231. Memorandum of a Conversation, French Embassy, London, September 19, 19561



  • The United States
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Aldrich
    • Ambassador Dillon (Reporting Officer)
  • France
    • Foreign Minister Pineau
    • Ambassador Chauvel
    • M. Daridan


  • Conversation re Suez

In a rather desultory conversation after luncheon at the French Embassy, Pineau expressed the view that his primary worry in the Suez problem was the question of timing. This was acute in Pineau’s view because of what he characterized as the attempt of the Soviet Union to gain effective control of the operation of the Suez Canal. He said that if it were not for the actions of the Soviet Union there would be no hurry in reaching a settlement, and it would be perfectly all right to let the matter drag on for six months or so, at the end of which time Nasser might be overthrown because of economic pressures. However, he felt that the Soviet Union was very [Page 519] rapidly moving to gain control of the Suez through sending numerous technicians to aid Egypt in the operation of the Canal. Therefore, he felt that a solution must be reached before the Soviet position in Egypt could be consolidated. To sum up, he felt that a solution must be reached within the next month or so or it might be too late.

There was some discussion of the procedure to be followed from now on in the Conference, and it was agreed that it would be advisable to set up a drafting committee later this afternoon to try to prepare a resolution setting up the Users’ Association in view of Secretary Dulles’ declaration, and such useful comments as might emerge from this afternoon’s session. There was inconclusive discussion regarding the composition of such a drafting committee.

Mr. Pineau remarked that he thought Mr. Lloyd had made an error at this morning’s session2 in mentioning that a draft along these lines had already been prepared.

Mr. Pineau said that he felt that if Israel got the impression that the western powers were weakening, and that Nasser would emerge victorious, Israel herself would precipitate hostilities. He said the Israelis realized that they were Nasser’s next target and would probably be attacked during the summer of 1957, and therefore they would wish to take action while the balance of power was still more in their favor. Pineau observed that the British Treaty with Egypt regarding the evacuation of the Suez would give Great Britain the right to reoccupy the Suez base in the event Israel initiated hostilities against the Arab countries.

There was some discussion regarding the procedure for taking the Suez question to the United Nations, and the French expressed opposition to the idea of merely establishing a negotiating body without any particular directives, such as seemed to have been suggested by the Swedish Foreign Minister this morning. It was agreed that the Swedish Foreign Minister’s speech this morning had not been helpful.

The Secretary agreed that we should go to the U.N. with some sort of specific project. Pineau said that he intended to speak this afternoon on this subject indicating that recourse should be had to the U.N. on the basis of the 18–power proposal and the new Users’ Association, but not on the basis of setting up a negotiating committee with an unlimited directive to negotiate. It was agreed that such a committee, if constituted, would in effect mean the adoption of a proposal closely approximating that made by Mr. Shepilov at the August Conference.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 780. Secret. Drafted by Dillon. A copy of this memorandum is ibid., Central Files, 974.7301/9–1956.
  2. See footnote 2, infra.