221. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions1

209. Circular 1932 and cirtel 201.3 With regard to Egyptian [Page 501]memorandum of September 10 setting forth proposal for negotiating body in connection Suez Canal, following are US views which you should immediately communicate orally to Government to which you are accredited:

USG has received memorandum of Embassy of Egypt dated September 10, 1956. This proposes that negotiating body be formed which would be representative of different views held among States using Suez Canal to consider solution of questions involving Canal and to review Constantinople Convention of 1888.
Also GOE recalls its proposal of August 12, 1956 that new conference, to which it is understood substantially all nations of world would be invited, be convened for substantially same purposes as was London Conference on Suez. This proposal is in all essentials similar to that advanced by representatives of USSR at London Conference. That proposal did not meet acceptance of members that Conference, which included States representing ownership of more than 95 percent of tonnage transiting Canal.

USG doubts it is practical to negotiate simultaneously with all countries which are parties to or beneficiaries of Suez Canal. Such group would embrace practically all nations of world and could not be effective negotiating body.

It also doubtful these nations will delegate discretionary negotiating authority to small group. Such delegation of authority not compatible with normal exercise of sovereign rights.

Procedure followed at London Conference of August 16 to August 23, 1956 represents, in our opinion, only practical procedure. That Conference drew together all indisputably surviving parties of 1888 Treaty, nations representing over 90% of traffic through Canal, and also nations whose pattern of foreign trade showed significant dependence upon Canal. Unfortunately GOE was not represented, but that was due to its own preference to be absent.
At this Conference there was found to be large measure of agreement to conditions necessary to assure that Canal would be operated in accordance with principles of 1888 Treaty. This judgment of 18 nations was carried to Egypt and carefully explained to GOE which, however, did not accept viewpoint thus expressed even as basis for negotiation.
It is believed views of 18 nations as presented and explained to GOE by five-nation Committee on September 3, 1956 furnish basis for further discussions and negotiations looking toward fair and equitable settlement of Suez Canal problem, and that convening of conference, as suggested by GOE, would not be helpful in solution of this difficult problem.

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USG understands this matter is to be discussed in London at conference September 19 for which invitations issued by UKG and is looking forward to exchange of views there.

Action London and Paris should be only to inform UK and French Governments foregoing is being communicated to other members 18–Nation group.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1456. Secret. Drafted by Wilkins and approved by Rountree. Sent to Canberra, Copenhagen, Addis Ababa, Paris, Bonn, Tehran, Rome, Tokyo, The Hague, Wellington, Oslo, Karachi, Lisbon, Madrid, Stockholm, Ankara, and London.
  2. In circular telegram 193, September 12, the Department of State instructed the Embassies to inform host governments that the United States was studying the Egyptian memorandum of September 10 (see footnote 4, Document 200) and that the United States believed it highly desirable that an exchange of views between the United States and other members of the Eighteen-Nation group take place before a reply was sent to Egypt. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1256)
  3. Circular telegram 201, dated September 13, contained a selection of public statements, made by U.S. officials, concerning the Egyptian memorandum of September 10 and the proposal for a Suez Canal users’ association. (Ibid., 974.7301/9–1356)