332. Editorial Note

On May 24, the Chiefs of Mission of 11 Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen), at their request, met with Secretary Dulles at the Department of State to discuss the Algerian question and the questions of Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Aqaba and Israeli use of the Suez Canal. During the meeting, Syrian Ambassador Farid Zeineddine, acting as spokesman for the group, read a statement dealing with these questions. In regard to Israeli transit of the Gulf of Aqaba, the statement argued among other points that the presence of Israeli land and sea forces in the Gulf of Aqaba was in defiance of Security Council resolutions and of the Armistice Agreements of 1949 and that the Gulf of Aqaba was “a narrow closed Gulf covered by Arab territorial waters, and that entrance to it is also Arab territorial water”. For text of the statement, which the Arab Chiefs of Mission subsequently released to the press, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1957, pages 973-979. A copy of the memorandum of conversation by Tyler is in Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversations: Lot 64 D 199. A copy of a briefing memorandum prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs for Dulles prior to the meeting, and which the Secretary saw, is ibid., NEA/NE Files: Lot 59 D 582, Memos to the Secretary thru S/S 1957.

A reply to the Arab démarche was prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs; on June 17 Rountree informed the Secretary’s Staff Meeting that a reply had been completed and that it took “the Israeli side” on the Suez and Aqaba issues and might, therefore, “tend to play into Syrian and Egyptian hands”. (Tentative Notes; ibid., Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75) Two days later Secretary Dulles approved the reply and the procedure under which it would be delivered as a circular memorandum to the Embassies in question with a covering note from Dulles. Prior to delivery, the Department of State was to brief representatives from friendly Arab states on its contents. (Memorandum from Rountree to Dulles, June 19; ibid., NEA/IAI Files: Lot 70 D 229, Political Affairs & Relations 1949-1963, Free Access to the Sea) The reply, which was a restatement of the U.S. position publicly known on the subjects, was delivered to the 11 Embassies on June 27 and released to the press the following day. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1957, pages 985-988. In regard to the Gulf of Aqaba question, the U.S. reply reaffirmed the position expressed in the aide-mémoire of February 11 that the Gulf of Aqaba comprehended international waters and that no nation had the right to prevent free and innocent passage in it or through the straits giving access to it. In the reply, the United States Government also noted the Arab statement with respect [Page 626] to the movement of Israeli warships in the Gulf of Aqaba and observed that the subject raised “complex questions both of fact and law”.