271. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Luxembourg 1

210494/Tosec 15. Ref: Paris 20111 and 20112 repeated Tosec.2

Last Saturday Under Secretary Rostow asked Ambassador Lucet if we might possibly have the views of the French Government on two questions, by June 12 if at all possible.3 We understand that Ambassador [Page 449] Lucet discussed these questions with you at Danish reception on Saturday. The first question concerned a GOF initiative with Cairo regarding the reopening of the Suez Canal. The second question asked for GOF views on the substance and procedure on the problem of arms levels and arms limitations in the Middle East.
In call on Assistant Secretary Leddy June 12 Lucet made following points from instructions he had just received from Paris:
Re Suez Canal, French Government had spoken to UARG immediately following closure Canal. Egyptians said they closed Canal protect it from sabotage and hostile actions and that this was in interest of all who used the waterway. On basis this response, France then decided not make formal written protest but its Ambassador Cairo recalled provisions Constantinople Convention4 and Egyptian declaration to UN of April 24, 1957.5 In light this background French Government does not believe it should take further initiatives at this time. To do so would only result UAR opening whole range of issues such as Israeli withdrawal behind armistice lines in return for reopening Canal.
Re arms control in Middle East, French Government agreed desirability of arms agreement for Middle East must be part overall political settlement in area and expected arms question would be eventually discussed in this context. As for immediate problem, French did not see how controls could be developed without consulting the Soviets who would argue that Arab position not same as Israelis since Arabs were victims of aggression and therefore had right to be resupplied.
As for proposal to consider use of UN and notification SYG re arms shipments to area, French Government thought this would be vetoed immediately by Soviets.
Leddy questioned Ambassador Lucet regarding the status of French arms supplies to Israel. The Ambassador said he had nothing on this from Paris but thought arms shipments had stopped on commencement hostilities but that some spares were now being shipped. He said he would check further with Quai d’Orsay.
Ambassador Lucet said for time being French Government was not able say more re questions raised by Rostow June 10.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by George M. Bennsky (NEA/UAR) and Country Director for France and Benelux Robert Anderson, cleared by Burgus and Davies, and approved by Leddy. Sent to LuxembouRG for Secretary Rusk, who was there to attend a ministerial meeting of the NATO Council June 13–14. Repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, USUN, and DOD.
  2. Telegrams 20111 and 20112 from Paris, June 12; not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Rostow’s June 10 conversation with Lucet is summarized in telegram 210147 to Paris, June 10. (Ibid.)
  4. The Constantinople Convention, signed at Constantinople on October 29, 1888, by Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, provided that the Suez Canal should always be open to every vessel, without distinction of flag. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, October 22, 1956, pp. 617–619.
  5. The declaration that Egypt sent to the UN Secretary-General on April 24, 1957, stated that the Egyptian Government would continue to respect, observe, and implement the terms and spirit of the Constantinople Convention. For text, see UN document A/3576, S/3818; also printed in Department of State Bulletin, May 13, 1957, pp. 776–778.