774.00/2–2752

No. 966
Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Berry) to the Secretary of State

secret

Subject:

  • Summary of Current Anglo-Egyptian Relations

The internal Egyptian political situation has remained uneasy. The truce between Ali Maher’s Government and the ousted Wafd majority party gives every evidence of resting on very weak foundations. The Government has generally been able to maintain effective law and order with noticeable improvement in conditions in the Canal Zone where terrorist activities have dwindled and maritime activities have returned to near normalcy. There is rigid enforcement of martial law and curfew. In this connection the Egyptian Government has confidentially asked the United States for assistance in obtaining equipment for three special police divisions. This request, which has Ambassador Caffery’s strong backing, is being urgently considered. The British have reduced their naval forces in the Suez Canal for the time being and a general, if uncertain, stability prevails in Egypt.

Both the Wafd and the Government appear anxious to avoid a showdown although an open Wafd attack on the Government appears [Page 1771]increasingly difficult to restrain. Rumor campaigns against the Government charging it with “extinguishing the flame of the national movement” reached such proportions that the Government was forced to decree severe punishment for those spreading false news. Wafd parliamentary cooperation has been grudging and Maher is reported to be considering recessing Parliament for a few months. The King is reported to be critical of the soft line Maher is following toward the Wafd. In this connection there are persistent rumors that the King is planning an early change of government, appointing Najib Hilali Pasha, formerly of the Wafd, as Prime Minister. It would be planned that some of the better elements of the present Cabinet would be retained. So far there is nothing definite on this change, and the Embassy is inclined to doubt whether it will take place in the immediate future. An early reasonable agreement with the British as well as the dissolution of Parliament and firm control of lawlessness are also reportedly desired by the King.

Instructions from the Foreign Office to the British Ambassador in Cairo to arrange for an early meeting with Maher with a view to resumption of negotiations were sent on February 8. The death of King George VI delayed Anglo-Egyptian conversations although the presence of an Egyptian delegation in London for the funeral resulted in a general exchange of views between Eden and Amr. Amr returned to Cairo with a letter from Eden stressing the United Kingdom’s willingness to commence negotiations and informing Maher that the British Ambassador in Cairo had instructions and was ready for discussions. Supplementary instructions to Sir Ralph Stevenson were cleared by the Cabinet on February 22. These instructions include discussion with Ali Maher on: (1) decision regarding when and where negotiations can best be opened; (2) a proposed agenda based upon new defense arrangements in line with the Middle East Command concept and accepting the supersession of the 1936 treaty; (3) the proposed text of a joint communiqué. These instructions further stated that the United Kingdom could not recognize Farouk’s title as King of the Sudan until the Sudanese had been consulted through a Constituent Assembly. However, the United Kingdom would not object if Egypt wanted to send officials to the Sudan to present their case at this time.

Public statements made by Maher indicate that talks may begin March 1 on a bilateral basis possibly with later participation by the United States, France and Turkey. These statements appear to indicate that Maher proposes to follow a determined course toward achieving Egyptian aims. It is believed likely that Egyptian counterproposals based on the Arab League Collective Security Pact can be expected as the basis of the Egyptian position.

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The United States, concerned by the delay and by the lack of agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, has: (1) urged the United Kingdom to arrive at a formula on the Sudan based on an acceptance of the King’s title within the framework of self-determination by the Sudanese; (2) urged the United Kingdom to agree to token withdrawal of troops from the Canal Zone even though agreement on the number of forces to be allocated to SACME might not have been reached; (3) suggested that Maher refrain from making extreme public statements; and (4) indicated willingness to enter five-power discussions if and when the Egyptians so desire.