32. Editorial Note

The fourth tripartite meeting convened at 6 p.m. (London time) July 30, and discussed a revised draft communiqué prepared prior to the meeting. Murphy informed the other representatives that he had not yet received Departmental instructions regarding the communiqué and, therefore, was not in a position to give United States approval to the document. Britain and France reluctantly agreed to postpone publication of the communiqué. After discussions, in which Murphy participated, the draft communiqué was again revised. The new version retained most of the provisions of the initial draft except that: (1) the reference to a fair financial return was deleted from the clause asserting that Egypt’s legitimate interests would be protected; (2) all reference to a forthcoming conference was deleted; and (3) a new paragraph strongly condemning the particulars of the Egyptian action was added. The text, entitled “First Redraft of Communiqué”, reads:

  • “(I) The Governments of France, the United Kingdom and the United States regard the Suez Canal as an international waterway of vital importance which is an essential factor in the whole world economy, and consider that it should continue to be operated in accordance with the principles laid down in the Convention of October 29, 1888.
  • “(II) The three Governments note with grave concern that the Egyptian Government in proclaiming that they were acting in a spirit of retaliation, have given a political character to their action of July 26, 1956, and have, by that action, arbitrarily and unilaterally, purported to abolish a system which afforded all the guarantees necessary to ensure the respect of the principles. They deplore the fact that the Egyptian Government have had recourse to what amounts to a denial of fundamental human rights by compelling foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company to continue work under threat of imprisonment.
  • “(III) In order that all countries concerned may have confidence that the principles embodied in the Convention of 1888 will be respected, it is necessary to establish operating arrangements under [Page 59]international control, guaranteeing free navigation and open use of the Suez Canal and continuity of efficient administration.
  • “(IV) Such arrangements should preferably be associated with the United Nations.
  • “(V) The legitimate interests of Egypt would be fully respected.”

At this meeting, the delegates also continued their discussion of the Canal dues question and the criteria for selecting conference participants. Accounts of this meeting are in British Foreign Office, “Record of a Meeting Held in the Council Chamber, Foreign Office, at 6 p.m. on July 30, 1956,” and “London Tripartite Conversations,” pages 32–43. (Both in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 724)

Telegram 593 to London, July 30, written in response to Murphy’s report on the third tripartite meeting that morning, arrived in London too late to provide guidance for the 6 p.m. meeting. In telegram 593 the Department forwarded its own version of a draft communiqué for Murphy’s guidance. It reads as follows:

  • “(1) The Governments of France, the United Kingdom and the United States regard the Suez Canal as an international waterway of vital importance and an essential factor in the whole world economy and consider that it should continue to be operated in accordance with the Convention of October 29, 1888.
  • “(2) They consider that the action taken by the Government of Egypt to nationalize the Universal Suez Canal Company threatens the use of the Canal as contemplated by the Convention and that it is necessary that steps be taken to assure that the signatories of the Convention and all of the other powers entitled to enjoy the benefits of the Convention shall in fact secure such benefits.
  • “(3) Accordingly, they propose that a conference should be held of the signatories of the Convention and of the principal users of the Canal to consider what steps should be taken to assure the continued operation of the Canal in accordance with the Convention of October 29, 1888. Such arrangements would in any event respect the legitimate interests of Egypt, including a fair financial return from the operation of the Canal.

    “The invitation to the conference will be made by governments signatory thereto and the United States of America has indicated that it is prepared to take part in such a conference.”

Telegram 593 also informed Murphy that, in regard to evacuation, the Embassy in Cairo had advised against taking special precautionary measures at that time, as it would tend to exaggerate tensions. (Ibid., Central Files, 974.7301/7–3056)

In response to telegram 593, Murphy forwarded to the Department the text of the “First Redraft of Communiqué”, developed at the 6 p.m. meeting, with the comment that it represented “whittling down of more aggressive draft by UK and France” and that Murphy had agreed to recommend its approval to the Department. Murphy [Page 60]noted that the Department’s proposed revisions, contained in telegram 593, would require the deletion of the reference to operating arrangements “under international control” in paragraph 3 of the revised draft communiqué and that both Lloyd and Pineau had stressed that they considered this provision to be the key feature. Murphy, however, believed that the Department’s other proposed revisions would be acceptable to the British and French. (Telegram 547 from London, July 30; ibid., 396.1–LO/7–3056) This telegram was sent from London at 11 p.m., July 30, and received in the Department at 8:16 p.m., July 30.

Later that evening Murphy reported to the Department on the major developments at the 6 p.m. meeting. The delegates had agreed that the Western powers should not submit the matter to the United Nations at this stage; but the British and French still held firmly to their position that attendance at the conference should be based on membership in the International Chamber of Shipping. When Murphy persisted in his earlier position on attendance, Lloyd suggested that the United Kingdom alone might issue the invitations to the conference, thereby relieving the United States of responsibility for choosing participants. Lloyd also suggested that the conference be held between August 7 and 9 and he urged that a quick consensus be reached on how Canal dues would be paid. The British Prime Minister then raised the possibility that the three nations might make a public statement affirming that its ships were paying dues to Egypt only under protest. (Telegram 551 from London, July 30, and telegram 549 from London, July 30; both ibid., 396.1–LO/7–3156)