438. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Egyptian Ambassador (Hussein) and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree), Department of State, Washington, October 30, 19561
- Near Eastern Developments
Mr. Rountree said that he had asked the Egyptian Ambassador to come in because he thought it would be useful to continue their previous discussions during which he could explain developments as we saw them.
Mr. Rountree noted we had gone ahead in the Security Council and introduced an item on the Israeli invasion of Egypt. It called upon Israel to withdraw from Egypt. The British and French had already spoken in the Security Council and suggested that the adoption of a resolution be postponed. Ambassador Lodge had made clear that the United States was opposed to postponement; meanwhile, the debate was continuing.
Mr. Rountree said that he was sure he need not tell the Egyptian Ambassador how surprised we were to learn of the British and French requests to Israel and to Egypt. He emphasized the fact that we had only learned of these requests from press reports and that we as yet had no direct confirmation of them. Ambassador Hussein was visibly impressed by Mr. Rountree’s statement.
Mr. Rountree continued that the President on learning of the issuance of the requests had addressed personal messages to Prime Minister Eden and Premier Mollet in which he requested both countries not to take the action contemplated. The President had authorized a press statement stating that these messages had been sent.
Mr. Rountree said he had spoken with Ambassador Hare in Cairo by telephone. Ambassador Hare told him he had just seen President Nasser who said he had declined the request of the British and French in their ultimatums.2[Page 878]
Ambassador Hussein said he understood that Prime Minister Eden had announced that even if Egypt accepted the British and French ultimatums and fighting stopped, the British planned to send token forces into Egypt. Mr. Rountree indicated we also had this report which in conjunction with other developments had caused us great concern.
Mr. Rountree said he had also spoken with Ambassador Hare about the evacuation of American citizens from Egypt. Although the Cairo Airport had been closed, we understood that it would be reopened at our request and that the Government of Egypt was prepared otherwise to cooperate in evacuating American citizens. On the basis of present information, however, the Ambassador doubted whether it was practical for planes to proceed to Cairo or for American citizens to move overland to Alexandria. Anything which the Government of Egypt could do to assist in evacuating American citizens would be deeply appreciated. In making this statement we did not wish in any way to imply that Egyptian cooperation had been lacking. Ambassador Hussein indicated he would do what he could.
Ambassador Hussein inquired what now would develop regarding the general situation. What steps did the United States plan to take? Mr. Rountree said that two developments were pending: 1) the United States’ appeal to the Security Council on which we were unable to predict the result and 2) an appeal to the British and the French, to which there had as yet been no response. Ambassador Hussein commented that the Israelis were already marching towards Suez. As far as the British and the French were concerned, he did not understand their ultimatums. The Israelis, for example, were not yet within 10 miles of the Suez Canal; consequently, how could they withdraw to a point 10 miles from the Suez Canal? Ambassador Hussein thought the outlook very dark and believed that the Israelis, the British and the French had hatched a devious plot.
Mr. Rountree continued that two problems seemed to confront all of us: 1) The Israeli invasion of Egypt and 2) the question of the Suez Canal. Ambassador Lodge in addressing the Security Council had clearly separated these two problems. Regarding the Israeli invasion of Egypt, United States policy had the objective of obtaining Israeli withdrawal as quickly as possible as evidenced by steps the United States had taken in the Security Council. Regarding the question of the Suez Canal, the United States, realizing there were deep feelings among all of the parties, believed that there should be a solution which would be acceptable to all concerned regarding this matter which was now before the United Nations.
Ambassador Hussein pressed for information as to further United States steps on the Israeli invasion of Egypt. Mr. Rountree [Page 879] assured him that consideration was being given to this matter at the very highest level. We looked upon it as a very serious situation, but he was not in a position to say what new steps might be initiated until the results of action already taken were known. Ambassador Hussein hoped that these actions would be helpful. He thought the situation one in which none could win and all would lose.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/10–3056. Confidential. Drafted by Wilkins between November 1 and 5.↩
According to Hare’s report, Nasser said that Egypt would defend its soil against aggression from any source. A memorandum of the Hare–Rountree conversation by Rountree is ibid., NEA Files: Lot 58 D 545, Egypt.
Late that evening in Cairo, the Egyptian Government broadcast Nasser’s rejection of the Anglo-French ultimatum; a short time later in Israel, Foreign Minister Meir announced Israel’s acceptance.↩