254. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 22, 19561


  • Reference of the Suez Dispute to the UN Security Council


  • Mr. John Coulson, Minister, British Embassy
  • Miss Barbara Salt, Counselor, British Embassy
  • William M. Rountree, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Fraser Wilkins, Director, NE

Mr. Coulson called this morning to say that the British wish to refer the Suez dispute to the Security Council today. He said that he had received instructions to speak with the Secretary on this subject but that, since the Secretary had not yet returned from London, he thought Mr. Rountree would wish to have the substance of these discussions as promptly as possible.

Following the Secretary’s departure from London and after analyzing the whole situation relating to the question of the Suez Canal, the British had concluded, according to Mr. Coulson, that immediate action should be taken in the Security Council to place the Suez Canal question on the agenda of the Security Council. There were several important reasons for this conclusion:

There were indications, which the British believe were known to the United States also, that the Russians contemplated a similar move. The British believe that they could not accept the diplomatic defeat which would result from prior reference of the Suez question to the Security Council by the Russians.
The French were openly disturbed regarding the results of the recent London conference.
The British believe it important at this time to dispel the atmosphere of indecisiveness regarding reference of the Suez Canal [Page 561] question to the Security Council which had grown out of results of discussions during the recently concluded London meeting.

The British, therefore, propose that the President of the Security Council be asked to call a meeting for next Wednesday, September 26, for two purposes:

to place on the agenda an item regarding the question of the Suez Canal worded as follows: “situation created by the unilateral action of the Egyptian Government in bringing to an end the system of international operation of the Suez Canal which was confirmed and completed by the Suez Canal Convention of 1888” (Tab A);2
to arrange for a second meeting of the Security Council for October 2 which Egypt would be invited to attend.

Mr. Coulson added that the British thought that reference of the Suez Canal question to the Security Council would improve the prospects that countries like Sweden who wished reference of the matter to the United Nations would eventually participate in the Suez Canal users association.

Mr. Coulson said that the British Foreign Office planned to issue a statement regarding reference to the Security Council at 10 p.m. London time September 22 (5 p.m. Washington time).

Mr. Coulson said that a similar approach was being made to the French Government except that no reference was being made to possible Russian action because the British did not believe that the French were aware of this possibility.

Mr. Coulson said the French were being asked to associate themselves with the British approach to the Security Council, and it was hoped the Secretary would agree that the United States would also associate itself with this approach.

Mr. Coulson said that, immediately upon receipt of his instructions, he had telegraphed London that the Secretary was not likely to arrive in Washington much before 4 p.m. September 22 and that it might be physically impossible to obtain the Secretary’s views prior to the presently scheduled release of the proposed British statement. Mr. Coulson had not as yet had a reply to this message.

Mr. Coulson also added that he had told the British Delegation to the United Nations in New York to prepare a letter addressed to the Security Council for delivery today. Meanwhile, the British Delegation should concert with its U.S. and French colleagues. They would thus be informed of the proposed British action.

Mr. Coulson said he himself planned to call at the French Embassy upon leaving the Department.

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Mr. Rountree said that he planned to be at the airport when the Secretary arrived at 3:08 p.m. September 22 and possibly there or immediately thereafter the Secretary could be consulted. Mr. Coulson said that he too would be at the airport and perhaps the Secretary’s view could be ascertained.

Mr. Coulson subsequently telephoned Mr. Rountree to say that a further message had been received from London indicating that the French agreed with the British proposal and would go along with it. Mr. Rountree said that the Secretary would not arrive before 3 or 3:30, and it would be most unfortunate if the British and French made an announcement before there was an opportunity to consult with the Secretary. Mr. Coulson said he agreed and that he had already sent a message to this effect to London but would send another one asking London to delay an announcement until there had been an opportunity to consult with the Secretary.

Mr. Rountree raised the question of British Meteors for Israel which will be the subject of a separate memorandum.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/9–2256. Secret. Drafted by Wilkins.
  2. Not printed; Tab A is the text of the letter to the President of the Security Council. The Representatives of the British and French Governments sent the letter with a few stylistic changes on September 23. (U.N. doc. S/3654)
  3. Not printed. Rountree told Coulson that, in view of the forthcoming Canadian announcement concerning jets for Israel, he wondered whether it were wise for the United Kingdom to supply Israel with the planes at that time. Not only did a tense situation exist, but there were rumors that the United Kingdom and France were urging the Israelis to move against Jordan. Coulson stated his agreement that it would be unwise for the British to pursue the matter at that time and said that he would look into it. (Department of State, Central Files, 784A.56/9–2256)