No. 61
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Dorsz)



  • Middle East Command


  • Mr. B. A. B. Burrows, Counselor, British Embassy.
  • Mr. D. A. Greenhill, First Secretary, British Embassy.
  • Mr. G. Lewis Jones, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, NEA.
  • Mr. Edmund J. Dorsz, Deputy Director, GTI.

Mr. Jones handed to Mr. Burrows a copy of the attached memorandum entitled Middle East Command saying that we thought this was a good method of imparting our views on the two memoranda which the British handed to the Department on January 31.2 He emphasized our thinking to the effect that the British should unilaterally inform the Turks at the earliest possible moment of the British views on this subject and stressed the desirability of the Four MEC sponsoring Powers sharing thoughts on the question of holding a “preliminary” working-level meeting. Any such meeting should be quietly held. There might be other “preliminary meetings”. Developments in Egypt would have to govern whether a meeting might be held shortly after the forthcoming Lisbon North Atlantic Council meeting ends.

[Page 189]

Mr. Jones expressed the thought that the British might advisedly ask the Turks for their views and suggestions with regard to the best way of bringing the Egyptians into such discussions as may be undertaken to launch the MEC organization.

Mr. Jones remarked that we were very fortunate in having Mr. McGhee at Ankara. He is very familiar with the Middle East Command question having closely handled every aspect of this matter from its inception until his departure from the Department last month. Further, Mr. McGhee is deeply interested in getting the Middle East Command underway at the earliest feasible time and in obtaining fullest possible Turkish participation in the endeavor. The British representatives acquiesced.

The British representatives indicated that their own personal reaction to most of the points in our memorandum was favorable. They would communicate our thoughts on an urgent basis to the Foreign Office and would let us know how the Foreign Office reacts. In the meantime, they thought it might be advisable to defer informing the French of our views unless the French should specifically ask us for our observations on the British approach.





Middle East Command

U.S. welcomes British initiative in connection with the Middle East Command as set forth in the two British Memoranda handed the Department on January 31. The U.S. favors the UK suggestion for the inclusion of Greek and Turkish forces in Admiral Carney’s command. It is in general agreement with British ideas regarding the importance of coordinated planning for the establishment of the Middle East Command which initially might not be a fully operational command.
The U.S. recognizes that the establishment of the nucleus Middle East Command Organization (MECO) on Cyprus is a second best solution to its establishment with the concurrence of the Egyptian Government in the Suez base. The thoughts embodied in the British Memoranda were prepared before the Maher Government assumed office in Egypt.
The U.S. is aware of the danger of being too hopeful that Egypt will agree between now and Lisbon or within the next month or two to a defense arrangement along the lines of the Four Power Defense Proposals of last October. Nevertheless, the U.S. hopes that advantage will be taken of the present favorable prospects for resumed negotiations with Egypt with a view to the earliest possible solution on these lines.
Having in mind prospective negotiations with Egypt the U.S. doubts whether it is possible at this time to take a firm decision upon a forward program for a meeting in March since any such program would have to take full account of negotiations not yet begun. The U.S. would like to know whether U.K. views regarding the proposal in its memoranda have altered in any degree since Maher Pasha took office.
With regard to the British memoranda the U.S. wishes to make the following points:
We think that the U.K. should redraft their memoranda into a form suitable for delivery to the Turks by the U.K. at the earliest possible moment. We do not think that there is any advantage in this being a tripartite operation, as we understand the French Government has suggested. On the contrary, direct British action towards Turkey will emphasize Turkey’s equality as a sponsor of MEC.
We think that an inherent difficulty in the plan proposed by the U.K. is that under present circumstances it would involve a meeting of the U.K., U.S., France, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to plan for the establishment of MED without the presence of any Middle East state or provision for any Arab state (except Egypt if it should wish to do so) or Israel to be consulted thus to gain a sense of participation. We feel, therefore, that it is politically important that any references to a meeting should describe it as “preliminary”. The word “preliminary” would open an avenue for future meetings, preferably in the Middle East, at which the states in the area choosing to participate could be consulted.
We are inclined to think an announcement at Lisbon would be unwise. Difficulties and embarrassments might be avoided if there were no prior announcement of such a meeting. We think that the most desirable meeting to consider MECO would be one held very quietly at a working level. After it was over it could be announced that “a preliminary meeting has taken place”. We think the less fanfare there is about the meeting the better and that we should [Page 191] bear in mind constantly the impact of knowledge of the meeting upon negotiations with Egypt.
In summary the U.S. suggests that:
The U.K. should proceed at once to inform the Turks of its ideas just as it has informed the U.S. and France.
The U.K. inaugurate discussions with Egypt as rapidly as circumstances permit.
That without attempting to decide now the time, place, or manner of announcement of a working level meeting to consider the embryo MECO, the U.K., U.S., France, Turkey, and the Commonwealth countries should collect their thoughts with a view to a prospective early meeting on this subject. In this connection the U.K. views set forth in its memorandum will be most helpful to the U.S.
Following the Lisbon meeting, and in the light of the status of Anglo-Egyptian negotiations at that time, the representatives of the U.S., U.K., France and Turkey (if Turkey is willing) should consult together and decide:
Whether a planning meeting re MECO is now desirable, and
If such a meeting is agreed upon, where, when and at what level it should take place. In the event of (2) the same representatives would decide what, if any, publicity is called for and the time of such publicity.
Essentially the U.S. fear is that if we move too far, too fast without Egypt while there remains a reasonable prospect of securing Egyptian cooperation, we may lessen our chances of arriving at a settlement with Egypt. Obviously, this idea cannot be carried too far, but we believe that at least between now and the Lisbon meeting we should retain the utmost flexibility.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was prepared on Feb. 8.
  2. Regarding these memoranda, see the memorandum of conversation, Document 58.
  3. A Feb. 6 memorandum from Berry to Matthews, drafted by Jones, noted that this memorandum was prepared after two meetings on Feb. 5. The first was a meeting held in NEA at which RA, BNA, NE, GTI, and S/P presented their views, and the second was a discussion in Matthews’ office later in the day. No memoranda of those conversations have been found in Department of State files.

    The Feb. 6 memorandum asked Matthews to approve calling in Burrows of the British Embassy and giving him a copy of the attachment “as promptly as possible since we think the British should approach the Turks with their ideas in the near future.” It also noted that Matthews was understood to have discussed the matter with General Bradley and that no further Defense clearance was required. Matthews wrote “I approve” in the margin. (780.5/2–652)