Protocol of Sèvres

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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 topple Gamal Abdul Nasser, by invading and occupying parts of Egypt in response to President 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.

Sèvres meeting[edit]

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 maintained 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]

Although not part of the protocol, the occasion allowed Israel to secure French commitment to constructing the Negev Nuclear Research Center and the supply of natural uranium for it [1].

The Protocol[edit]

An English translation of the Protocol includes the following:[4]

The results of the conversations which took place at Sèvres from 22-24 October 1956 between the representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom, the State of Israel and of France are the following:

1. The Israeli forces launch in the evening of 29 October 1956 a large scale attack on the Egyptian forces with the aim of reaching the Canal Zone the following day.

2. On being apprised of these events, the British and French Governments during the day of 30 October 1956 respectively and simultaneously make two appeals to the Egyptian Government and the Israeli Government on the following lines:

A. To the Egyptian Government
a) halt all acts of war.
b) withdraw all its troops ten miles from the Canal.
c) accept temporary occupation of key positions on the Canal by the Anglo-French forces to guarantee freedom of passage through the Canal by vessels of all nations until a final settlement.
B. To the Israeli Government
a) halt all acts of war.
b) withdraw all its troops ten miles to the east of the Canal.

In addition, the Israeli Government will be notified that the French and British Governments have demanded of the Egyptian Government to accept temporary occupation of key positions along the Canal by Anglo-French forces. It is agreed that if one of the Governments refused, or did not give its consent, within twelve hours the Anglo-French forces would intervene with the means necessary to ensure that their demands are accepted.

C. The representatives of the three Governments agree that the Israeli Government will not be required to meet the conditions in the appeal addressed to it, in the event that the Egyptian Government does not accept those in the appeal addressed to it for their part.

3. In the event that the Egyptian Government should fail to agree within the stipulated time to the conditions of the appeal addressed to it, the Anglo-French forces will launch military operations against the Egyptian forces in the early hours of the morning of 31 October.

4. The Israeli Government will send forces to occupy the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and the group of islands Tirane and Sanafir to ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba.

5. Israel undertakes not to attack Jordan during the period of operations against Egypt. But in the event that during the same period Jordan should attack Israel, the British Government undertakes not to come to the aid of Jordan.

6. The arrangements of the present protocol must remain strictly secret.

7. They will enter into force after the agreement of the three Governments.


David Ben-Gurion Patrick Dean Christian Pineau

British denial[edit]

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. When the existence of signed copies of the secret protocol was leaked, Eden 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.[5] "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[edit]

Four days after the Sèvres meeting, Israeli forces invaded Egyptian territory. The British and French vetoed an American-sponsored resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an end to the Israeli invasion; they then issued their own call for both Israel and Egypt to withdraw from within 16 km of the Suez Canal. When Egypt refused, the British and French launched their own invasion to secure the Canal zone, under the guise of separating Egyptian and Israeli forces.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Avi Shlaim, The Protocol of Sèvres,1956: Anatomy of a War Plot Published in International Affairs, 73:3 (1997), 509-530
  5. ^ Turner p.299


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

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