The British Appointed Ambassador on Special Mission ( Grey ) to the Secretary of State

No. 818

Sir: With reference to Mr. Lindsay’s note No. 662 of the 12th September,59 with regard to the question of the observance, pending ratification, of the Arms Traffic Convention and Protocol signed at St. Germain on September 10th last, I have the honour to inform you that this question has recently been receiving further consideration on the part of His Majesty’s Government.

As you are aware, the signatory powers to the Convention undertake not to permit the exportation of arms to Governments which are not parties to the Convention, and in the Protocol the contracting parties declare that they would consider as contrary to their intention and to the spirit of the Convention, any transactions contrary to the stipulations thereof undertaken pending the entry into force of the Convention. His Majesty’s Government are of opinion that the effect of the Protocol is not to render the Convention binding on its signatories pending ratification, but merely to prohibit transactions which would be contrary to its provisions were it in force. Conversely it permits of transactions which would be permissible under the Convention.

One of the provisions of the Convention is that an importing Government must itself have adhered to the Convention before it can receive arms from any of the signatories. As the Convention has not yet been ratified by any of the signatories other Powers cannot be invited to adhere and there must necessarily be some delay in ratification by His Majesty’s Government and probably by other Governments.

In the meantime cases have occurred in which Governments which are not parties to the Convention have entered upon negotiations with various of the signatory powers with a view to securing supplies of arms, and in some of these cases there can be no objection to the transaction, other than the difficulty arising from the delay in the ratification of the Convention. His Majesty’s Government are of opinion that this difficulty might properly be surmounted by the signatory power obtaining from the purchasing Government an undertaking to sign the Convention when an opportunity occurs, and it is proposed to be guided by these principles in any future negotiations for the sale of arms under the conditions stated.

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As an example it may be stated that His Majesty’s Government are considering the sale to Finland of some armed motor boats, the supply of which is a matter of urgency, and it is proposed to adopt the procedure indicated above in dealing with this application.

I should be glad if you would be kind enough to inform me whether the United States Government concur in this interpretation of the obligations of the signatory powers to the Convention and Protocol. I understand that the question of reaching a decision in the matter is somewhat urgent, and I should be grateful therefore if your views could be communicated to me at an early date.

I have [etc.]

(For H. M. Ambassador)
R. C. Lindsay
  1. Not printed.