88. Telegram From the Delegation at the Suez Canal Conference to the Department of State1

Secto 10. First session opened 11:10 am, Wednesday, August 16, with Eden greeting. UK Foreign Secretary Lloyd then took chair and Sweden proposed him as chairman. Iran seconded proposal. Soviet Union said it had “no basis for formal objection” to proposal but if for any reason UK reluctant, suggested India would seem appropriate choice. India supported nomination Lloyd and Pakistan also extended support.

Lloyd as chairman then suggested Conference not approve formal set rules procedure, but abide by procedures governing sessions main UN committees, in which the chairman’s rulings subject challenge and vote.2 Secretary observed that under UN procedures chairman’s ruling stands unless overruled by majority.

India expressed general agreement but made clear could not agree accept majority vote substantive issues and that chair’s decisions must apply exclusively to procedural and not substantive [Page 214]issues. Following question by UK whether this meant that Conference could not come to any decision, Soviet Union developed lengthy propaganda.

Criticisms irregularity and arbitrary character Conference and process selection membership, concluding with professed intention be helpful find approach peaceful settlement problem. Said Conference should reach agreed opinion on question holding another international Conference, or some other agreed process for solution Suez problem. Lloyd rejected Soviet criticisms in tone moderation. Indonesia expressed support Indian position. France then reviewed and defended circumstances summoning Conference and explicitly justified presence Federal Government Germany. Said object Conference not condemn Egypt or undertake military measures against any country. Asked India consider agreeing vote on any substantive issue which might seem appropriate to purpose Conference.

Italy supported Indian position regarding voting and said Conference should choose means of approach to peaceful solution problem. Ceylon also supported Indian position and said that Conference should not begin work on basis of decision that vote would have to be taken, asking what purpose holding vote if outcome not to be binding.

Chairman agreed no one would be bound by majority vote and suggested Conference proceed with its work and “See how things go”.

India reiterated position and opposition to voting in absence Egypt. Soviet Union did same and said purpose Conference work toward creation united opinion. Chairman said he had submitted no proposal to Conference but only wanted to get rid procedural matters and pass on to substance, and then asked whether Conference needed agenda at all. India suggested no agenda and this view was supported Secretary Dulles. Conference agreed adjourn and meet again 1500 hours Thursday, and Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions only from 2:45 to 4:45 and from 5:15 to 7:15 pm.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/8–1656. Secret. Drafted by Tyler. Received at 5:40 p.m.
  2. That same day, the Embassy in London informed the Department in Secto 12 that: “As a result of the negative attitude of the delegations, especially the Scandinavians, Lloyd called the Secretary before the 11:00 o’clock first plenary session this morning to say that they had decided not to press for the adoption of the draft rules of procedure (Secto 5). Instead, they proposed merely to operate on the general basis of ruling by the chairman guided by the practice in the United Nations committees. This was the position stated by Lloyd at the 11:00 o’clock first plenary session and adopted after a limited discussion.” (Ibid., 974.7301/8–1656) Secto 5 is printed as Document 84.