721.23/2174: Telegram

The Ambassador in Brazil ( Gibson ) to the Secretary of State

56. My 54, April 4, 2 p.m. Mello Franco states that although he had recently felt a breakdown was inevitable, later developments encourage him again to hope for a solution. He summarized recent developments as follows:

Negotiations came almost to a standstill because of the practical impossibility of harmonizing Peruvian-Colombian views on fundamental issue of Salomon–Lozano Treaty.6 Peruvians insisted that Treaty should be scrapped because it is vitiated by physical impossibility of executing its provisions relating to the Sucumbios parcel. This difficulty was not settled by proposal for exchange of territory, Colombian demands apparently being considered exorbitant.
A further blow was dealt negotiations on Tuesday of last week when the Peruvians, without advising either Mello Franco or the other member of their intentions, addressed a petition to the League Secretariat requesting an extension of the League mandate. This gave great offense to the Colombians and imposed considerable burden on Mello Franco in averting serious complications.
Encouraging developments, to which Mello Franco alluded, have followed the suggestion that the entire case might be submitted to the Permanent Court at The Hague. Colombians were not favorably inclined and produced an opinion by Dr. Urrutia designed to show that the Court could not properly deal with this case. Mello Franco, however, demonstrated to the satisfaction of the delegates that the Court could properly deal with the question and, to make the proposal more palatable, he suggested that the case might be referred to the Court by the Council of the League merely for the purpose of obtaining an opinion. It is Mello Franco’s thought that as the Council of the League does not meet until May and the Court until June his proposal would at least gain time.

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Mello Franco said that he felt, in view of the role we might eventually be called upon to play, we were entitled to know everything and that for that reason he was communicating to us in the utmost confidence and not to be repeated to Geneva or elsewhere that Belaunde and Cano, Junior, members of the two delegations, have been working very privately and without the knowledge of the chief delegates on a plan by which Perú would address a communication to Colombia expressing regret for the events of September 1st acknowledging the validity of the Salomon–Lozano Treaty and proposing arbitration. This communication would suggest a practicable plan for policing the Leticia zone under some foreign supervision, possibly a commission presided over by Dr. Mello Franco.

  1. Signed March 24, 1922, Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. i, p. 351; or League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. lxxiv, p. 9.