241. Report Prepared in the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State1

Summary No. 13


First Session of London Conference

Lloyd convened the first conference session yesterday morning and was chosen chairman. In declaring that the UK desired a peaceful solution to the dispute, Lloyd noted that the UK had proceeded to date under Article 33 of the UN Charter. It was realized that at some stage the dispute would have to be referred to the Security Council; the time and manner of such a move would be considered at the present conference.

It was agreed, after acceptance of the Menzies report, to combine agenda items 2 and 3: the formation of the users’ association and the preparation of a response to the Egyptian memorandum. The Secretary then gave the US views on the current situation and described the users’ proposal. The meeting adjourned until the afternoon so that representatives might study the Secretary’s statement.

Second Session of London Conference

At the second session the Secretary spoke at length on the present stage of the dispute with particular comment on the relationship of the problem to possible UN action. He did not believe that the Security Council, much less the Assembly, had the authority to compel the conclusion of a new treaty which would redefine the rights of the parties and which would deal in perpetuity with the problem. The conference must first provide a setting which will permit of an actual solution by the UN within the competence of the Security Council. Speaking on the association proposal, he outlined the practical details of the plan and the minimum cooperation which would be necessary on the part of the Egyptian authorities.

Khrishna Menon’s Activities

Embassy Cairo states2 that the primary objective of the Khrishna Menon visit to Cairo is reported to have been to persuade Nasser [Page 541] to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards a Suez solution. At the same time Menon is reported to have expressed Nehru’s view that the real British objective is to “get rid of Nasser”, and to have conveyed Nehru’s concern that the Saudi Arabian Government is in grave danger of a Communist coup if its oil revenues should be denied or substantially reduced.

Nasser’s Talk with Ethiopian Ambassador

Ethiopian Ambassador Gebriehiwat has told Embassy Cairo3 of his conversation yesterday with Nasser. The Egyptian Premier urged the defection of Ethiopia, among others, from the users’ association plan so that the US might be persuaded to drop it. Gebriehiwat pointed out that small nations in the Red Sea area were completely at Egypt’s mercy and felt uncomfortable. He also told Nasser that Ethiopia had not accepted Egypt’s invitation to form a negotiating body because the invitation was not clear. The meeting would serve no purpose if it was to consist of the principal users of the canal for the views of this group were already known. If, on the other hand, it was intended to bring in countries who were not important users so that those who were might be outvoted, its purpose would not attract Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Ambassador asked Nasser what he intended to do if users’ association ships arrived in convoy for canal transit. Nasser replied that he would not shoot at them but would simply move another convoy into the canal. If blockage then occurred it would be the fault of the users’ association which would be in the position of having acted without clearance with the Egyptian Canal authority.

Reply to Saud’s Proposals

We have asked Wadsworth4 to tell Saud that in our opinion his most constructive role would be to use his influence to persuade Egypt to negotiate realistically. We believe the 18-nation proposals provide the best basis for such negotiation and that a conference such as King Saud may have in mind would achieve no useful purpose in view of Nasser’s inflexible attitude. We have also authorized Hare5 to express to Yusuf Yassin, now in Cairo, our hope that Saud’s influence may be used to bring about some Egyptian action to restore confidence in Nasser’s government.

[Page 542]

(Summary closed 12:15 p.m., September 20, 1956)

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File. Top Secret; Eyes Only for Designated Recipient. A marginal notation by Goodpaster on the source text reads: “President informed of substance 20 Sept 56. G”.
  2. Reported in telegram 808 from Cairo, September 19, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–1956)
  3. Reported in telegram 815 from Cairo, September 19, not printed. (Ibid.) The Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt was Balambaras Guebre–Hiot.
  4. Presumably reference is to telegram 195 to Jidda, September 18, not printed, in which the Department transmitted President Eisenhower’s response to a recent message from Saud regarding the Suez situation. (Ibid., 974.7301/9–1656)
  5. In telegram 836 from Cairo, September 19, not printed. (Ibid., 974.7301/9–1856)