47. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1

18864. I called on Alphand this afternoon to discuss Middle East situation. While I was there telegram (State 199710)2 was delivered to me and I read him contents and at his request will send him written copy.

Alphand at this juncture considers situation extremely serious and said that Egypt’s decision to close Gulf of Aqaba put an entirely new light on the situation, particularly in view of the various declarations Israel, British and French had made in the UN at the time of withdrawal of Israeli troops from Sinai in early 1957. He offered his opinion that there was a high degree of possibility that Israel would attack if Egypt actually stopped a ship.

In reply to my question as to the validity or not of the Tripartite Declaration, Alphand said French Government was not taking any position in principle on this but felt it would be a mistake to invoke this declaration; the French were all in favor of informal consultation taking place but he felt that a formal reference to the Tripartite Declaration would not have a positive effect in the Arab world. Therefore the French preferred to consult without mentioning the declaration.

At this point a telegram was brought in to Alphand from Seydoux reporting that the “not-aligned members” as he phrased it of the Security Council would request a meeting of the four this afternoon in New York at 2:00 p.m. New York time to consider the situation between Israel and the Arab states and to decide what actions the Security Council should take.

In reply to my question Alphand said he did not know whether the French would be prepared to attend this meeting since, in his words, it depended a great deal on the attitude of the Russians. Alphand said if three powers were to meet formally without Russia it would give the appearance of a “cold war”. I told Alphand this was all very well but that refraining from “cold war” would have to work both ways, with which he agreed.

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Alphand had told me earlier that the French had already made a demarche in Cairo and admitted that their approach to the Soviets two days ago had yielded very little satisfaction.

Comment: It seems to me the French are playing a very careful game with considerable eye to their relations with the Soviet Union, and are not prepared to act in a tripartite fashion. I think they are uncertain as to the Soviet attitude but until this becomes clear I do not think they will be disposed to take many very active steps on their own for counseling moderation and restraint.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, CINCSTRIKE/MEAFSA, Damascus, DOD, Jerusalem, Jidda, London, Moscow, Tel Aviv, and USUN. Received at 3:37 p.m. and passed to the White House and USIA at 4:20 p.m.
  2. Document 35.