217. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State1

SUBJECT

  • Suez Canal

PARTICIPANTS

  • Sir Roger Makins, British Ambassador
  • The Secretary
  • Herman Phleger, L
  • William M. Rountree, NEA

The Secretary said he had been giving thought to the British and French suggestion regarding a meeting at London2 and was [Page 493]prepared to give his reaction. He suggested the 18 Governments which shared in the proposals carried to Cairo by the Committee of Five should be asked to meet again at London on Wednesday, September 19. The purpose would be to discuss the report of the Committee of Five and consider what action should be taken in light thereof; to consider the Egyptian memorandum proposing the establishment of a negotiating group representing different views;3 and to consider the suggestion for a Suez Canal users’ association.

The Secretary suggested that Foreign Ministers be invited to attend wherever possible, and said that under these circumstances he would himself plan to attend. He assumed that the presence of the Foreign Ministers or their Deputies would not be required for more than two or three days. He felt it should be made clear that attendance by the 18 Nation group would not involve any commitments for any course of action in relation to the matters to be discussed.

The Ambassador said he was very pleased that the Secretary would go to London. He felt this would be an occasion on which his authority and persuasion could play an extremely important role.

The Secretary said he thought it important to emphasize the desirability of keeping cohesion among the group and to capitalize upon the spirit of cooperation which had been established.4

The Secretary observed that he could not help but feel that Egypt was beginning to worry about the responsibility which it had assumed. Nasser appeared to be acting in a highly nervous and emotional manner. The message which the Egyptian Ambassador had delivered to the effect that the users’ plan meant war indicated a state of nervousness. The Ambassador agreed, saying that he was sure that putting forth the users’ plan was the right thing to do. It would apply pressure upon the Egyptians without closing any doors. He mentioned that the Egyptians had indicated to the IMF that it wished to make a withdrawal from the fund. He said that the United States Treasury representative had been informed concerning Saad’s5 request and the latter’s comment that “if there were not too much opposition among the IMF members, Egypt would keep [Page 494]quiet.” The Ambassador could not elaborate upon the import of this comment.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1356. Secret. Drafted by Rountree.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 213. Also on the morning of September 13 Makins forwarded through Rountree to Dulles a message from Lloyd which reads: “I am sure we shall have many matters to discuss while C.A.S.U. is set up during the next few days. The Prime Minister and I would be very grateful if you found it possible to come over yourself. Monday [September 17] would suit us very well, and we should both be delighted to see you.” (Letter from Makins to Dulles; Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, UK officials corres. with Secy Dulles/Herter 7/54 thru 3/57 Vol I incoming)
  3. See footnote 4, Document 200.
  4. Subsequently on September 14, the British Government issued invitations to the governments of the 18 Powers to meet in London on September 19. Secretary Dulles sent a personal message to various Foreign Ministers in support of the invitation. (Circular telegram 206, September 14; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1456)
  5. Dr. Ahmad Saad, Governor and President of the National Bank of Egypt.