236. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Egypt 1

3120. For Ambassador from the Secretary. I am sending herein a personal message to Nasser which it seems to me might usefully be communicated to Nasser in connection with Hammarskjold’s visit. You are requested show text to Hammarskjold upon latter’s arrival and discuss with him question whether it should be delivered. If you both agree that it should, you may hand it to Nasser without further instructions.

Effectiveness of letter might be diluted if Nasser, having impression we intended publish it, responded with public reaction primarily in mind. Believe, therefore, you should make it clear to Nasser that I regard this as a private communication and have no plans for its publication. (FYI we cannot of course guarantee that text will not eventually become public.)

Verbatim Text.

My Dear President Nasser: I venture to communicate with you directly to portray the spirit in which the United States Government approaches the present acute problems with which the United Nations is now dealing.

President Eisenhower and I have consistently sought to assure that the friendship of the United States would be impartially displayed to all of the nations of the Middle East. I explained that to you and others when I was in Egypt four years ago. We have persistently adhered to that policy. Although the relations between your government and ours have not always been what we would have desired, or perhaps what you would have desired, this has not led us to alter our basic attitude as above described.

When you acted to “nationalize” the Universal Suez Canal Company, we did not approve of this action, but we did exert all our influence to prevent a forcible reaction to it on the part of nations who felt particularly aggrieved and endangered thereby.

When, despite our intensive efforts for peace during the preceding three months, Israel and then France and Britain forcibly intervened in Egypt, we stood by the United Nations principle that international disputes should be settled by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law. We did so even though this insistence on peaceful methods involved a sharp break with the [Page 446] policies of nations with which our people have historic ties of friendship and many close ties of race, religion, and culture. Rarely, if ever, has a government’s adherence to principle been so strikingly manifested.

The forces of Britain and France promptly withdrew from Egypt, and the forces of Israel have now wholly withdrawn behind the Armistice lines. In this connection, the United States gave no private assurances or undertakings of any kind. Our position has been fully set forth in public documents.

The withdrawals by Israel, France and the United Kingdom were, however, accomplished with such hopes and expectations as I voiced on November 1 at the United Nations General Assembly in supporting the United States’ ceasefire and withdrawal resolution. I then said “All of us, I think, would hope that out of this tragedy there should come something better than merely a restoration of the conditions out of which this tragedy came about …2 there needs to be something better than the uneasy armistices which have existed now for these eight years between Israel and its Arab neighbors; there needs to be a greater sense of confidence and security in the free and equal operation of the Canal than has existed since three months ago when President Nasser seized the Suez Canal Company.” Such hopes were encouraged by the recent Reports of the Secretary General, describing a role for the United Nations in the Gaza Strip and expressing the view that claimed belligerent rights should not be exercised in relation to the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba. The Secretary General has also concerned himself with the Suez Canal problem, as to which the Security Council had acted last October, with concurrent progress in negotiations to apply the principles prescribed by that Council and accepted by Egypt.

I have today spoken to the Secretary General on the telephone as he departs for Cairo for talks with you.3 I greatly hope that these talks will permit of advance along the lines to which I refer and the establishment of “security and tranquillity”. I recall that this phrase was used in the important Four Power Memorandum which was brought to us by King Saud on behalf of himself and the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Certain recent utterances from Cairo have given rise to widespread concern that it was the purpose of your Government, now that the withdrawal of Britain, France and Israel has been finally accomplished, to return merely to the uneasy conditions which preceded the attack; that your Government intended to exercise claimed rights of belligerency and to avoid the kind of a settlement of the Suez Canal [Page 447] controversy which had been regarded as reasonable and as was forecast by the negotiations which preceded the events of October–November of last year. This concern is heightened by your government’s memorandum on Suez Canal tolls, which I have just received. As a result there is occurring in much of the world, including the United States, a large shift of popular sympathy away from Egypt and an undermining of confidence in the United Nations principles espoused by President Eisenhower and myself when we opposed policies of violence against Egypt. There is renewed danger of an outbreak of hostilities.

I greatly hope that you will find it possible so to act as to evidence a willingness on your part to contribute to security and tranquillity. Such action need involve no derogation of Egyptian sovereignty, but only the exercise of that sovereignty in conformity with the high principles of the United Nations Charter. I feel confident that by so doing you will have contributed to the welfare and prestige of the Egyptian nation, and the Arab world, as well as the great cause of international peace with justice to which both of our nations are dedicated through our membership in the United Nations.

Sincerely yours, John Foster Dulles. End Verbatim Text. 4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–2057. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Rountree and approved by Dulles.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.
  3. See Document 234.
  4. In telegram 2981 from Cairo, March 21, Hare reported that Hammarskjöld said, after being advised of the proposed message to Nasser, that he appreciated the offer of such stalwart support but would suggest that the United States postpone delivery of the message. Hammarskjöld explained that he had covered almost identical ground with Fawzi that morning and in even stronger language and that under this circumstance, delivery of the message at this point would probably not reinforce and could even weaken what he had said. Also, Hammarskjöld noted that there was always the risk of creating a reaction to what might appear to be pressure and collusion. Bunche seconded Hammarskjöld’s decision to defer the decision to deliver the message. (Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–2157)