395. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

14537. Subject: Middle East.

UK Amb Dean called on Under Secretary Rostow and Assistant Secretary Battle morning of July 29 to raise questions put by Fonmin Brown about next steps in ME, particularly reopening of Suez Canal.2 Although anxious to conceal UK concern, UK is suffering from Canal closure. UK would like to work for substantive res in SC covering withdrawal and an end to belligerency relying on Dobrynin drafts as a basis. Language on freedom of innocent passage would have to be strengthened and all concerned accept that end to belligerency entailed reopening of Canal. Brown saw advantage in trying to build on considerable area of agreement reached between US and USSR at GA. He feels allowing matters to drift could freeze position making matters worse. He suggests preliminary approaches in capitals including some in the ME and with leading SC members such as India. UK objective would be to get substantive res along these lines through the SC by the end of August. Would the US see any objections to UK pursuing this matter of Security Council Resolution with the Russians and to draft Brown letter to U Thant suggesting he pay personal visit to area, perhaps leading to appointment of SYG rep? UK might also pursue Soviet hints that UNEF be reconstituted and used to open Strait of Tiran.
Rostow stated he had discussed matter with Secretary Rusk who shared Brown’s view that matters not be allowed to drift. The US had no objection to the UK talking to the Russians; indeed, encouraged it. Stressed coordination between US and UK important to keep actions on the same track. On substance of resolution Rostow stressed US attached great importance to preventing any erosion whatever of substance of draft agreed between US and USSR. In our view, Soviet would probably seek weakening of agreed formula which we would regard as disastrous. Dean said HMG fully agreed it was indispensable to stick firmly to position we had held together throughout UNGA, as noted in talking points he had given Rostow previous evening. Rostow added that it [Page 731] might be difficult to obtain appropriate SC res in August. Soviets do not seem interested in immediate SC action now; the three top Soviet reps were all on vacation during August. Rostow suggested raising question with French, SC Chairman during August. He agreed UK approach to Indians could be useful. Battle suggested that UK also talk to other important users of Canal such as Norwegians, Danes and Liberians as well as Indians and French. They are countries who should carry load on this matter. After all, UAR now in flagrant violation of international obligations.
US had doubts about reconstitution of UNEF in view of recent history. Perhaps agreement to demilitarize Sinai could be obtained at an early stage in exchange for troop withdrawals if rights of passage in Canal and Aqaba for all vessels could be assured through UAR acceptance of SC resolution embracing renunciation of belligerence by Arabs.
We would take up draft letter to SYG with USUN. We liked idea of UN rep in area but our present thinking we prefer a mediator cloaked with authority of SYG rather than SYG himself. In a phone call after visit, Rostow added suggestion that letter request SYG to consult with US, USSR and France about possibility of his sending representative to the area as mediator.
Amb Dean stated that Sir Lesley Glass, DCM UKUN, would come to Washington on Tuesday (8/1) to discuss possible action on res in SC.
Comment: As indicated above, we share UK view that matters should not be allowed to drift. However, we must proceed carefully in preparing any next round in the Security Council and coordinate closely since Soviet objective still remains to get a withdrawal resolution out of UN while paying a minimum price for it. As Rostow made clear in above conversation, we attach great importance to preventing any erosion on substance of draft agreed between US and USSR. UK was very wobbly throughout entire Special General Assembly; in fact, we had to keep at Caradon constantly in order to avoid an erosion in our position. While we could not disagree that they should talk to Soviets, we would be very concerned indeed if such talks led to reopening of resolution agreed to between US and USSR. This point will be reaffirmed to UK representatives Tuesday, who are coming into Dept for follow up conversation. Coalition we put together at UN will take constant nurturing and consultations in order to maintain necessary solid front in any SC round. While we have no objections in principle to UK going to capitals in support of early opening of Suez Canal, important there be prior clearcut understanding through fullest possible consultations between us to assure that approaches made in capitals are directed toward mutually shared objectives. In particular, we think it unrealistic to contemplate [Page 732] early opening of Canal except in circumstances where all vessels including Israeli, go through.
We already have indications through further informal consultations with UKRep here that UK has in mind weakening of US-Soviet agreed draft by moving principal operative paragraph into preamble.
Full prior consultations with Israelis would be essential on above moves. UK has in mind to assure them we do not intend erode position and so that there be full understanding re any next round in SC.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret. Drafted by Eugene Rostow’s Special Assistant Alan R. Novak on July 29, cleared by Battle and Popper and by telephone by Sisco, and approved by Eugene Rostow. Also sent to Moscow and USUN and repeated to Copenhagen, Monrovia, New Delhi, Oslo, Paris, and Tel Aviv.
  2. A paper entitled “Middle East,” July 28, set forth Brown’s questions. (Ibid., POL UK-US)