136. Editorial Note

Robert Anderson returned to Washington on August 27 and at 3:46 p.m. that afternoon met with Secretary Dulles for 2 hours. (Dulles’ Appointment Book; Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers) Evidently at this meeting, Anderson reported on his mission to Saudi Arabia. Although no memorandum of this conversation has been found in Department of State files, Anderson presumably either discussed orally or presented to Dulles a memorandum, dated August 26, which contained a summary of the important points raised by King Saud and Prince Faisal concerning the Five-Power Proposals. That memorandum reads as follows:


“The following is a summary of the important points raised by HM King Saud and HRH Prince Faisal during discussions of the ‘Five Power Proposal’ to the London Conference. This summary concerns itself only with remarks made by the Saudi Arabian participants in the discussions without reference to explanations and replies submitted by representatives of the U.S. Government.

“Justification for the London Conference:

“The Saudi Arabian participants contended that:

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  • “(1) The Conference was arranged by one party and its participants selected by that party. The ‘Five-Power Proposal’ is submitted as a proposal of a conference to which Egypt has never agreed. Egypt will not accept this proposal from the Conference, nor can Egypt accept negotiation within the confines of a predetermined proposal.
  • “(2) Egypt might be willing to negotiate on the basis of proposals submitted by the United States or another friendly nation.

“Prerequisites to Negotiations with Egypt:

“As measures necessary to ensure the proper atmosphere for negotiations with Egypt the Saudis propose:

  • “(1) Both England and France should withdraw the forces sent to the Mediterranean and Egypt should scale down the mobilization which it has started. (The withdrawal of U.K. and French forces was defined as the withdrawal of those forces mobilized and sent to the area after the nationalization of Suez.)
  • “(2) The cancellation of all economic sanctions imposed against and by Egypt following the nationalization of Suez. In this connection, specific mention was made of the U.S. action in withholding the shipment of locomotives to Egypt.

“Egypt’s Right to Nationalize the Canal:

  • “(1) The Canal is Egyptian. This was true from the [time the?] Canal was opened until the British occupied Egypt in 1882. The Convention of 1888 was held at the request of other nations who feared complete British control of the Canal.
  • “(2) Nationalization was consistent with the sovereignty of Egypt. A distinction must be made between ownership of the Company and the question of freedom of navigation.
  • “(3) Egypt has given adequate assurance of its willingness to allow free passage through the canal in accordance with the 1888 Convention. Until such time as Egypt refuses to live up to these assurances, there is no need for international control or for a board to ensure efficient operation of the Canal.
  • “(4) It is Egypt’s own interest to ensure maximum operation of the Canal. The Egyptians are fully aware that an increase in tolls or failure to maintain the Canal would be detrimental to Egyptian interests.

“Egypt’s Ability Efficiently to Operate the Canal:

  • “(1) Provided efforts are not made to encourage the withdrawal of foreign technicians, the Egyptians are capable of continuing operations at the same technical level.
  • “(2) Egypt has constituted a Board for the operation of the Canal. Given free access to foreign technical help there should be no difficulty in continuing efficient operations.

“Specific Comments on the ‘Five-Power’ Proposal:

  • “(1) Paragraph 3 A: The use of the words ‘institutional arrangements’ implies unmasked intervention into the sovereignty of Egypt.
  • “(2) Paragraph 2 C: Egypt must have the right to determine the Canal tolls. It is believed that Egypt would agree to the stipulation of a maximum fee. Egypt could not agree to ‘fees as low as possible’.
  • “(3) Paragraph 3 B: There is [no?] mention of the composition of the ‘arbitral commission’ and to the means to be employed in enforcing its decisions.
  • “(4) Paragraph 2 B: The proposal for ‘insulation’ of the operation of the Canal brings into question the problem of sovereignty. Sovereignty must be accepted and the question of operations must not conflict with Egypt’s ownership of the Canal. The mere fact that foreign states are members of the Board to ensure operations is in conflict with Egyptian sovereignty.

“The Role of the United States in London:

“Throughout the conversations the Saudi representatives spoke with deep appreciation of the role of the U.S. in preventing the use of force and in working for a peaceful solution of the problem.” (The memorandum does not indicate a drafting officer; Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Report of Special Mission to Saudi Arabia August 20–27, 1956)

That evening at 7:02 p.m., the Department of State sent to Jidda in telegram 136 and to Cairo in telegram 507, these instructions: “Following conference with Anderson, Department now believes it desirable further assist Yusuf Yasin in his mission by giving US agreement to his mentioning privately to Nasser US special emissary. Department intended to indicate in its earlier cable [telegram 133 to Jidda; see footnote 3, Document 132] that it had no objection to substance suggested statement given Yasin, but would not wish any paper passed to Nasser under impression US was acting independently of London conference or that such statement represented joint US–Saudi position. Believe it would be helpful if Yusuf Yasin developed thought with Nasser along lines suggested in statement. (Jidda’s 97)” (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–2656) This telegram was drafted by Newsom and approved by Rountree.

On August 28, the Department directed Henderson to keep in “close touch” with Yusuf Yasin while Henderson was in Cairo. (Telegram 1401 to London; ibid.)