590. Telegram From the Mission at the United Nations to the Department of State1

Delga 127. For Hoover from Lodge. Re Palestine—Suez. In discussion Phleger and I had with SYG Hammarskjold this a.m. on his return from Egypt, Hammarskjold made following points:2


Report to GA3 would include series aide-mémoires which he had developed with Fawzi in course of talks in which Hammarskjold, Nasser, Fawzi, and Ali Sabry participated. One of these discussions with Nasser lasted 7 hours. SYG said that at three different times he threatened to walk out and take UN troops out of Egypt.

First aide-mémoire represented an agreement on basis for arrival and duration of stay of UNEF. SYG said he felt he could agree on this, since it was based on resolutions GA had already passed. As to other questions, he felt would have to put his aide-mémoires before GA for acceptance. He intended circulate aide-mémoires tomorrow, Tuesday, after giving Fawzi opportunity see their final form.

Aide-mémoire on basis for arrival of UNEF would relate to question duration of stay and consent of Egypt. Background of this was that Nasser took position if UNEF were now or at any time regarded as an enforcement measure against Egypt, Egypt would have to ask it to leave. SYG did not regard UNEF as an enforcement measure as far as Egypt concerned and in this connection accepted thesis that Egypt’s consent to forces’ presence in Egypt required, and hence Egypt’s consent to continuance forces in Egypt required. UK and France on the other hand did regard UNEF as enforcement measure against Egypt. It was in light this that questions of duration and functions had to be viewed as well as question Canadian participation. Hammarskjold said Egyptians regarded UK as their principal adversary and spoke little about French. They felt British were consolidating position Port Said and had only one motive, which was to get upper hand with respect Canal. Thus Nasser felt that if Egypt were to take Canadian troops now, this would distort [Page 1155] Egyptian popular view of UNEF which at moment regarded UNEF as helpful to Egypt. Canadian troops coming in, according to Nasser, would appear to Egyptian public as according with British view UNEF as enforcement measure against Egypt, and Egyptian attitude toward UNEF would go wrong from beginning. Hammarskjold said participation Canadian troops still open and in his opinion they could be used later along armistice lines, but not in Canal Zone. Nasser took position UNEF would have no function Port Said after withdrawal non-Egyptian forces.

It had been agreed Egyptians should request UN assistance in clearing Canal, and SYG’s understanding with Egyptians was that UN would clear Canal “in cooperation with Egypt”. He felt this logically followed from fact UNEF was in Egypt with Egypt’s consent. He did not believe UNEF could, therefore, undertake clearance of Canal on its own as an enforcement measure, as British contended, any more than that UK and France could stay for that purpose. (The UK and French in their own public statements had said they had intervened to separate the opposing forces of Egypt and Israel.) Hammarskjold pointed out he had stated this to Pearson (Canada) who had said that it was a fair position. SYG believed his position would be supported overwhelmingly by GA and by countries contributing forces. SYG said UK had in mind obtaining settlement on Suez Canal better than the one they had in hand when military action began. He believed this was unrealistic and impossible achieve, and certainly that UNEF could not be used this purpose.

Hammarskjold said would circulate aide-mémoire (to be approved by GA) on clearing Canal.4 In aide-memoire he would take position that clearance work could begin immediately upon withdrawal non-Egyptian forces. Formula would be that Egyptians requested UN to undertake clearance. Hammarskjold said he expected Danish and Dutch clearance teams would explore possibility obtaining assistance from sub-contractors which might include British experts and equipment. (On this point Fawzi said would not ask Egyptian intelligence to find out where Danes and Dutch got their assistance.) Hammarskjold said he had taken position with Fawzi that as clearance teams begin work, they would be bound to ask for protection, and he would request Egypt agree to have UNEF police clearance action. This would, in his opinion, be accepted by Egypt and would keep UNEF in Canal Zone on that basis.
Hammarskjold said that he had asked Egyptians if they still accepted SYG’s formula as a basis for negotiations for settlement Canal question. The Egyptians had said they stood by that undertaking. Their only reservation was on automatic sanctions. Hammarskjold said that while Fawzi was willing to have negotiations on this basis, he was very touchy on timing. Hammarskjold said Nasser had said he could not allow Fawzi to sit down with Pineau, who he believed had tricked them before. SYG said he believed time to press for negotiations was when it was clear UK and French willing negotiate on basis other than London proposals. He regarded it as too late to talk about internationalization. Hammarskjold felt we should lie low for time being on our Suez resolution. He seemed somewhat reluctant but nevertheless willing to take on role of negotiating Suez settlement. He regarded the advisory committee on UNEF to be sufficiently broad in its terms reference to function as advisory committee for a Suez settlement, and in his report to GA would link advisory committee to question of negotiations. Hammarskjold said, however, it was impossible to discuss now with Egypt their attitude on Israeli shipping when Israel had not agreed to leave Gaza or the islands in Gulf of Aqaba.
Hammarskjold said that by middle of week a fortnight would have passed since passage of resolution calling for withdrawal forces, and he would have to report to GA on compliance. He proposed, therefore, to ask three parties today:
whether they had withdrawn,
what their plans were for withdrawal, and
what their reasons were for not having withdrawn. A report on their answers would be made to GA in an aide-mémoire Wednesday.
On both Suez and Palestine resolutions, Hammarskjold felt we should be extremely careful as to timing and advised that we discuss both resolutions at length with Fawzi which I intend to do unless Department objects. In this connection, Hammarskjold said he had told Nasser that Egyptians should repeat their action of 1948 and themselves sit down with Israel and not wait for other Arabs. He said had pointed out to Nasser that Egypt was stronger politically and morally than had been though weaker militarily, and that this provided opportunities for Egypt to sit down with Israelis. Hammarskjold said he said this several times to Nasser who at no time said no.
Hammarskjold said he did not see any “evidence” Soviet activity in Cairo. He said Nasser had referred to fact that he had told the US he had not asked for “volunteers” and that this was true. Nasser had gone on to say, however, that for 10 days he had [Page 1157] been in a very difficult position. If UN did not act, he knew he could get assistance, but if he asked for such assistance, he knew also that he would be letting, as Hammarskjold put it, “all hell break loose”. Once UN was acting, he had something to rely on. He appreciated quick, energetic action by UNGA.
In summing up, Hammarskjold said he was not optimistic, rather the contrary. We were now facing new risks that British and French would not get out of Port Said, and everything centered around situation there. He said Nasser had requested that UN forces proceed Port Said even if British and French had not yet left because he recognized that with UN forces there, British and French could not undertake new action. Hammarskjold considered stationing UNEF forces Port Said and British and French withdrawal key to situation. Everything else followed from that.

Hammarskjold thinking in terms of GA consideration his various reports by end this week, and is hopeful that progress will be made on Port Said situation before then. Without British and French withdrawal from Port Said, he fears rioting, beginning in Port Said and spreading, which would provide UK with excuse for further intervention. It is at this point he fears Soviet intervention through Syria and Jordan. He also recognizes possibility Israeli action against Jordan and Syria and consequential Soviet intervention.

Recommended action: (1) that we coordinate action on our two resolutions with SYG and do not press either unless we are definitely sure of 2/3 vote;

(2) That I be authorized to see Fawzi and get his views because obviously he is key figure in our ability get 2/3 vote.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–1956. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution. Received at 7:20 p.m.
  2. An unsigned memorandum, dated November 19, which lists the points made by Hammarskjöld during this conversation is ibid., 320/11–1956. The memorandum indicates that the conversation took place at 9 a.m. in Hammarskjöld’s office in New York and that Cordier and Barco were also present.
  3. Hammarskjöld’s report, entitled “Report of the Secretary-General on basic points for the presence and functioning in Egypt of the United Nations Emergency Force”, was circulated to members of the General Assembly on November 20. (U.N. doc. A/3375)
  4. On November 20, Hammarskjöld circulated to members of the General Assembly a “Report of the Secretary-General on the clearing of the Suez Canal.” (U.N. doc. A/3376)