347. Editorial Note

On June 25, Saudi Ambassador Al-Khayyal delivered to the Department of State a note protesting a statement issued by the Department of State on June 5 (for text, see Department of State Bulletin, July 15, 1957, pages 112–113), which had, among other points, expressed the U.S. position that the Gulf of Aqaba comprehended international waters and that no nation had the right to prevent free and innocent passage in the Gulf and through the Straits giving access to the Gulf. At the same time, Al-Khayyal also delivered a message from King Saud to President Eisenhower which informed Eisenhower of the Saudi protest and requested the President to intervene personally in the matter so as to set the United States position in consonance with the principles of justice and equity and in cognizance of Saudi legitimate rights. The Saudi documents are attached to a memorandum from Rountree to Dulles, dated June 26, which informed the Secretary of their delivery and which noted that copies had been forwarded to General Goodpaster at the White House. (Department of State, Central Files, 980.74/6–1257) The Department of State copy of the transmittal note from Greene to Goodpaster, however, indicates that the documents were forwarded to the White House on June 27. (Ibid., 980.74/6–2557)

On June 27, presumably after receipt of the two documents, Eisenhower sent the following note to Secretary Dulles:

“I am truly getting a bit uneasy about the increasing stiffness of King Saud’s attitude with respect to the Gulf of Aqaba. It begins to look as if it would be easier to get unlimited use of the Canal for Israeli shipping than to make good on our efforts to have the Gulf of Aqaba considered as an international waterway.

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“The seriousness of the matter in my mind arises from the fact that he seems to have been making so much progress to lead most of the Arab world toward the Western camp.

“I think we better do some very hard thinking on this matter.”(The note is in the Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Memoranda. It bears the marginal inscription by Macomber: “Sec ack by telephone.” The memorandum of telephone conversation is printed infra.)

Ambassador Al-Khayyal first expressed his concern to Rountree about the U.S. statement on June 24 after reading a newspaper report concerning it. (Memorandum of conversation by Newsom, June 24; Department of State, Central Files, 980.74/6–2457) Later on June 24, the Department of State sent to Middle Eastern posts guidance indicating that the statement in no way represented a change in U.S. policy but was merely a routine restatement of the well-known position expressed in the February 11 Aide-Mémoire. (Circular telegram 994, June 24; ibid.) Rountree discussed the statement and the Aqaba question once again with Azzam on June 27. Azzam emphasized how upset King Saud had been over the statement. (Memorandum of conversation by Newsom, June 27; ibid., 980.74/6–2757) On June 28, Rountree told the Secretary’s Staff Meting that his talk with Azzam had advanced nowhere toward resolving the Aqaba question. (Tentative Notes, June 28; ibid., Secretary’s Staff Meeting: Lot 63 D 75)