Conference files, lot 60 D 627, CF 185

United States Delegation Minutes
secret
Plenary Minutes 4

Subject:

  • The Middle East

After previous discussion on the Far East had been concluded in restricted meeting, additional members of delegations joined the meeting.1

President Eisenhower then said that they might get along to the discussion of Indo-China and the Middle East.

M. Bidault then said that he would like to do so but he was a little worried about the question of time. Probably what he had to say about Indo-China would take a little longer than they could reasonably wait for lunch, so perhaps the question of the Middle East might be taken up at that time.

Sir Winston Churchill felt that they would require some time after dinner and suggested a meeting at 10 p.m.

The President said he would prefer to have dinner later and finish before dinner as he felt that was somewhat late, but he might ask Secretary Dulles to represent him.

Sir Winston then said that they could meet at 5 and go on as late as was necessary. This was agreed and Sir Winston said that the only point he wished to raise in connection with the Middle East was the international consequences of the Suez Canal and its moral association with the United Nations and with all of the powers on our side.2 He had no wish to raise any question connected with the British holding their position against any Egyptian attack. They were quite ready to do this.

President Eisenhower said the item of Egypt had been placed on the agenda at the request of the British.

Sir Winston said that he did not wish to raise the question of the dangerous situation between the 80,000 troops and air force units which they had in Egypt and the Egyptian troops or government. He could bring this subject up if they had days to spare, but they did not. The great waterway of the Suez Canal was a question of world interest. He felt that there was a need to take every precaution to preserve it against neglect or obstruction. He was not considering the closing of the Canal by bombing by hostile nations. That would be [Page 1820]difficult with the improved facilities. He did feel that an attempt should be made to consider the Suez Canal on an international basis. It was as worthy of dignity and respect as the Panama Canal. If anything could be done along these lines, it would steady the whole Middle East and that was all that he was asking. If they could obtain assurances from the President or the Secretary of State with the authority that they carry that they could have moral support in the negotiations now going on, that might lead to a reasonable conclusion and avoid what was not impossible, namely a lot of fighting.

Mr. Eden then said he would like to add that in the negotiations with Egypt, there were only two major points outstanding and the British were unable to give way further on either. One was the question of the reactivation of the bases. The United Nations could pronounce on the conditions requiring reactivation. This would be a most reasonable assurance. The Egyptians had not accepted this heretofore and it was the principal objection to the successful conclusion of the negotiations. The second question was a matter of uniforms. The British did not attach so much importance to this for prestige reasons, but their troops must have some protection, just as the NATO troops do in other countries. They did not want their troops dragged before Egyptian courts. Mr. Eden said he would appreciate help if this could be given when the Ambassador got back in about twelve days. There were some signs that the Egyptians would be willing to face realities if the United States gave them support on these matters.

Sir Winston said that he did not want the troops arrested by the local police or something else done which would constitute a military action and might lead to actual war.

Mr. Eden said that the only other thing he wanted to do was to thank the Secretary of State. There had been some discussion concerning aid which the United States was thinking of giving Egypt and the Secretary had indicated that the United States would be willing to hold this up until the new year in order to give a little more time during which negotiations might possibly be concluded.3 For this he was grateful.

Secretary Dulles said that what he had indicated was that we could hold up until the first of the year to give a chance to put this through, but he did not think it would be possible to delay after that.

Mr. Eden said that he might remark that any question of aid in the Middle East can be very difficult. Mr. Bidault agreed. Mr. Eden added jocularly that the Persians might now be good candidates.

M. Bidault then said that France had a historic, financial, moral and strategic interest in Suez. All three powers used the Canal and the [Page 1821]French supplied their forces in Indo-China through it. He wished to thank the British Government for keeping the French fully advised of developments. The French Government was fully satisfied with the formula regarding the Convention of 1888 on Free Navigation. He had nothing additional to add except that this was a major point for France and all countries as it was a jugular vein for strategy and trade and, though he preferred trade to strategy, sometimes both were useful.

President Eisenhower said that if there were no objections they might adjourn until 5 p.m. with the Foreign Ministers’ meeting at 3.

Mr. Dulles said that would give them opportunity to discuss one slight change in the reply to the Soviet note suggested by Chancellor Adenauer.

M. Bidault asked if this change was of any consequence and the Secretary replied that it was not.

President Eisenhower then adjourned the meeting, stating that the Foreign Ministers would meet at 3 and the Chiefs of Government at 5.

  1. For a report on the restricted meeting, see the U.S. Delegation minutes, p. 1808.
  2. For President Eisenhower’s report on the discussion of Egypt, see Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, p. 247.
  3. Regarding Eden’s discussion of Egypt with Secretary Dulles, Dec. 6 and 7, see the memorandum of conversations by Byroade, p. 1807.