63. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions 1

90. US–UK–France have agreed that principles set forth below would be good framework for discussions at August 16 London conference on Suez Canal. In order to facilitate work of conference it was also agreed seek, prior to conference, as wide agreement as possible among participating nations as to basis upon which deliberations would rest.2 Three countries each agreed assume primary responsibility for approaches to nations specified below. Each will say acting with support of other two:

  • France: West Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Ethiopia.
  • UK: Australia, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal.
  • US: Iran, Japan, Greece, Spain, Turkey.

As matter of high priority and major importance missions in countries designated as US responsibility are requested make approaches on August 6 and to endeavor to obtain agreement or acquiescence of Governments concerned that below principles shall serve as basis from which conference will approach Suez problem. You should also make use of Secretary’s radio speech of August 33 (see USIA wireless file August 3) and as case may be of messages from Secretary to certain heads of government or Foreign Ministers. You should underline thought behind sentence in Secretary’s letter which read: “I cannot overestimate the importance of this Conference or the dangerous consequences which might follow if there were a breakdown of peaceful processes in dealing with the future of the Canal operation.”4

Missions in countries designated as UK or French responsibility should support representations made by UK and French officials.

US missions should approach Indonesia and Egypt. US should consult with UK and France and make consecutive approach to [Page 145] USSR starting with UK approach as host. Action in Indonesia, Egypt and USSR should be taken on August 7.

“Proposal for the Establishment of an International Authority for the Suez Canal.5

France, the UK and the US are in agreement that at the Conference a resolution shall be tabled for setting up an International Authority for the Suez Canal on the following lines:
The purposes and functions of this International Authority would be:
to take over the operation of the Canal;
to ensure its efficient functioning as a free, open and secure international waterway in accordance with the principles of the Suez Canal Convention of 1888;
to arrange for the payment of fair compensation to the Suez Canal Company;

to ensure to Egypt an equitable return which will take into account all legitimate Egyptian rights and interests.

Failing agreement with the Company or with Egypt on either of the last two points, the matter would be referred to an Arbitral Commission of three members to be appointed by the International Court of Justice.

The constituent organs of the International Authority would be:
A Council of Administration the members of which would be nominated by the powers chiefly interested in navigation and sea-borne trade through the Canal,
the necessary technical, working and administrative organs.
The powers of the International Authority would, in particular, include:
the carrying out of all necessary works;
the determination of the tolls, dues and other charges on a just and equitable basis;
all questions of finance;
general powers of administration and control.”6

Repeat reactions to Embassy London.

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FYI We found in London that the situation was far more critical and danger of hostilities more immediate than had been believed. Solution here offered is only one safeguarding peace and therefore in interest of Government to which you are accredited.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–556. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Rockwell and Wilkins; cleared with Dulles in substance and with Murphy; and approved by Wilkins. Rountree signed for Dulles. Sent to Ankara, Addis Ababa, Athens, Bonn, Cairo, Canberra, Colombo, Copenhagen, Djakarta, Karachi, Lisbon, Madrid, Moscow, New Delhi, Oslo, Rome, Stockholm, Tehran, The Hague, Tokyo, Wellington, London, and Paris.
  2. Documentation on the discussions preceding this agreement is ibid., 974.7301.
  3. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 13, 1956, p. 259.
  4. This sentence was included in a message, sent over Dulles’ signature, to the heads of government or foreign ministers of various countries invited to the first Suez Conference. The messages were transmitted telegraphically between August 3 and 5. Copies are in Department of State, Central Files 396.1–LO and 974.7301.
  5. Regarding earlier drafts of this document, see footnote 5, Document 51.
  6. The Department of State also forwarded the text of these principles for background information and “for use in stimulating public expressions of support for Conference on these grounds” to the following diplomatic missions: Amman, Baghdad, Bangkok, Beirut, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Damascus, Jidda, Lima, Manila, Mexico City, Ottawa, Panama, Pretoria, Rabat, Rangoon, Rio de Janeiro, Saigon, Santiago, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis, Khartoum, and Taipei; and by pouch to: Guatemala, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, San José, Managua, Habana, Port-au-Prince, Ciudad Trujillo, Quito, Bogota, Asuncion, Montevideo, and La Paz. (Circular telegram 111, August 9; Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–956)
  7. On August 6, Byroade cautioned the Department against presenting the Egyptian Government with a verbatim account of the principles as it would result in “flat rejection” by the Egyptian Government. Byroade proposed instead that reference to the principles be made only in very general terms. (Telegram 265 from Cairo; ibid., 974.7301/8–656) Dulles approved this proposal in telegram 287 to Cairo, August 6. (Ibid.)