150. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 30, 1956, 2:35 p.m.1


  • Call on the Secretary by the Egyptian Ambassador


  • Dr. Ahmed Hussein, Ambassador of Egypt
  • The Secretary
  • The Under Secretary
  • NEAWilliam M. Rountree

The Egyptian Ambassador, who had requested an urgent appointment explaining that he had a message from President Nasser, said that Nasser had been concerned at the use by President Eisenhower in his public statement on August 29,2 of the word, “internationalized” in describing the Suez Canal. He said that the 1888 Convention and subsequent agreements all recognized the sovereignty of Egypt over the Suez Canal. The purpose of the Convention was to assure the users of the Canal that their ships could pass freely and without obstruction. The Egyptian Government had noted that the Secretary also had described the Canal as having been internationalized and felt that the expression of this concept by the American leaders would create confusion in the minds of many people throughout the world.

The Secretary responded to the effect that he did not quarrel with the Ambassador’s statement regarding the status of the Canal. In referring to it as an international waterway, we had in mind the use of the Canal pursuant to the Convention by vessels of all nations and not the actual ownership or sovereignty question.

The Ambassador expressed appreciation for this clarification and asked the Secretary whether he might find it possible to make a public statement which would correct any misunderstandings which might have resulted from the previous use of the term “internationalized”. The Secretary thought it would be possible for him to clarify the term as applying to the use of the Canal.

There was some discussion as to what the Egyptian Ambassador would say to the press upon his departure. At the conclusion of the [Page 334] meeting, however, the Secretary suggested that the Ambassador use his own discretion as to what he should say.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Confidential. Drafted by Rountree. The time of the meeting is from Dulles’ Appointment Book. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  2. See footnote 2, Document 144.
  3. That same day in Cairo, Nasser summoned Ambassador Byroade and informed him that he would be issuing a statement in response to Eisenhower’s statement of August 29. Nasser explained that Eisenhower’s statement had been a great disappointment and that he had erroneously referred to the Suez Canal as “this waterway internationalized by the Treaty of 1888”. The Egyptian President then read to Byroade most of the statement that he would issue. Byroade reported that Nasser’s statement contained no attack or personal reference to President Eisenhower apart from expressing Egypt’s disappointment that the President had used the phrase mentioned above. (Telegram 521, August 30; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–3056) The text of Nasser’s statement of August 30 was forwarded to the Department of State in telegram 522, August 30. (Ibid.)