Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Eden Announces Plan for Operating Suez Canal for All Countries

September 13, 1956
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, addressing Parliament today, called for operation of the Suez Canal in the interest of all countries without discrimination.

At the same time, he presented the broad outlines of a plan–accepted by Britain, France and the United States–under which an association of nations using the canal would be formed to operate and maintain the water way. The members of this users association, Sir Anthony said, will be initially the three Western Powers, but other principal users of the Suez Canal will be invited to join.

The association will employ pilots who will coordinate traffic through the cut and in general will operate as a voluntary group to exercise the rights of canal users. The Egyptian authorities, he said, will be asked to cooperate in maintaining the maximum flow of traffic through the channel. It is contemplated that Egypt will receive “appropriate payment” by the association but transit fees will be paid to the association and not to the Egyptians.

Speculation immediately broke out here whether Israel would be one of the nations invited to join the association, since her economy depends in an important measure on free use of the canal. Sir Anthony did not mention which nations would be invited. He announced that many details of the plan still had to be worked out by the Big Three and that while the association plan was provisional in character, it was hoped that it would lead to a permanent system which would gain the approval of all interested parties.

The Prime Minister charged that Egypt’s nationalization of the canal company had violated existing agreements concerning the international character of the canal and that Britain and the other countries concerned could not accept President Nasser’s assurances and refused to leave the operation of the canal, on which the livelihood of so many nations depends, in his hands alone.

Sir Anthony, who dwelt on the economic importance of the canal to Britain and to Western Europe in general, asserted that no other alternative to the association plan which had been considered in recent weeks was immediately applicable. He termed the 1888 Suez Canal Convention inadequate in the current crisis.


He warned that if the Egyptian Government seeks to interfere with the operations of the association or refuses to extend essential minimum cooperation, Britain and the other states concerned will take such further steps “as may be required, either through the United Nations or by any other means, for asserting their rights.”

Britain does not exclude the possibility of referring the Suez Canal dispute to the UN, Sir Anthony underlined. “Quite the contrary. It may well be necessary.” He announced that the British and French Governments had jointly sent a letter to the president of the Security Council informing him of the situation. While the letter did not request action at this time, the Prime Minister said, it placed the British and French Governments in a “position to ask urgent action if it should become necessary.”

He drew a parallel between the current situation and that of the 1930’s. He said that once again the world was faced with an act of force which if not resisted and not checked would lead to others. If Egypt continues to resist every effort at a peaceful solution, he said, a situation of utmost gravity will arise.


Labor Party leader Hugh Gaitskell, commenting on the Prime Minister’s implied threat to use force against Egypt said that it could be justified in only three situations; in support of a UN collective decision, in self-defense or in defense of an ally and in defense of Israel if she were attacked by the Arab states.

If the Suez Canal question goes to the UN, the Opposition leader said, the question of free use of the canal by Israel shipping must be raised again. He refused to accept the argument that the UN was at fault because the members of the Security Council would not implement their own resolution of 1951 demanding that Egypt give Israel freedom of passage.

As one example, he analyzed the reasons for the British Government’s failure to act. “Everyone knows,” he said, that the British Government had “not lifted a finger to enforce the resolution in fear that other Arab states would not like it.”

Recommended from JTA