270. Memorandum of a Conversation, Mid-Ocean Club, Bermuda, March 21, 1957, 3:45 p.m.1



  • United States
    • The President
    • Secretary Dulles
    • Ambassador Whitney
    • Senator George
    • Mr. Hagerty
    • General Goodpaster
    • Mr. Elbrick
    • Mr. Phleger
    • Mr. Rountree
    • Mr. Morris
    • Mr. Timmons
    • Mr. Wilkins
    • Mr. Macomber
  • United Kingdom
    • The Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister
    • Rt. Hon. Selwyn Lloyd, Foreign Secretary
    • Sir Harold Caccia, British Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Rt. Hon. Sir Norman Brook, Secretary to Cabinet
    • Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar, Permanent Under-Secretary, Foreign Office
    • Mr. P.H. Dean, Deputy Under-Secretary, FonOff
    • Mr. Harold Beeley, Assistant Under-Secretary, FonOff
    • Mr. C.P. Hope, FonOff, Press Director
    • Mr. F.A. Bishop, Personal Asst. to PM
    • C.O.I. Ramsden, Personal Asst. to PM
    • D.S. Laskey, Personal Asst. to Foreign Secretary
    • Mr. J.A.N. Graham, Personal Asst. to Foreign Secretary

The Prime Minister opened the session at 3:45 P.M. with the discussion of Palestine. The Prime Minister referred to the Joint US–UK working level paper, prepared before the Conference,2 the general conclusion of which was to the effect that there is not much present hope of an over-all Palestine solution, and we must therefore concentrate on individual aspects as they arise.

[Here follows discussion of Palestine; for text, see volume XVII, pages 458–459.]

[Page 713]

The Foreign Secretary opened the discussion on the General Question of Anglo-American Cooperation in the Middle East, the next agenda item. He expressed the view that there had been an underlying improvement recently in the Middle East situation despite the emergence of certain immediate issues, such as Gaza and Aqaba. This underlying improvement following the military operation was characterized by three factors: (1) The Israelis no longer behave like “cornered rats” but appear more relaxed and confident; (2) the “bubble” of Egypt’s military power had been cracked, at least in the view of the other Middle East Arab leaders; and (3) the UNEF is there “on the ground”. Lloyd also mentioned that the Baghdad Pact had stood up rather well in the face of recent developments. He then emphasized the great importance of holding the Persian Gulf with its oil. Egyptian penetration had not yet progressed very far in this area. Present systems of control are still pretty effective. On the other hand what would we do if there should be a coup d’etat in Kuwait? There are currents underneath the surface and such a thing could happen.

The President asked what forces the British have in Kuwait.

Selwyn Lloyd replied that there are really none, only some local units of rather doubtful value. They might be confronted suddenly with a new and dangerous situation in Kuwait, and would have to take action at once in this extremely important area.

The President asked what the British thought of King Saud.

In reply, the Foreign Secretary agreed that an effort should certainly be made to detach Saudi Arabia from Egypt, though the British consider that the situation in that country is “brittle”, even though Saud is clearly the best man for us to back.

The President emphasized that with the new American Joint Resolution,3 we wish to help in these areas and capture the initiative. But, he pointed out, in King Saud’s recent discussions in Washington, the latter kept mentioning Buraimi. It is therefore evident that King Saud wants the British to pay a reasonable price and settle this issue.

Selwyn Lloyd pointed out that the difficulty is that Buraimi does not belong to Britain but to two local rulers.

The President asked if the British would make arrangements with the Saudis which would result in better relations.

Selwyn Lloyd replied that the trouble is that this is just about as difficult as solving the Kashmir issue.

The President added that, King Saud had in his Washington talks placed greatest emphasis on the question of pilgrims in the context of the Straits of Aqaba and on the Buraimi problem. The President also [Page 714] read out a telegram which he had just been shown, containing a request from the Saudi Arabians that the US draw attention, at the Bermuda Conference, to the importance of the Buraimi issue.4

Selwyn Lloyd asked whether the United States would be prepared to guarantee frontiers resulting from a solution of this problem.

In reply, the President pointed out, “shooting from the hip” (as he expressed it), that the US hoped to use its aid program to promote stability in this general area, for example by indicating that no aid would be given to aggressors. We also might be willing as appropriate to come to the assistance of a victim of aggression.

Selwyn Lloyd said the trouble is that aggression in this area is not usually open, since other methods are used.

The President then asked whether the British felt from their experience that one can trust the word of a responsible Arab leader, indicating that he was inclined, following his recent discussion with King Saud, to believe the latter’s promises to him.

Selwyn Lloyd replied that the British were also inclined to regard Saud as a man of honor, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].

The Secretary pointed out that information the US had received [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] indicated that on his trip homeward, King Saud had stuck closely to the promises he had made to the President. Although King Saud had not been able to swing the other Arab leaders to his views in the 4-Power meeting in Cairo,5 it seemed clear that he had tried hard.

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

The Secretary agreed that there was not a very solid base in Saudi Arabia, which is essentially a one-man regime, but emphasized that solid situations are not generally found in this area, and we must do our best with what we have to work with. He added that Nasser’s prestige seemed to be descending, and we should try and promote King Saud as a rival Arab leader, the main trouble being the Buraimi issue. Thus, if the UK could find a solution to this problem, we might promote an evolution in this area which could eventually help sidetrack Nasser.

Prime Minister Macmillan said the difficulty is how to get a solution to the Buraimi problem without betraying Britain’s friends.

Selwyn Lloyd mentioned that in the prior discussion, the British had been stressing the importance of a number of issues including the Baghdad Pact; holding the Persian Gulf; a better regime in Syria; and economic aid. He asked about this latter issue in terms of US action.

[Page 715]

The President replied that a new US aid program for the Middle East had not yet been adopted by the Congress.

The Secretary explained that the Joint Resolution had appropriated no additional money, but only given greater flexibility to the use of $200 million already appropriated. Ambassador Richards had no spectacular plans for aid on his present trip,6 and the future program would depend more on additional funds to be asked of the Congress. The primary purpose of the Richards Mission was rather to indicate a greater US interest in this area.

Selwyn Lloyd next mentioned the recent British decision to withdraw their troops from Libya, even though they still agreed it was important to keep King Idris on the throne. It was important to establish a common US–UK policy here.

The President asked how many troops the British would still maintain in Libya.

Selwyn Lloyd replied that the Foreign Office wished to keep one battalion, but the War Office claimed they could not find even this number of troops for this purpose.

The President emphasized that the US was most anxious for close prior consultation with the British regarding such matters as aid and stationing of troops in this general area. He emphasized the great importance of close US–UK liaison in this general field.

The Prime Minister and President agreed that the Foreign Ministers had full authority to go ahead with such close consultation.

The discussion then returned to the problem of Kuwait, and the Secretary asked what could be done if things went bad there.

Selwyn Lloyd pointed out the great importance that no word should leak to the press regarding the discussion of Kuwait. The President agreed, asking how many troops were needed to maintain stability in Kuwait. Would a battalion, as in Libya, be sufficient?

Selwyn Lloyd pointed out that possibly not very many troops were needed.

The President suggested that if Kuwait were so important, shouldn’t we try to make this our main objective and subordinate other issues to it (thus implying a solution of the Buraimi problem).

The Prime Minister pointed out that it was hard to imagine just what might happen in this general area in a few years, by which time the oil there would become even more important and valuable.

The President agreed that Middle East oil would certainly be very valuable for many years, adding that right beside the particular rich areas in which this oil was located, we found other areas of great poverty.

[Page 716]

The Prime Minister indicated that it was important to develop guarantees by the United States to maintain security and peace in this general area.

Selwyn Lloyd mentioned Aden as a specific case, an important Free World outpost, with a refinery, etc., which was now being menaced by the Soviets through assistance to Yemen, with additional help from Saudi Arabia.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the lesson from all this talk was the need for a detailed study of the area, including which parts of it are important and what might possibly be of lesser importance.

The President pointed out that such a study was certainly needed and should be tackled just like a “plan of battle.”

The Secretary pointed out that one difficulty was that the US and the UK each attached a different magnitude of importance to particular problems, such as Aden and Buraimi. The problem was therefore one of trying to develop joint views. The US would now certainly be more involved in this general area than before, as a result of recent developments, and there was therefore a much greater need for close coordination.

The Prime Minister suggested that if we could only work out common objectives regarding this area, joint plans could then be developed, in the same way as were done so well during World War II. Despite recent events, he felt that the UK still had an important role to play in the Middle East.

The President replied that he wished to assure the British that the US wants if anything to build them up again in the Middle East.

The Prime Minister then inquired as to how we should go about this joint study.

The President suggested the appropriate State Department official, presumably the Assistant Secretary for NEA,7 should get together with his British counterpart.

The Secretary asked whether such a joint study should be linked primarily to oil.

It was agreed that this would be the case.

The President suggested, and it was agreed, that a US–UK paper would be drawn up before the conference ends on the task and just how it should be tackled.8

The question of Cyprus was discussed next. Selwyn Lloyd began by stating that the British welcomed Ismay’s initiative,9 but unfortunately the Greeks turned it down although their reply may not be final. He believed that the Turks would accept Ismay’s initiative, and [Page 717] mentioned the other details of the British statement on Cyprus just made in London.10

The President said that he had received many representations from various sources emphasizing that if Makarios11 were returned to Cyprus, real progress toward a solution of the present problem could start.

Selwyn Lloyd replied that Makarios had been the origin and foundation of terrorism in Cyprus, that there were now indications that this terrorism was failing, and that not all Cypriots are prepared to accept Makarios as their spokesman. The British think that terrorism is much weaker now than before, and that the populace of Cyprus is getting fed up with it. Lloyd added that the British believe that the Turks take Cyprus very seriously and would be unwilling to let Greece have this island, which is so close to their coast. The British therefore regard themselves as a sort of “trustee”.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the British are not greatly interested in Cyprus except for the military importance of the island, a factor which is changing and probably now less than before. Were it not for the Turks, the British probably would have gone much further by now toward a solution. Macmillan also emphasized that he is not without hope that Makarios may accept the latest British offer.

The President inquired about partition as a possibility, and whether this idea would be accepted in the island and by Turkey and Greece.

The Prime Minister suggested that partition may in fact be feasible, particularly if the 100,000 Turks in Cyprus were concentrated on the one side of the island (facing Turkey) and the 400,000 Greeks on the other.

Selwyn Lloyd pointed out that this was not a tidy solution at all, but Cyprus has become a serious ulcer which must be cured. The Greeks would not accept partition because they want the whole Island.

[1 paragraph (2½ lines of source text) not declassified]

The Prime Minister and President agreed that the military importance of Cyprus today has become rather less, though it was still useful to have a base there.

The Prime Minister urged that the US should try and influence the Greeks to accept Ismay’s initiative.

[Page 718]

The President indicated that he would certainly be willing to consider doing this, and urged the British to free Makarios. In any case, he added, the US believes what the British leaders have just said about their real aims regarding Cyprus, is sympathetic with the British problem in Cyprus, and would certainly do its best to try and help.

The agenda for Friday12 was then discussed, and it was agreed that the Foreign Ministers would in the morning tackle all European questions other than those related to Defense, plus China and East-West trade, and in the afternoon session the President and Prime Minister would discuss the various items related to Defense, together with any points still outstanding from the morning’s session.

The Prime Minister and President then considered and approved the report of the working party on Suez (reference Secto 7 ), and also agreed that great care should be taken that there be no publicity at all regarding this matter or the dispatch of the British message to Hammarskjold in Cairo.13

Finally, it was agreed that the press would be given the following brief communiqué on this afternoon’s session:

“The President and Prime Minister continued the discussion of their common problems in the Middle East. The Foreign Ministers will meet at 10:30 a.m. Friday and will be joined later by the President and Prime Minister.”

The session terminated at 5:30 p.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 866. Secret. Drafted by Brewster H. Morris, Political Counselor of the Embassy in London; cleared in draft by Rountree; and circulated to appropriate U.S. officials on March 21. The Delegation at Bermuda transmitted a summary of this conversation to the Department of State in Secto 9, March 22. (Ibid., Central Files, 611.41/3–2257) For President Eisenhower’s diary account of this meeting, see infra.
  2. Document 286.
  3. For text of the Joint Congressional Resolution authorizing the President to provide financial and military assistance to Middle East countries (the Eisenhower Doctrine), approved March 9, 1957, see 71 Stat. 5.
  4. Reference is presumably to Tosec 8 to Bermuda, March 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.41/3–2057)
  5. Reference is to the meeting of the heads of state of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan at Cairo, January 18–19, 1957. A memorandum on discussions at the meeting is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 833.
  6. Reference is to the mission of Ambassador James P. Richards to the Middle East, March 8–May; see volume XII.
  7. William M. Rountree
  8. Reference is to agreed Paper 1; see Document 289.
  9. Lord Ismay, Secretary General of NATO, had offered his good offices to help settle the Cyprus dispute.
  10. Reference is to Colonial Secretary Lennox-Boyd’s statement in the House of Commons, March 20, accepting Ismay’s offer.
  11. Makarios III, Archbishop of Cyprus.
  12. March 22.
  13. Secto 7, March 21, is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.41/3–2157. Regarding the report of the Working Party, see Document 289. The substance of Lloyd’s message to Hammarskjold, emphasizing the importance Britain attached “to a prompt and fair interim arrangement” of the Suez Canal problem, was transmitted to the Department of State in Secto 6 from Bermuda, March 21. (Ibid.)