No. 957
Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry) to the Secretary of State



  • Summary of Current Status of Anglo-Egyptian Relations

The following summary of the current status of the Anglo-Egyptian controversy may be useful to you in your conversations on this subject.

The new Egyptian Government has been firm in maintaining order. An atmosphere favorable to a renewal of negotiations is being steadily created. In the Suez Canal Zone there are signs of a gradual return to normal conditions which lessen the possibility that Canal operations may be seriously impeded.

Prime Minister Ali Maher Pasha has publicly announced his belief in a settlement through negotiation as well as a willingness on the part of his Government to consider a regional defense system. The basis upon which the new Government will negotiate is not yet clear. Most observers believe, however, that the change of Government does not presage a radical departure from previous Egyptian policies. Ali Maher will probably press as strongly for satisfaction of Egyptian aspirations although he will try to keep firm control of internal events. Although the Government may be willing to negotiate, the settlement must be approved by the overwhelmingly Wafdist Parliament. Signs are increasing that the powerful Wafd is only awaiting the opportunity to attack the new Government for its moderation.

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The question thus arises as to how long Ali Maher will be able to last since he has unqualified support only from the King and the powerless opposition parties. The continued support of the Army is uncertain though probable. The possibility that the Wafd allied with leftist and extremist groups will openly oppose the Government raises the prospect of the King being forced either to dissolve the Wafd Parliament and rule by decree or to alter the present Government, since the constitution provides for Cabinet resignation upon a vote of no confidence.

It then appears that unless the present Egyptian Government were able quickly to achieve a settlement at least partially acceptable to the Wafd and while public opinion in Egypt is still fluid, the chances of the return of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean are slim.

Foreign Secretary Eden has publicly stated that a solution satisfying Egypt’s legitimate national aspirations but not jeopardizing the free world’s security should be possible. The United Kingdom has been generally conciliatory towards the new Government and is actively seeking to bring about a resumption of discussions. A position on the Sudan is still being formulated but on the question of the Suez the British believe that an international approach such as the MEC offers a satisfactory basis for discussion and settlement.

In general the two parties appear anxious to begin discussions leading to agreement. However, the internal tensions within Egypt which will increase with time indicate the desirability of an early and satisfactory solution which in itself will greatly facilitate the West’s position in the Near East.

The United States is encouraged by the signs of a possible early resumption of discussions. It is our view, however, that significant moves on troop evacuation and the Sudan will be necessary for a satisfactory settlement. Regarding troop evacuation, a United Kingdom announcement fixing an early date when British troops (as opposed to Middle East Command troops) will commence partial evacuation will in our view materially assist the Egyptian Government in concluding a defense agreement. The British troops remaining under the Middle East Command would not exceed a numerical ceiling agreed between Egypt and SACME. The Sudan question must not again block a general settlement. On the general evidence that it would be the key to a long-term, overall solution, the United States believes that the Four-Powers should be prepared to accept Farouk’s symbolic title as “King of the Sudan” with appropriate safeguards for early self-determination by the Sudanese.