Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Statement by the President on Eric Johnston's Mission to the Near East.

October 16, 1953

THE GOVERNMENT of the United States believes that the interests of world peace call for every possible effort to create conditions of greater calm and stability in the Near East.

The Administration has continuously undertaken to relieve tensions in this sensitive and important area of the Free World.

Last spring, the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, made a first-hand survey of the area.

In furtherance of this policy, I am now sending Mr. Eric Johnston to the Near East as my personal representative with the rank of Ambassador to explore with the governments of the countries of that region certain steps which might be expected to contribute to an improvement of the general situation in the region. In so doing, I have assured Mr. Johnston that he will have my full support and enjoy the widest possible latitude in dealing with all questions relevant to his mission.

One of the major causes of disquiet in the Near East is the fact that some hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees are living without adequate means of support in the Arab states. The material wants of these people have been cared for through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The Congress of the United States, over a period of four years, has appropriated a total of $153,513,000 to aid these refugees. It has been evident from the start, however, that every effort must be made by the countries concerned, with the help of the international community, to find a means of giving these unfortunate people an opportunity to regain personal self-sufficiency.

One of the major purposes of Mr. Johnston's mission will be to undertake discussions with certain of the Arab states and Israel, looking to the mutual development of the water resources of the Jordan River Valley on a regional basis for the benefit of all the people of the area.

In his conversations in the region, Mr. Johnston will make known the concern felt by the Government of the United States over the continuation of Near Eastern tensions and express our willingness to assist in every practicable way in reducing the areas of controversy. He will indicate the importance which the United States Government attaches to a regional approach to the development of natural resources. Such an approach holds a promise of extensive economic improvement in the countries concerned through the development of much needed irrigation and hydroelectric power and through the creation of an economic base on the land for a substantial proportion of the Arab refugees.

It is my conviction that acceptance of a comprehensive plan for the development of the Jordan Valley would contribute greatly to stability in the Near East and to general economic progress of the region. I have asked Mr. Johnston to explain this position to the states concerned, seek their cooperation and help them through whatever means he finds advisable.

Mr. Johnston left the United States on October 14th, following conversations with me, the Secretary of State, the Director of the Foreign Operations Administration and other officials.

Note: On November 17, the White House announced that Mr. Johnston had that day reported to the President on his mission, and that the attitude he had encountered gave him reason to believe that the Jordan Valley project would commend itself to the states concerned as a sound and constructive approach to some of the critical issues that contributed to tensions in the area. It was further announced that Mr. Johnston would proceed to the Near East for further discussions in the near future.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Statement by the President on Eric Johnston's Mission to the Near East. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232192

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