paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/88

CF–38

Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House in the Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Wednesday, May 28, 1919, at 4 p.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • British Empire
      • The Rt Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. Secretaries.
Count Aldrovandi
Prof. P. J. Mantoux—Interpreter.

1. Sir Maurice Hankey read the following letter which he had received from the Chinese Delegation:—

May 28th, 1919.

Sir: On behalf of the Chinese Delegation I beg to make a formal request for a copy of the Minutes of the proceedings of the Council of Prime Ministers bearing upon the Kiaochow-Shantung question. Since my country is the party most directly concerned in it, I trust that the Council will see their way to comply with my request. Chinese Delegation’s Application for Minutes

I am, Sir,

Yours truly,

(Sgd) Lou Tseng-Tsiang

He had contemplated a reply in the sense that the rule of the Council of the Allied and Associated Powers was not to communicate their Minutes, except to those persons who had been present at a Meeting. A copy of the Minutes of the Meeting at which the Chinese Delegates were present had been forwarded to Mr. Koo on April 23rd.

President Wilson said the letter had been forwarded at his suggestion and he was inclined to think that the Chinese Delegation were entitled to the Minutes for their confidential use.

Mr. Lloyd George pointed out that, in that event, it would be necessary to give the Japanese Delegates a copy of the Minutes of the Meeting at which the Chinese had been present, and he did not consider this desirable.

Sir Maurice Hankey said he had informed the Japanese Delegation that he had no authority to communicate Minutes of Meetings other than those at which their Delegates had been present.

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(It was agreed that Sir Maurice Hankey should prepare for the Chinese Delegates a Memorandum based on the Minutes, including the principal undertakings given by the Japanese Delegation.)

2. Mr. Lloyd George described the proposals which he had asked M. Orlando to consider, namely:— Italian Claims

State of Fiume to be created under the League of Nations, to be administered by a Commission composed as follows:—

2 members nominated by the Italian Government.
1 member Nominated by the Jugo-Slavs.
1 the State of Fiume.
1 the League of Nations.

The nominee of the League of Nations to have a casting vote. At the end of 15 years a Plebiscite to be held. Up to this point he understood that Mr. Orlando could accept. There were, however, two difficulties, viz:—the islands, and the towns of Zara and Sebe-nico. The Italian Government was prepared to give up its claims to Dalmatia, provided Zara and Sebenico could be ceded to Italy, or, as M. Orlando had suggested earlier, put under an Italian mandate. M. Orlando was also prepared to give up the three largest of the islands in the southern group, the remainder consisting of uninhabited rocks, as well as the island of Pago. M. Orlando urged, however, that the island of Cherso was a continuation of the Istrian Peninsula and should be assigned to Italy. He stated that the majority of the population was Italian, and asked that it should be assigned to Italy. Apparently, however, President Wilson’s information on this point was different.

M. Clemenceau asked what would be the official language of Fiume.

Mr. Lloyd George said the State of Fiume would decide that.

President Wilson said that M. Orlando would know that he felt that the Government of the United States had no right to assign territory to anyone: he could only follow the principles on which the rest of the settlement had been based. He was ready to accept the suggestion for a free State of Fiume as the recognised basis of a proposal to Jugo-Slavia, on whose acquiescence the whole settlement must depend. He was willing to ascertain whether a settlement was possible on these lines. He realised how serious an effort M. Orlando had made to give up part of his original claims. Before putting the proposal before the Jugo-Slavs, however, he would like to ask whether he was at liberty to include the attribution of the islands of Veglia and Cherso to the Jugo-Slav State, but not Lussin, which is manifestly Italian in nationality. In the case of Cherso, however, according to an Italian ethnographical map which he produced, only the northern part was Italian. He would like to suggest that the Fiume State should include the eastern slope of the ridge [Page 91]on the Peninsula of Istria and include the island of Cherso, but not the island of Lussin, which should be assigned to Italy. The object of this proposal was to put the approaches to Fiume under the control of the State of Fiume. He would also, in making these proposals, like to have in mind that in arranging the Dantzig settlement it had been necessary to guarantee to Poland the utmost freedom of access to the port, and the railway terminals and the railway approaches to the interior. Without such guarantees it would not be a free port, and, this must apply equally to Fiume. If, therefore, he could assume guarantees to the State of Fiume, under the supervision of the Allied and Associated Powers, it would greatly facilitate his conversation.

M. Orlando said that he was glad, and it was a comfort to him that President Wilson had recognised the spirit of renunciation by Italy. As regards the freedom of the port of Fiume he could speak unequivocally. He had not the smallest objection to the complete freedom of the port, but, beyond that, he considered it a duty to provide for untrammelled communication with the interior. The territorial arrangements was a more delicate question and all possibility of misunderstanding must be avoided. He had received the document produced by M. Tardieu. He had put all the pressure he could on the Italian Delegation to accept it, but this involved a considerable renunciation for Italy. On its receipt he had telegraphed to Rome. In spite of the difficulty he declared that, for himself he would take the responsibility to accept. But it would be very difficult to persuade his colleagues to accept reductions on this reduction. He had done his utmost to eliminate as many of the islands as possible. There was no difficulty about surrendering his claim to Lesina, Curzola, and Meleda, which were the only important islands in this group. This was as far as he could go, and he could not make any further reductions on the document presented by M. Tardieu. The islands of Istria were on a somewhat different basis. M. Tardieu’s document reserved Zara and Sebenico for Italy. He was willing to give every freedom to these ports and to give an undertaking that no offensive bases should be established there. He would also accept the composition of the Commission for Fiume proposed by President Wilson, namely two nominees for Italy, one for Fiume, one for Jugo-Slavia, and one for the League of Nations. In conclusion he would accept M. Tardieu’s document, reserving the second page as he had been requested, with the amendment in regard to the Commission proposed by President Wilson, and with the amendment as regards the relinquishment of the three big islands in the south. He would not say that further renunciations were impossible, but it would be very difficult for him to put them before his colleagues.

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President Wilson said that he would do what he could as the friend of both parties to use this proposal as a basis for acceptance, and he would do it in the most friendly possible way.