Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 100

No. 948
United States Memorandum of Conversation Between American and British Representatives, Washington, Department of State, January 9, 1952, 10:30 a.m.1

top secret
TCT CONV–9

Present:

  • US
    • Secretary Acheson
    • Mr. Matthews
    • Mr. Perkins
    • Mr. Berry
    • Ambassador Gifford
    • Mr. Stabler
  • UK
    • Secretary Eden
    • Sir Oliver Franks
    • Mr. Burrows
    • Mr. Shuckburgh

Egypt

The Secretary said that Egypt was the first item on the agenda today. He said that we were in agreement on principles and that what he wished to raise this morning was the question of tactics. He believed that we should be prepared to move forward with the Egyptians in an attempt to break the present impasse. He felt that when the time came to do something, the question of King Farouk’s title as King of the Sudan might be the means to ease the defense proposals through. He was not proposing that we do anything at the present time but that we merely prepare ourselves for the future. What was required was Four Power agreement on the substance of a move after which we would inform our Ambassadors in Cairo what we have in mind. The United States had no particular views as to whether the move should be made now or whether it should only be made after the Wafd is removed.

The Secretary said that the great problem in connection with the King’s title, as indeed Mr. Eden had pointed out, was that if recognition of the title should in any way be considered an indication that we are accepting the Egyptian abrogation, it would not be possible to use it. However, we wanted to see if we could not work out an arrangement whereby recognition of the title could be justified by the United Kingdom on its terms and equally justified by the Egyptians on their terms.

[Page 1747]

The Secretary went on to say that if Farouk had the right to the title at some time in the past and the 1899 Agreements in no way removed his right to the title, then perhaps the decision could be made, possibly through the International Court of Justice, that his claim to the title under the Condominium Agreements was justified. If some such decision could be made, then we could wrap up the whole proposal in one package. The title might be helpful in removing the Sudan as an obstacle to the defense proposals but, of course, the Egyptians would have to agree to the whole proposal before we went ahead on the title.

We proposed that Egypt agree to giving the Sudanese the right of self-determination. This right would be guaranteed by the United Kingdom, and possibly other powers, including the United States. Egypt would also have to agree that it would not upset the status quo of the administration of the Sudan. In other words, they cannot attempt to change the machinery of government. Lastly Egypt must agree to accept the Four Power Defense Proposals, recast in some form which might make them more comprehensible and acceptable to Egypt. If Egyptian agreement could be obtained to these three things, then arrangements might be made to recognize the King’s title as “King of the Sudan”.

Mr. Eden said that the Secretary’s presentation was an excellant one and that he had these points in mind. He was not sure that from the King’s viewpoint the title was really the most important. He felt that it was more important that we should persuade the Egyptians to discuss the defense proposals. Mr. Eden went on to say that he had told Salaheddin in Paris recently that what we wanted was to discuss the Four Power proposals with the Egyptian Government. We did not ask them to accept the proposals before discussion but we wanted to sit down and talk about them. Mr. Eden felt that if we could get the Egyptians to start discussing the proposals, we might be able to make a definite move forward in obtaining their acceptance.

Mr. Eden believed that the question of the King’s title was a very difficult one. He doubted that it would be necessary to go to the International Court on this problem. In point of fact the British position had not changed with regard to Egypt’s relationship to the Sudan. While the United Kingdom regretted that Egypt had torn up the Condominium Agreement, this had not changed the position, and the United Kingdom was prepared to call the King whatever was justified under the Agreements.

The Secretary then asked whether there had not been some decision by the British law courts that the King had the right to the title “King of the Sudan”, and that the Condominium Agreements [Page 1748]had not in any way destroyed this right. Mr. Eden said he thought there had been something of this sort.

The Secretary then asked Mr. Stabler to clarify this point. Mr. Stabler said that there had not been an actual court decision but that in 1946 at the time of the Bevin–Sidky discussions2 the law officers of the Crown had decided that the King had the right to the title. Mr. Matthews asked whether that was in connection with the Condominium Agreements. Mr. Stabler replied in the affirmative.

Mr. Eden said that the King did have the right to some sort of title under the Condominium Agreements and believed he used the title “Sovereign of Nubia, the Sudan Darfur and Kordofan”. However, this was somewhat different from the title of “King”.

Mr. Burrows said that recognition of the title would probably raise the question of the constitution which the Egyptians had prepared for the Sudan. The Secretary said that it was our understanding that there was no constitution in effect. There had been several Egyptian laws passed in connection with abrogation, one authorizing the definition of the status of the Sudan by special law and the second one declaring that a constituent assembly should prepare a constitution for the Sudan which would guarantee certain specified principles. The legal situation was that no constitution for the Sudan existed at present.

Mr. Burrows said that while this might be true, the impression exists in the Sudan that a constitution has been prepared and he believed that if the title were recognized, the Sudanese might think that the constitution had been accepted by the UK.

Mr. Eden said that the King’s title has become mixed up with the decrees concerning abrogation. In this connection he wondered whether the British Embassy in Washington had kept the State Department informed regarding the “squawks” from Khartoum on the reaction of the Sudanese to the Egyptian moves. Mr. Burrows replied in the affirmative and said that as a matter of fact Mr. Stabler was leaving today for the Sudan. Mr. Eden said he was glad to hear this and hoped it would be possible for Mr. Stabler to have a good look at the situation there and the difficulties with which the UK is confronted. He inquired whether the US had any representation in the Sudan and was told that we did not.

The Secretary said that the important thing to do was to make a move which would give the King some strength in order that he might do something with the Wafd.

[Page 1749]

Mr. Eden assured the Secretary that the British would look into this question with urgency and see what could be done about a move. He thought it was particularly important that we should get the Egyptians to look at the 4–power proposals. All we wanted to do was get them to discuss the proposals and as he had told Salaheddin, they would not be committed in advance to anything. He then asked whether the US was proposing any change in the 4–power proposals. The Secretary said that we were not proposing any change in substance but there were a few points which we thought could be clarified in order that the proposals might be more acceptable to the Egyptians. Mr. Berry commented that the proposals as presented to Egypt were not worded precisely as they might have been and that in recasting them we should take into account Egyptian prestige, sensibilities, etc. What we wanted to do was make the proposals more attractive to the Egyptian public.

Mr. Eden said that he would actually prefer to give more, if it were possible, in connection with the 4–power proposals than give way on the Sudan. The UK did not want to sell out the Sudanese. Mr. Berry said that as the United States also had no desire to sell out the Sudanese, we were in agreement on this point.

Mr. Eden then asked whether in connection with this move we wished to examine the matter, including the redraft of the Defense Proposals, in Washington or in London. It was recalled that Mr. Bowker had come over in September 1951 to assist in preparing the original proposals. He also inquired whether we had a redrafted text of the proposals which we might let them have. Mr. Berry said that we had not yet made a redraft. Mr. Eden went on to say that he would ask Mr. Bowker to start at once to work on the proposals. If it were necessary, he could send somebody here or we could send somebody to London. The Secretary said this would be entirely agreeable to him and he would be quite willing for Mr. Berry to go to London if it was decided to handle the matter in this way.

Mr. Eden then said that they would try to find some way around the question of the King’s title and hoped that we would do likewise. He wished there were some other title besides “King” that could be used.

Mr. Berry said that we thought something on the King’s title was necessary if we were to make progress on the defense proposals inasmuch as the Sudan question and the Canal Base problem were linked in the Egyptian mind.

The discussion on Egypt ended with the understanding that consultation would continue through our respective Embassies on preparing some sort of move.

  1. This was the ninth in a series of meetings held in conjunction with the talks held between President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill.
  2. For documentation regarding the Bevin–Sidky discussions, see Foreign Relations, 1946, vol. VII, pp. 6978.