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The Protocol of Sèvres (French, Protocole de Sèvres) was a secret agreement reached between the governments of Israel, France and the United Kingdom during discussions held between 22 and 24 October 1956 at Sèvres, France. The protocol concerns their joint political and military collusion to invade and occupy parts of Egypt in response to president Gamal Abdul Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal on 26 July. The planning for and the agreements contained in the protocol began the Suez Crisis on 29 October 1956.

Contents

Sèvres meeting

On 22 October, Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion, Director General of the Ministry of Defense Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces Moshe Dayan secretly travelled from Israel to an isolated house in Sèvres to meet the French Minister of Defence Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury, Minister of Foreign Affairs Christian Pineau and Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces General Maurice Challe, and British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd and his assistant Sir Patrick Dean.[1]

Anglo-French invasion map

Together, they and their aides secretly planned a two-step invasion of Egypt, including the cover story. First Israel would attack Egypt in the Sinai, and then Britain and France would invade on the pretext of "separating the combatants" and protecting the canal,[2] under the terms of the 1954 Anglo-Egyptian agreement to withdraw all British forces from Egypt. One of the most painstaking aspects was formulating a plan both Britain and Israel could agree on. The Israelis distrusted the British but, as the French were not prepared to act without their British allies, they were forced to deal with them. The British mantained strong links with a number of Arab countries and did not want any involvement with Israel that might damage them.

After 48 hours of negotiations and compromise the seven points agreement was signed by Ben-Gurion, Pineau and Dean. At the insistence of the Israeli diplomats, wanting to prevent being abandoned in the middle of the invasion, each group left Sèvres with a signed copy, written in French.[3]

British denial

Although reports of the pre-arrangement had leaked out within days, Sir Anthony Eden, the British Prime Minister later denied the existence of such an agreement. At the time however, after Sir Philip stated that signed copies of the secret protocol existed, Eden had sent Dean back to France on the 25 October to collect all copies and leave no trace of the agreements. Christian Pineau at the Quai d'Orsay refused to comply, since the Israeli diplomats had already left France.[4] "For Eden, the existence of the Protocol was a catastrophe: a smoking gun that exposed the full extent of collusion between Britain, France and Israel."[3] He was concerned that revelation of the agreement would be a threat to all three governments.

The original Israeli copy of the Protocol of Sèvres is said to be kept within the Ben-Gurion Archives, Sde Boker, Israel.

The Protocol in action

Four days after the Sèvres meeting, Israeli forces marched on Egypt. The British and French vetoed an American resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an end to the Israeli advance, and then issued their own call for both Israel and Egypt to withdraw from within 30km of the Suez Canal. When Egypt refused, the British and French launched their own military offensive to secure the Canal zone.

References

  1. ^ Affaire de Suez, Le Pacte Secret, Peter Hercombe and Arnaud Hamelin, France 5/Sunset Presse/Transparence, 2006
  2. ^ The Guardian, Tuesday 11 July 2006
  3. ^ a b Release of Suez records, British National Archives, December 2006
  4. ^ Turner p.299

Bibliography

  • Turner, Barry. Suez 1956: The First Oil War. Hodder (2007).

See also

External links

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