800.51 W 89Belgium/43: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Phillips) to the Secretary of State

[Paraphrase]

70. Department’s No. 35, June 4 [3], 7 p.m. At two long conferences today, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon, I presented your position strongly to the ad interim Ministers of Foreign [Page 120]Affairs and Finance. At last the Ministers decided to send you a clear and explicit statement of unconditional acceptance of paragraph (a) and expression of their willingness to negotiate on basis of the three paragraphs of May 31 memorandum.

In view of existing public opinion that in some way Belgium has been relieved of her war debt, the acting Minister of Finance (Mr. Van de Vyvere) does not feel that he is in a position to close door in forthcoming negotiations to presentations of circumstances surrounding Belgium’s case. For this reason their Belgian memorandum is in nature of an explanation of statements in earlier communication and I think may be accepted as recession from former position. Memorandum seeks to make clear that although in Belgium’s opinion the circumstances surrounding negotiations in 1919 are deserving of consideration in forthcoming negotiations, Belgium does not assert that they constitute a right or a legal claim.

As the Ministers preferred to have their reply of June 2 remain, I handed them the memorandum contained in your No. 35, giving it date of June 4; I have received in reply following memorandum dated June 5, which I hope will be satisfactory to you.5 Please telegraph me your decision.

The Belgian Government wishes to dissipate doubt as to its unconditional acceptance of the proposal contained in paragraph (a) of the memorandum of the 31st of May.

Its object in presenting the arguments as contained in paragraph 1 of the note of June 2 is not with a view to maintain the substitution of Germany for Belgium as debtor nor to contest that Belgium alone is accountable to the United States for the payment of its debt. The statements were made for the purpose of assuring to the negotiators the opportunity of bringing out all the circumstances in their case. Belgium believes that these circumstances are worthy of consideration but does not pretend that this constitute[s] a right or a legal claim.

Belgium therefore means to give an express assurance that it will negotiate on the bases of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) proposed in the memorandum of May 31st.

The Belgian Government undertakes to recommend for the approval of the legislative power the arrangements which it hopes sincerely will result from these negotiations.

Phillips
  1. Memorandum not paraphrased.