111. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to All Posts1

205690. Subj: Maritime Declaration.

To provide helpful support for UN and other efforts resolve current NE crisis, we have been examining with British desirability of issuing joint declaration by maritime nations. Draft text being sent you septel.2 The Netherlands is prepared to and we believe Canada is disposed to support the proposed course of action and the Government of Israel is to back up with a strong diplomatic effort. All addressees should coordinate with British to ensure most effective mutual support. British have already authorized their Ambassador in Paris, Ottawa, The Hague, and Rome to make approach after concerting with you. We have proposed broader initial approach and expect London will issue further instructions soonest.
After coordination with British following action addressees should deliver draft declaration urgently to host Governments, making points set out below and soliciting their prompt support: Athens, Panama, Monrovia, Tokyo, Ankara, Tehran, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Dublin, Manila, Addis Ababa, Abidjan, Mexico City, Caracas, Lisbon, Tananarive, Reykjavik. Since FRG is not UN member, approach in Bonn should seek separate FRG statement conforming as closely as possible to draft declaration.
British will make initial approach in following capitals, with U.S. following up, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki, The Hague, Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Rome, Ottawa, Canberra, Wellington, Accra, Nairobi.
This message sent other recipients for info only.
In presenting declaration, you should stress following:
Current Near East crisis is worst since 1956. Withdrawal UNEF at UAR request has removed essential buffer between UAR and Israel and [Page 205] their two armies now confront each other. Accident or miscalculation could be calamitous.
Situation has been made even more acute by announced UAR intention close Gulf of Aqaba both to Israel-flag vessels and to vessels of all other flags carrying “strategic cargoes” to Israel. UAR has thus put forward claim to control Israel’s sole seaward access from south. Israel regards such access as essential and considers any interference with it as a threat to Israel’s very existence. Gravest questions of war and peace accordingly arise. In judgment USG joint action by maritime nations is the only alternative to an almost certain war.
It is the view of the USG that Straits of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba constitute international waterway both by test customary usage (innocent passage for all Israeli-bound vessels has been normal for decade) and by general provisions international law which are reflected in 1958 Geneva Convention on Territorial Sea to which 33 states, including USSR, are parties. (FYI of Aqaba riparians, only Israel is a party. End FYI.) The UAR action clearly poses a test to these recognized rights of navigation through international waterways. d. Through the efforts of the UNSYG and the current consideration of the problem by the UN Security Council it is hoped that processes can be brought to bear leading to a satisfactory solution of the present critical problem. As part of this general effort, the USG believes it is important for the world’s major maritime states clearly and with solidarity to reiterate their views regarding both the general principles involved in this situation and their specific application to the Aqaba case.
Issuance of a declaration with such broad support would be most useful at this juncture in supporting current UN efforts and the rule of law with respect to maritime traffic. The USG hopes that host government will be willing join with other like-minded states who also being approached in issuing declaration in very near future. The declaration reaffirms position taken by maritime powers in 1957 which was subsequently reflected in the 1958 Geneva Convention.
In response to queries you may take following line:
If asked re our basic intention, you should respond our aim is to remove present danger to peace and resolve current problem by means of international action through the United Nations.
If asked what our intention would be should efforts through the United Nations fail, you should state that we would address questions which would then arise at that time, but we would not now exclude the possibility of protecting maritime rights outside the UN.
If asked how far association with joint declaration would commit host governments to further joint action as opposed to consultations, [Page 206] you should give assurance that participation in issuance declaration constitutes a commitment only to the statement of principles contained therein.
If asked whether changes can be made in the text you should say that we will of course consider most carefully any suggestions but that many nations are being approached and that the mechanics of substantial redrafting would obviously be difficult.
FYI. A number of maritime states publicly supported principle freedom of transit through Gulf of Aqaba in United Nations debates in early 1957 as part general international effort secure Israeli withdrawal from Sinai Peninsula. These included: UK, France, Italy, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, New Zealand and several others. If addressees able ascertain host government took such clear position at that time, point should of course be stressed that what is needed now is merely reaffirmation host government’s longstanding position.
It is expected that Israeli Ambassador will be in touch with you and will strongly support your efforts and those your British colleagues.
For Tel Aviv-Under Secretary Rostow gave text declaration this afternoon to Ambassador Harman.
For Bonn-Septel of instructions follows. End FYI.
Report reactions priority.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by Battle, William D. Brewer, and Director of the Office of OECD, European Community, and Atlantic Political-Economic Affairs Deane R. Hinton; cleared by Eugene Rostow and Walt Rostow; and approved by Secretary Rusk. Walsh initialed for Rusk. Davies cleared the list of addressees with Counselor Nigel C. Trench at the British Embassy. Also sent to Dhahran, Jerusalem, U.S. Mission Geneva, Hong Kong, Paris, USRO Paris, CINCSTRIKE for POLAD, MAC for POLAD, and CINCEUR for POLAD. Rostow sent a draft to the President at 4 p.m. on May 31, with a covering memorandum stating that it would serve as a talking paper when the Declaration of Maritime Nations was presented, and that he thought the President should personally clear it. The “Cleared” option on Rostow’s memorandum is checked.
  2. Document 112.