70. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State1

292. Suez Canal. As could foresee no possibility Nasser’s acceptance of proposal contained in circular 90,2 thought it best use Fawzi as buffer to avoid immediate and flat turndown. Saw Fawzi evening August 7

I had carefully worked out oral presentation (see following message)3 containing all essential points tripartite proposal, but presenting its main elements more diplomatically and avoiding appearance of cold or exclusive agenda form transmitted circular 90. I presented this to Fawzi along with explanation that tripartite powers now in process consultations with invited nations in order obtain as wide agreement and understanding as possible before conference began. “In interests accuracy” Fawzi asked for copy. Since GOE would soon receive it from other sources it seemed to me I had no alternative but to provide him with text of proposal as set forth circular 90 as well.

Fawzi asked if I had come to receive Egyptian reply to invitation. I stated this not the case as actual invitation had been extended by British Government; purpose my call was to urge consideration of principles I had outlined. Fawzi said in any case invitation still under consideration. GOE still in process obtaining information and was studying matter most carefully and in consultation with others. He [Page 162] would prefer not discuss proposal because question attendance still not finally determined. GOE however would now look at proposal as another factor in helping them decide one way or the other.

Fawzi said that since I had already heard President’s views he would not repeat them. He stressed Egypt fully realized vital importance this matter and whatever decision would be reached it would be a responsible one resulting from considered thinking. He said every effort would be made to see that Egypt’s objectivity would not be impaired by her natural feelings at being invited to a conference held in atmosphere of pressure and threats, where issue already prejudged, and in respect which they had been treated as “Ceylon” or any other invitee in that they had not been consulted as to date, place, invitees, or anything else.

Fawzi went on to say Egypt was convinced whole approach of three powers, and of UK and France particularly, was “imperialistic, anti-charter, and destructive of peace and security”. He believes Egypt’s stand will not merely belong to its present government and present generation, but will have much deeper significance as it will encompass very fundamental issues concerning imperialism and domination of others. He stated Egypt’s friends in rest of world could feel certain of following two things: (1) Egypt’s full determination cooperate with rest of world on basis freedom, mutual respect, and recognition sovereign rights and (2) Egypt’s full determination defend “up to the last shreds of our land” what Egyptians honestly believe to be their own rights.

If objective West was really to be certain freedom of navigation would be maintained, this could certainly be achieved without atmosphere or processes of proposed London conference. If objectives on other hand were to secure imperialism and domination then he thought atmosphere and proposed processes of London conference were quite logical.

Fawzi spoke at great length about Egypt’s intention give every consideration to needs of users canal so they would not feel insecure or uncertain regarding its future use, or fear being mistreated, delayed or over-charged, as this would first of all hurt Egypt. Egypt determined maintain and obtain best possible employees, Egyptian or foreign, and GOE would devote itself to preserving what was good canal operation and improving it wherever possible. If Egypt allowed carry out its determination this respect, he completely unable find any justification for hostilities or disturbance of any kind. On other hand if Egypt were not allowed carry out this plan he virtually certain great disturbance in area would result. He emphasized this was not threat but was what the picture showed as he saw it.

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In reply my query Fawzi said he thought it would not be helpful at this time forecast timing and nature of Egyptian response to invitation or of counterproposals they might make.

I told Fawzi that in my opinion US is as firmly committed as UK and France to some type of international control and stressed our concern as to possible consequences (without defining them) which might result from negative action by Egypt at this time. Fawzi is meeting with Nasser and colleagues tonight when tripartite proposal undoubtedly will be discussed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–756. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Received at 9:44 p.m. Repeated Niact to London and Paris.
  2. Document 63.
  3. In telegram 293, August 7, Byroade summarized his intended presentation to Fawzi as follows:

    “My government has joined Governments of United Kingdom and France in seeking exchange views, with countries invited August 16 London conference, as to the principles which should govern discussions of the application of an international system to Suez Canal. Objective would be to insure through an international authority the efficient functioning and operation of the canal as free and open international waterway in accordance with principles convention 1888, to insure Egypt an equitable return which will take into account all legitimate Egyptian rights and interests, and to arrange for payment fair compensation to shareholders original Suez Canal Company. With respect to latter two points, we envision settlement disputes which may arise by an arbitral commission.

    “The international authority consisting of a Council of Administration and other necessary technical, working and administrative organs would have competence in questions of finance, works, and the determination of rates and dues.

    “It is present thought of three powers that a resolution embodying above principles might serve as a useful framework for August 16 conference.” (Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–756)

    In telegram 294, August 7, Byroade explained that this summary of the tripartite proposal had been “carefully worked out with British”. (Ibid.)