112. Memorandum of a Conversation, U.S. Embassy, London, August 22, 1956, 11 a.m.1

USDel/MC/75

PARTICIPANTS

  • The United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Rountree
  • India
    • Mr. Krishna Menon

SUBJECT DISCUSSED

  • Future Procedures at the Conference

Mr. Menon asked urgently to see the Secretary on the morning of August 22nd, the day after the Five-Power Proposal was tabled and adhered to by 18 countries. In an atmosphere somewhat cooler [Page 255]than usual, Mr. Menon reviewed essentially the Indian position as stated by him on previous occasions, including the speeches at the Conference. He emphasized his belief that the Egyptian Government could not and would not negotiate on the basis of the Five-Power Proposal, since they would consider it an infringement upon their sovereignty and contrary to their national interests. He extolled the virtues of his own plan and said that only a proposal along those lines would have any chance of success. He had reason to believe that the Egyptians would be willing to begin negotiations on that basis, and his idea was that such negotiations could develop the kind of satisfactory relationship between Egypt and the users of the Canal which would give confidence that the Canal would be operated properly.

In response, the Secretary again set forth his views as given in his various statements and in previous conversations with Mr. Menon. He said that he, and the other delegates who adhered to the plan, had fully in mind Egyptian sovereignty and rights and that the plan definitely would not be put to the Egyptians as an ultimatum. Certainly, however, it was necessary for the users of the Canal to agree among themselves on the type of arrangements which they would consider workable if they could be negotiated with the Egyptian Government. He dwelt upon the role of the United States in trying to bring about a peaceful solution to the problem, in a situation which, three weeks ago, and still today, is fraught with danger. The Secretary stressed that this is not the type of problem which could remain unsettled with assurance that no harm would come through delay. It was vital to peace in the area, he said, to find some satisfactory solution. He deplored the speech on August 21st of the Soviet delegate injecting into the discussions for propaganda purposes extraneous matters and allegations that the Five-Power Proposal represented an effort on the part of 18 states to impose some form of colonialism upon Egypt. The Soviets must know that statements of that sort were not conducive to the kind of atmosphere needed if a solution was to be found.

Mr. Menon inquired regarding the Secretary’s views concerning other procedures to be considered by the Conference. The Secretary answered only in general terms along the lines that consideration should be given to the best way of communicating to the Egyptian Government the views of the Conference and to trying to arrange for fruitful negotiations. He said that the Indians could make a major contribution in this regard by the attitude which they assumed and the statements they made which might have a bearing upon Egypt’s willingness to negotiate on a sound and reasonable basis.

[Page 256]

While Mr. Rountree was accompanying Mr. Menon to his car, the latter reiterated in the strongest terms that the course being pursued by the 18 nations was not right. His parting words were: “I tell you, Mr. Rountree, that if this thing is pushed, it will lead to a holy war”.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 758. Secret. Prepared in the U.S. Delegation, but the source text does not indicate a drafting officer.