212. Editorial Note

On September 12, in a statement made to the British House of Commons, Prime Minister Eden announced that the British Government had decided, in agreement with France and the United States, to establish without delay an organization to enable the users of the Canal to exercise their rights. This users’ association was to be provisional in character and was meant to prepare the way for a permanent system which could be established with the full agreement of all interested parties. According to Eden, the users’ association would employ pilots, undertake responsibility for the coordination of traffic through the Canal, and, in general, act as a voluntary association for the exercise of the rights of Suez Canal users. The Egyptian authorities would be requested to cooperate in maintaining the maximum flow of traffic through the Canal, and Egypt would receive appropriate payment from the association in return for the facilities which it provided. Transit dues, however, would be paid to the users’ association and not to the Egyptian Government. The membership of this association would consist of Great Britain, France, and the United States; other principal users of the Canal would also be invited to join. In addition, Eden made clear that if the Egyptian Government sought to interfere with the operations of the association or refused to cooperate with the association, then Her Majesty’s Government and the others concerned would be free to take further steps, either through the United Nations or by other means, for the assertion of their rights. (House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, 5th series, volume 558, columns 10–11. An edited version of Eden’s remarks is printed in The Suez Canal Problem, July 26–September 22, 1956, pages 333–334.)

That same day at 5 p.m. in Washington, the Department of State issued the following statement: “If the United Kingdom alone or in association with others should propose a users’ association to be organized by the 18 nations which sponsored the London proposals, or such of them as were so disposed, and perhaps others, the United States will participate in such a users’ association. We assume that the users’ association would exercise on behalf of the users the rights which are theirs under the 1888 Convention and seek such cooperation with Egypt as would achieve the results designed to be guaranteed by that Convention.” (Reported in telegram 1833 to London, September 12; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1256)