to buy Egyptian agreement by offering to give them large quantities of material free of charge. We do not consider that such action is justifiable or even wise.

M.E.D.O.: This formed the fifth article of the “package deal”. We agree with the view expressed by Mr. Dulles that there is no hope of getting the Egyptians to agree at this time to join either M.E.D.O. or any variation thereof. Yet it is very important that such an organization should come into existence at an early date, and Egypt’s accession to it is essential. We feel that there will be a lot of reasonable criticism among the NATO countries, including our own, if we conclude an agreement with Egypt which, by the withdrawal of our forces, leaves a vacuum in the defence of this important area without anything being proposed to fill it. With this in mind we have taken up a suggestion voiced by Mr. Dulles when in Cairo that this Anglo-Egyptian agreement should be regarded as a stage on the road towards the establishment of a joint defence agreement. The question of the period of duration of our new agreement with Egypt is obviously a most important one. It was only discussed superficially at the Cairo talks. It has assumed all the more importance from the fact that we have insisted that the duration of stay of our technicians shall be the same as the duration of the agreement. We now propose to offer the Egyptians the following formula:

“The agreement to remain in force until the countries’ members of the Arab Security Pact are organised (with the assistance and participation of other friendly powers) in a manner to ensure their effective defence against external aggression. It shall in any case remain in force for an initial period of five years, after which date either party shall be entitled to request discussion of its revision on the grounds that the condition of principle referred to above has been fulfilled.”

[Page 1634]

Following presentation of the plan outlined above, Lord Salisbury said that they hoped they would have United States support in pressing acceptance of this formula. He said the plan had been produced with a desire to go as far as possible. He stated that every point had been carefully considered. He emphasized that it was impossible from a political viewpoint to go materially further, and indeed it would be quite difficult for them to get political acceptance of the plan as presented.

Secretary Dulles asked whether the pact was formulated in relation to the Base?

Lord Salisbury replied that it was designed also to avoid a vacuum. He said that they felt that the present time was auspicious. He pointed out that the Egyptians have shown signs of less intransigeance and there had been some slight improvement in their attitude due in part to Britain’s firmness and in part to the views expressed by recent visitors to Cairo. He said he felt that there was a fair chance of agreement with the Egyptians provided they came to realize during the discussions that the British proposals have the full support of the United States. He expressed the hope that the United States would send a special representative to Cairo—General Hull if he were willing—to lend the weight of the United States to the discussions. He realized that the Egyptians were not going to say “yes” immediately, but he felt that they would eventually if they realized that the British were not going further and that they (the British) had the full support of the United States. If the Egyptians did not accept the plan, then there would be no agreement and the British Government would have to determine its own course. They were prepared to face the unpleasant possibilities rather than put their name to an agreement in which they had no faith.

He pointed out that if an agreement were reached they would have deprived themselves of the means to enforce the agreement. They would therefore like to have more solid assurances that the terms of the agreement would be fulfilled, and therefore hoped that the United States would be as firm in insisting on fulfillment as they themselves would be.

He noted that the present situation was that the negotiations were suspended. Since the Egyptians had broken off the negotiations, if they wished to resume they should say so. He said that if agreement were reached in Washington, they proposed that Sir Brian should return to Cairo. They had no objection to the United States encouraging the Egyptians to resume negotiations.

Lord Salisbury said that finally he wished to stress that it was not a question of imperialism and national prestige, but the fact that they regarded this strip of land—with the canal—as one of the most vital strategic points in the world. He said that the position was equally as [Page 1635] important as it ever was. He emphasized that this remains the principal consideration from their viewpoint. He said that they would rather hand over responsibility for protecting the Canal to an international body, but, lacking that solution, they felt that Egypt must not be left without defenses.

Sir Brian said that he would like to bring out certain detailed matters, particularly of a military nature. On evacuation, he said that the period of 18 months had been arrived at after much hard work. The figure was accepted with the greatest reluctance. It was conditioned by many factors, including the movement of men and stores, and the re-erection of communications. It was felt that a shorter period would result in great disorganization. If the period were less than 18 months they would be in no position to play a part in a war if it came during the period of evacuation.

On the problem of the Base, the difficulty arose from differing attitudes over technical control. During the discussions it was impossible to convince the Egyptians that they (the British) wished to retain control simply because the vast collection of stores, etc. can only be looked after properly by men who understand the problems of handling such stores and equipment and who have responsibility towards British authority. He cited two examples: One, the difficulties involved in reactivating the largest workshops the British Army has anywhere, if they were moth-balled; and two, the fact that the base provided mobilization packs which must be kept up-to-date and readily available, since many units would wish to draw on the base in event of war. He stated that it was completely impracticable to trust supervision of the base to any nationality other than British. He said that General Hull and his colleagues would probably agree that the same thing would be true if American stores and equipment were involved.

Sir Brian said that the question of numbers of technicians had not been discussed with the Egyptians. However, they (the British) were not intending to ask for great numbers and he doubted that the question would be too difficult.

On the matter of instructions, they (the British) had asked for instructions direct from Service Department to British officers in charge of installations. They were prepared to go some way to meet the Egyptians on this question. They will agree to an Egyptian base area commander and will agree to give him a copy of all instructions, so that if they (the Egyptians) claim something is being done contrary to the agreement they can do something about it.

Sir Brian said that the question of status had not been discussed with the Egyptians. He had in mind something along the same lines as in the NATO arrangement. In any event, Egyptian sovereignty would be fully respected.

[Page 1636]

On air defense, Sir Brian noted that the United States would have in mind its interest in Abu Sueir. He added that the British would require certain transit rights.

As regards MEDO, Sir Brian noted that they had tried to use the duration paragraph as a means of slipping MEDO into the agreement. He said that they hoped by that means to get a wedge in.

Secretary Dulles opened his remarks by saying that a few days ago, anticipating that the subject of Egypt would come up in the discussions, Ambassador Caffrey was asked to press the Egyptian Government for a statement of their position which might be useful for the talks and which would go as far as possible to meet the position of the two governments.

He stated that “we have basically the same objectives as you do. We have not consciously disclosed views of ours which differ from yours”. He pointed out that there might be some difference in view as to the degree of resistance which the Egyptians might put up, but there was no difference as to what our two countries want to get. He said that our solidarity of position had been made known. He recalled that the statement he had made when in Cairo had been interpreted as supporting the position the British were taking.5

Secretary Dulles said that as a result of the approach made to the Egyptians, a letter had been received last night from Naguib to the President. The letter was accompanied by an Egyptian formula which seemed a considerable advance over anything that the United States knew as to the position of the Egyptians, though unacceptable in some respects.

(Copies of the letter and Egyptian formula were handed to the British Delegation. See Tab A and Tab B.6)

Secretary Dulles stated that the formula contained obviously unacceptable features. He mentioned that three years was too short a period. He noted that the reference to immediate withdrawal was not clear and said it might mean immediate agreement to evacuation. He said that the formula seemed to represent some progress over what was previously known.

Lord Salisbury replied that the formula represented some progress but there were things in it which were not practical for them. They do not believe that the Egyptians could maintain British supplies as they should be maintained.

Sir Brian said that the Egyptians do not realize that the stores are irreplaceable. He pointed out that the British cannot afford to keep the stores where they are not looked after properly. If these conditions are not met, it would be necessary to take the stores away. He noted [Page 1637] that the formula confirms their understanding that the principle of technical control is acceptable to the Egyptians.

Secretary Dulles pointed out that the Egyptians accept the presence of 4000 technicians.

Sir Brian noted that the letter to the President put the proposal on a “take it or leave it” basis and said that if that were the case, the answer would be “leave it”.

General Smith observed that the particular sentence seemed to be the usual final sentence in all Middle Eastern communications. He suggested that the phrase should be translated as “what is your next bid?” He then asked Sir Brian if in his opinion the Egyptians had any conception whatever of the difficulties of maintaining electronic or other equipment.

Sir Brian replied that in his opinion Naguib did not understand the problems, and “the boys” were not up to the level of the average British or American major in their comprehension of the problems involved.

Secretary Dulles noted that the Egyptian formula makes it clear that they do not expect to maintain the base.

Mr. Byroade noted that the wording provided that British technicians would be retained and was close to the wording of the British in using the phrase “efficient operation of the base”.

Lord Salisbury noted that the formula took too local a view regarding the threat of war. He said that they (the British) had included Turkey and Persia in their formula in order to broaden the area.

Lord Salisbury said that he did not feel empowered to go further than the proposals they had just made but they were prepared to study the Egyptian formula.

General Smith said that he wanted to point out that the United States took a practical view of the conditions under which the base might be reactivated, because our common national interests would obviously be affected.

Secretary Dulles suggested that the point might be covered by an exchange of letters.

Lord Salisbury said that copies of their plan would be provided. He noted that two questions arose of immediate concern. First, it would be most unfortunate if the Egyptians published their formula at this stage and it would be helpful if the United States side could give them a hint not to do so. Second, presumably the United States would have to reply to Naguib’s letter and proposal, and it would be helpful if there could be consultation before the answer is given.

Secretary Dulles said that he would not think of not consulting with Lord Salisbury before replying.

He noted that the Egyptians had indicated that they would expect to have firm undertakings on military equipment. He said that this could obviously run into a very high figure. He had no idea how much [Page 1638] the Egyptians would want and they might have exaggerated ideas. He said that the United States could probably provide a modest amount of military and economic assistance.

Secretary Dulles said that he wanted to give the British Delegation a little bit of his thinking regarding the Middle East area. He noted that the thinking on the United States side had tended to change somewhat, partly as a result of observations he and Mr. Stassen had made during their recent trip. They had been impressed by the fact that the Arab States nearest to Israel and the Suez and those which had had more recent experiences with colonialism, specifically Syria and Lebanon, were not preoccupied with the threat from Soviet Russia. They had received the impression that these countries had no deep feeling about the Soviet threat and were immediately concerned with other problems, such as getting the British out of the Suez Base, getting the French out of Tunisia, the friction between Saudi Arabia and the British over Buraimi, the refugee problem and the subject of Israel. He said that while Egypt professes that the settlement of the Suez Base dispute would lead to a settlement of the dispute with Israel, he was skeptical that one would follow the other.

Secretary Dulles explained that they had returned from their trip with the feeling that the area was not dependable from the security standpoint and that more dependable strength could be had from the northern tier of countries, specifically Turkey, Syria and Iraq, which took a more realistic view of the situation. He noted that Iran was a problem, but not an insoluble one. He said that Pakistan was a strong point which cannot be developed militarily until the matter of Kashmir was settled.7 He said that there appeared to be greater hope of a settlement of the Kashmir dispute than was the case before the recent Commonwealth meeting, and he looked forward to a solution in a year or so. He said that the building of strength in the northern area among the countries that come together geographically seems to offer greater hope than a pact which includes all the Arab states and which would be dominated by Arab states which are preoccupied with problems other than the Soviet threat.

Secretary Dulles said that if agreement is reached with the Egyptians, he would anticipate that there would be constant friction, and it would be desirable to exercise caution as to the amount and character of the military equipment to be supplied to the Egyptians. He said that he foresaw a lot of problems in making Egypt the military center of a defensive pact. Hence, the United States is tending to think more of the northern group of countries which are more alert to the same danger the United States and United Kingdom feel and are less preoccupied with the colonialism aspects of the past and the existing feud with Israel.

[Page 1639]

Secretary Dulles said that he welcomed the opportunity to indicate the United States thinking about the security of the area. He noted that it was unlikely that any defense arrangement for the Middle East would be formalized in the near future. He pointed out that neither Pakistan nor Iran were ripe for inclusion in such an arrangement. He thought that it might be possible to make military arrangements with individual states, principally Syria and Iraq.

Lord Salisbury said that he was most grateful for the extremely interesting and thought-provoking presentation of the Secretary’s thinking, and would like to think over the ideas put forward about the northern tier. He noted that there were gaps, such as Iran and Kashmir, the latter in part because of the personal feeling of the Indian Prime Minister. He referred to Turkey as a splendid ally.

Secretary Dulles observed that he had had a good impression of Shishikli.8

Lord Salisbury said that they would differentiate between building up Egypt and making use of a base which is a geographical fact.

Secretary Dulles replied that he did not want to suggest that the Suez Base is not important.

Lord Salisbury noted that they have special treaty obligations in Jordon.

Secretary Dulles replied that he had received a good impression of what had been done in a military way in Jordan. He then said that we would all expect and hope that there could be forces interposed between the Suez base and the Soviet Union to check an invader-aggressor, and he noted that in the event of war such forces would have to be primarily supported from the Suez base.

Lord Salisbury observed that under modern circumstances the defense of the Canal would have to be widely based. He said that he would like to look into the question and consider it further.

Secretary Dulles concluded the discussion of Egypt by stating that the receipt of Naguib’s message would be acknowledged on behalf of the President and the strong hope would be expressed that there would be no publicity given to the Egyptians’ proposals.

It was agreed that the discussion would be resumed after study of the British and Egyptian plans.

Secretary Dulles said that the French had asked to put the subject of the Middle East on the tripartite agenda. He said he thought they might perhaps want to raise the matter of transit rights through the Canal. Mr. MacArthur suggested that the French might have in mind bringing up the subject of North Africa. Sir Roger Makins indicated that they would prefer not to discuss the Middle East trilaterally, and he pointed out that the subject was in any event already the subject of bilateral talks.

[Page 1640]

Regarding the question of what should be said to the press, it was agreed that they could be given a list of the participants and could be told that they had discussed Egypt and the Middle East in general terms. It was further agreed that there should be no further discussion with the press of what had been considered at the meeting.

  1. Attached to the source text was a cover sheet which stated that these draft minutes were prepared by Beale. A summary of this meeting was transmitted to London (repeated to Cairo) in telegram 203, July 12 (641.74/7–1253).
  2. Documentation on President Eisenhower’s message to Prime Minister Churchill, transmitted to London on June 17 and delivered June 19, concerning Egypt and Case A, is included in volume ix . The essential features of Case A are outlined below.
  3. Documentation on Secretary Dulles’ trip to the Middle East, May 9–29, is presented in volume ix .
  4. Presumably this is a reference to the agreement reached by President Truman and Foreign Secretary Eden, on Mar. 6 during the latter’s visit to Washington. Regarding this agreement, see UKPT MIN–2 and the memorandum of conversation, both dated Mar. 6, in volume vi .
  5. Documentation on Secretary Dulles’ visit to Cairo in May is included in volume ix .
  6. Prime Minister Naguib’s letter and the Egyptian formula, attached to the source text as Tabs A and B, respectively, are printed on pp. 1696 and 1697.
  7. Documentation on the interest of the United States in a resolution of the Kashmir dispute is presented in volume xi .
  8. Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of the Syrian Army, General Adib Shishikli.