120. Telegram From the Delegation at the Suez Canal Conference to the Department of State1

Secto 50. Suez Conference: Eighth session August 23—summary.2

Lloyd opened by saying Conference decisions cannot be made binding on all; majority cannot bind minority; full record of proceedings should be sent Cairo.

New Zealand: MacDonald stated that after discussion with other govts he wished substitute “statement” for “proposal” he had made at previous day’s meeting. This was a statement of what 18 of the govts proposed to do. He then tabled statement (text in separate telegram).3

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Shepilov asserted new statement of NZ Delegate did not change substance of previous day’s proposal. New situation has arisen whereby certain group attempting cancel out all efforts made at conference, with nations splitting into two groups and no effort reconcile various viewpoints. It is UK purpose discriminate against nations opposed to Dulles plan which flagrant violation of Egyptian sovereignty. Minority views ignored. Present group of powers does not properly represent views of users of Canal. Dulles plan is couched in language of ultimatum. Obvious UK and France wish impose colonial procedures on Egypt, thus providing pretext denounce Egypt as intransigent. There have been amendments to Dulles plan, majority emphasizing negotiations and absence of pressure. Egypt has agreed negotiate only on basis of equality, and there is no basis for negotiations in Dulles plan. He thereupon offered draft resolution to following effect:

It is agreed settlement should be achieved by peaceful means through negotiation on basis of sovereign rights of Egypt, freedom of navigation of Canal according to Convention of 1888, taking into account changed circumstances. Members of Conference gave preliminary consideration to drafts of India, US and Spain, and considered modifications suggested by other powers. They agreed all proposals and other records of conference could be subject to discussion with Egypt so that draft agreement acceptable to all nations could be prepared in course of negotiations. Representatives of six countries (USSR, UK, France, US, India and Indonesia) should be authorized establish contact with Egypt in order discuss with Egypt aforesaid records and determine what further steps were required.

Pineau in effort clarify situation offered short proposal as follows: “The conference, taking note of the declarations and communications made during its work by the representatives of the 22 member countries, asks its chairman to communicate the full record of its proceedings to the Egyptian Govt.” Luns supported French proposal.

Martino lectured Shepilov on his curious ideas of democracy. If 18 of 22 nations had reached common position it should be expressed in a way representing the collective will. He had heard much from Soviet Union about democracy in quite new phraseology. He ridiculed idea that large population of Soviet Union and India should override majority vote on conference. This is a democratic system and not a democratic system. Vote of each sovereign govt is equal. He supported French proposal.

Choudhury like others before him stressed impossibility conference to draft communiqué, because inability arrive at general consensus.

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Menon feared Conference would lose itself in procedural wrangle. Obvious Conference not democratic assembly of users of Canal but nations arbitrarily chosen by chairman. He argued at length in favor of a communiqué which would include more points of agreement. He recommended appointment of drafting committee of three or five representing differing views of delegates in order find areas of agreement. He suggested both US and Indian proposals be sent to Cairo. If any nation or group of nations wished present Egypt with their proposal they were free to do so. Egypt might accept one which could be made basis further negotiations.

Lange noted opinions have crystallized around two points of view, that chairman had agreed transmit complete records, including views of 18 and views of 4. Group of 17 govts has decided send delegation explain their viewpoint to Cairo to find out whether they can be accepted as basis for negotiations.

Von Brentano in short statement agreed with French proposal. He felt unnecessary have joint communiqué. He noted statements of various delegations had been made public and it unnecessary and impossible agree on text of communiqué.

Corea in confused speech suggested that there might be less opposition in Egypt, if Indian proposal were sent along with that of NZ. If 18 nation proposal were to be considered Conference statement, Ceylon could not agree.

Pineau again suggested Conference take note of all statements by various delegates and groups and have chairman transmit them to Egypt.

Abdulgani reiterated views other minority delegates and insisted on communiqué giving consensus of all delegates. He urged complete document containing text all proposals. He circulated draft communiqué (text of which sent in separate telegram).4

Cunha then spoke briefly in favor of French proposal suggesting complete verbatim record be sent Egypt and various delegates or groups of delegates could approach Egypt as they wished. Anything else would be waste of time.

Lloyd urged conference not end in procedural wrangle. He noted no agreement for Soviet or Indian proposals. He asked whether it was Conference’s wish that French suggestion be adopted.

After a forty-five minute interval a revised Indonesian proposal was circulated (text in separate telegram).5 Lloyd asked whether it [Page 272] acceptable Conference. Turkey said acceptable. Lloyd noted it included Pineau proposal. Pineau said it added “decorative” element but okay with him. Lloyd asked whether everyone now agreed. Menon said he hoped grammar would be corrected before Indonesian proposal published. (Laughter)

Shepilov said Indonesian proposal gave rise all sorts of questions, omitted points of actual agreement such as desire for peaceful settlement by negotiation, and contained ambiguities such as “gravity of the problem” which meant different things to different govts. Suggested return to Pineau proposal. Questioned New Zealand statement in terms of it containing references to conference documents; if it was statement of eighteen it should have no reference Conference.

Pineau suggested view questions concerning Indonesian proposal, return Pineau proposal. As to New Zealand statement, it was in fact a part of Conference and discussed by Conference. Shepilov said if Conference agreed on Pineau suggestion he’d like to suggest an amendment to delete phrase in middle so Pineau proposal would read simply “the Conference asks its chairman to communicate the full record of its proceedings to the Egyptian Government”.

Lloyd said he understood USSR opposed. Would Shepilov please confirm. Shepilov said yes, USSR was opposed Indonesian draft and again suggested taking French proposal and deleting “a couple of words”.

Secretary said chairman had said he’d transmit Conference record and documents to Egyptian Govt so there seemed nothing more for Conference to do. Lloyd agreed and asked whether any purpose in prolonging Conference further. Thereupon gave thanks to staff and to all delegations for their attendance.

Menon gave thanks to UK for its hospitality and also to Lloyd for manner in which he had conducted Conference. Hoped spirit of friendship and tolerance characterizing Conference would continue in future.

Pakistan also gave thanks to staff and to Lloyd. Menzies said he did not wish remark included in record but he desired say he would [Page 273] discharge his task as chairman of the group appointed by the eighteen to the best of his abilities and “in behalf of all of you”. Conference ended five p.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–2356. Official Use Only; Priority. Drafted by Foster and Ringwalt. Received at 6:42 p.m.
  2. The session convened at 2:45 p.m., August 23.
  3. Secto 48 from London, August 23, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301.8–2356) For text of the New Zealand statement, see Document 128.
  4. Secto 47 from London, August 23, contains the text of the Indonesian proposal. It is the same as that printed in footnote 5, supra, with a few stylistic revisions. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–2356)
  5. Secto 49 from London, August 23 contains the text of the revised Indonesian proposal, which reads as follows:

    “The London conference on the Suez Canal, participated in by the governments of (blank) in its assembly from August 16 to August 23 after a frank and fruitful exchange of views in which all took part;

    “Expressing concern about the gravity of the Suez Canal problem; expressing the hope that the participating countries will endeavor to promote an acceptable settlement of this problem;

    “Requests the chairman of this conference to transmit to the government of Egypt the verbatim record of the proceedings of the conference in order thereby to convey to the said government an understanding of the spirit and the purposes and objectives of the conference.

    “The participants of the conference, now terminating its work, are recognized as having freedom to carry forward their respective proposals as they deem necessary in their search for an acceptable and lasting solution.” (Ibid., 974.7301/8–2356)