239. Telegram From the Delegation at the Suez Canal Conference to the Department of State1

Secto 15. Conference—First session, September 20.2 Lloyd convened session shortly after 11 a.m. Cunha (Portugal) opened by thanking UK for its “outstanding contribution” in preparing paper on legal position;3 said issue however was local and political as well as legal and agreed with other delegates question of safeguarding unity of users was essential. Associated himself with an organization of users—“sort of union of all users that would give balanced solution”. Users Association was not designed to pick a quarrel but rather to “act positively” and to show Egypt Europe did not wish to impose “European sovereignty” over Canal. There were many different means to attain this end but in general Portugal agreed with broad principles set forth by Secretary Dulles, especially in para six of his paper.4 Association must have “real program” for substitution of Canal which may prove expensive and difficult to carry out; but he now saw Association plan was “practical step for working out provisional arrangement, a collective negotiating body”. It could prepare long-term solution that could be presented to UN and could relieve Europe from “servitude” to Canal, an “extremely important task as a means of making Egypt ‘fear’ users of Canal”. Although he reserved right to discuss “precise” proposals Portugal approved broad [Page 537] principles set forth at Conference for setting up association for maintaining unity of users.

Aklilou (Ethiopia) spoke briefly on excellent work and representational nature of Menzies’ mission and regretted failure of Nasser to make counter proposals while mission was in Cairo. He then expressed pleasure original proposal for CASU had been “modified”. Unfortunately proposal originally had been “accompanied by military preparations”. Dulles’ proposal was worthy of study and it would be useful to take it to UN. As for alternative of using Cape route he would associate himself with Italian colleague in saying Cape alternative was not even a good temporary solution.

Birgi (Turkey) thought yesterday’s meetings had been useful and fruitful. He thanked UK for his legal paper, associated himself with “all points made by Lange” and said Dulles paper was a “reasonable basis for discussion”. Also thanked Martino for Italian suggestions. He thought time had come to adjourn plenary session and get up a “Drafting Committee” of experts to prepare a paper setting forth conception of CASU and how issue could be brought to UN. Suggested Conference adjourn until 4 pm when experts’ paper could be discussed. Birgi had been informed in confidence US had paper that could serve as basis for experts’ consideration but did not state this.

Lange (Norway) said if nobody else wished to speak he would express thought that best way to proceed was now to prepare a “working paper”. He wondered, however, whether paper could be ready by 4 pm, Birgi replied that if it could be done “so much the better”.

Unden (Sweden) then got up and insisted on Sweden’s “strong feeling for appeal to UN”; inviting govts had refused to take CASU to UN. Noted Sweden had given negative reply to Egypt’s invitation to Conference. Happily idea for CASU had “changed from original proposal” and was now “a practical question” and in case of Nasser’s refusal to pass ships they could go around Cape. Concluded he had no authority to commit his govt to CASU.

Lloyd then asked if delegates were agreed on adjournment and that “a working paper” should be prepared. Secretary Dulles explained that participation in Drafting Committee did not commit anyone to subscribe to paper and that US might not accept “all of it”. He added “none of us can commit ourselves for or against”.

Artajo (Spain) rose to say he had spoken yesterday prior to presentation of Dulles’ proposal. He hoped Drafting Committee would consider a Spanish paper. He presented English text which summed up Spanish position as follows: “(1) That the correct course for a peaceful settlement of Suez Canal problem is a direct negotiation with Egypt, as in our view possibilities of agreement have by no [Page 538] means been exhausted, and other proposals should be used, which reconcile the interests and guarantees of the users with that of the country through which the Canal crosses. (2) That recourse to the United Nations is premature, because within spirit of its Charter, an arrangement should first be attempted by direct negotiation. (3) That the principal aim for an association of users should be to maintain unity of purpose and action among its members. (4) That simultaneously with conduct of negotiations, the association should in fact reach an understanding with the Egyptian authorities for the adoption of practical measures to ensure the efficiency of the technical services of the Canal.”

Noon (Pakistan) said it was advisable to give each delegation right to join or not join Drafting Committee. Some delegations might not wish to join in work.

Chairman Lloyd said so-called Drafting Committee “not really a drafting committee” since idea was “to exchange views” on a paper “somebody” might propose after consultation. One had wrong impression to think of a formal drafting committee.

Birgi (Turkey) agreed his proposal would not prevent anybody from later clarifying ideas. There would merely be a “working paper”.

Chairman Lloyd asked if experts could stay and work and whether 4 or 5 pm was agreeable. Martino rose to ask what “real aim” of group would be—“whether it would repeat what had already been said at Conference” or would make new proposals. Lloyd explained “a draft” had been prepared which committee could study and perhaps by 4 p.m. “a paper” could be produced.

Session adjourned at 12 noon.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–2056. Confidential. Drafted by Chipman and Burdett. Received at 1:17 p.m. Repeated to Paris.
  2. Reference is to the third plenary session, which began at 11 a.m., September 20.
  3. Reference is to a British paper, entitled “Juridical Basis of the ‘Users Scheme’”, which was circulated, at the request of the U.K. Delegation, to the other delegations attending the Conference. (Conference doc. Suez/II/56D/3; a copy is part of a documentary “Summary Record” of the Conference; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–2256)
  4. Reference presumably is to Dulles’ statement at the first plenary session on September 19; see footnote 6, Document 232.
  5. Following adjournment, a committee met at Lancaster House to consider the U.S. draft declaration and made several changes in the document. A summary record of the committee meeting, prepared by the Conference’s International Secretariat, is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 773. At 4:45 p.m., the fourth plenary session convened and the revised document, now entitled a “Resolution for a Cooperative Association of Suez Canal Users”, was circulated to the delegates, who discussed the item paragraph by paragraph. A summary of the fourth session was transmitted to the Department of State in Secto 18 from London, September 20. (Ibid., Central Files, 974.7301/9–2056) The text of the draft resolution as it stood at the close of the fourth session was sent to the Department in Secto 19, September 21. (Ibid., 974.7301/9–2156)