353. Editorial Note

On July 9, Secretary Dulles transmitted to President Eisenhower a proposed response from Eisenhower to King Saud’s letter of June 25 on the Gulf of Aqaba (see Document 347) and a draft of an aide-mémoire intended for the Saudi Arabian Embassy on the same subject, both drafted by Newsom. In a letter to Dulles on July 10, Eisenhower approved the two drafts with two exceptions. He rewrote the final paragraph of the response to Saud (see footnote 3, infra) and suggested new phraseology for the first paragraph of the fourth U.S. suggestion in the draft aide-mémoire. (Memorandum from Dulles to Eisenhower, July 9; Department of State, Central Files, 980.74/7–357; and memorandum from Eisenhower to Dulles, July 10, attached to memorandum from Rountree to Dulles, July 10; ibid., 980.74/7–957)

The original text of the paragraph in question in the draft aide-mémoire reads as follows:

“Saudi Arabia might wish to have the Security Council consider the question of the safety of the pilgrims with a view to having a resolution adopted which would establish a recognized international pathway for pilgrims through waters of the Gulf of Aqaba. Such a resolution might provide suitable guarantees for the safe passage of pilgrims by restricting activities which appeared to imply a threat to the pilgrims. The United States is prepared to consult with the Government of Saudi Arabia on the form such a resolution might take and to support reasonable efforts in this direction in the Security Council. The United States recognizes that it might be found that the special character of the traditional pilgrim routes provided some basis for special treatment.”

Eisenhower suggested to Dulles on July 10 that the phrase “a recognized international right of use” be substituted for the phrase “a recognized international pathway.”Rountree, however, objected to this language in a memorandum to Dulles written later that day. He noted that the Saudi Arabians “consider that they have an unrestricted right to use the Gulf of Aqaba. They do not consider that others have that right. By saying to the Arabs that we propose to establish “a recognized international right of use’, we fear we may be suggesting something which the Saudi Arabians consider already exists. By the term “pathway’ we meant to imply not only a recognition of the right to use the Gulf, but, further, the restriction of Israeli activities which might impair that right.”Rountree, therefore, suggested that the Department propose to omit all references to a “pathway” or “right of use” and instead to refer to “the special character of the traditional pilgrim routes”, which would, according to Rountree, leave the concept somewhat vague. (Ibid.)

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During the evening of July 10 Dulles presented the alternate language to Eisenhower. According to a memorandum by Newsom written the following day, “The President said he would prefer not to use any language such as “pathway’ or “traditional pilgrim’ routes which might imply assigning a special character to west-east routes as well as north-south routes in the Gulf of Aqaba, pointing out that there were traditional pilgrim routes from North Africa across the Gulf. He said he was concerned that any recognition of these pathways might have the effect of blocking the passage of vessels to the northern portion of the Gulf.”(Memorandum from Newsom to Becker and Sisco, July 11; ibid., L/NEA Files: Lot 64 D 290, Gulf of Aqaba 1951-1957) For the final text of Eisenhower’s letter to Saud, see infra; for the aide-mémoire, see Document 355.