765.84/116: Telegram (part air)

The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State

8. 1. In private Council meeting today Secretary-General presented a communication from the Abyssinian Government to the effect that it was not requesting that their dispute with Italy be placed on the Council agenda but that the right was reserved to do so in this or in a subsequent Council.

2. The situation here is characterized by a marked general absence of knowledge of the substance of the dispute or of the justice of the contentions of the two parties together with the feeling that it is involved with political understandings between the great powers. The attitude of the Secretariat Political Section has been to discount the Abyssinian claims, expressing the view that the question should not be brought before the League. The representatives of the small powers deprecate such tendencies, stating that the recent assumption of League control by the great powers should not result in any hindrance to small states being heard.

Nothing definite emerges from the private political consultations obviously in progress here but the trend appears to be that Italy is most anxious to keep the question out of the Council and that the British are endeavoring to arrange a compromise to determine the boundary. There is a distrust of action sponsored by the powers as having the aim of creating a delay and thus permitting Italy to consolidate her African position. The members of the Political Section tell me, however, that there is fear that Italian recalcitrance which they state is based on questions of prestige with reminiscences of Italy’s defeat in 18962 may create a dangerous situation as they understand that there are at present about 20,000 Abyssinian troops massed on the border against about 4,000 Italian native troops.

  1. At the battle of Adua, March 1, 1896, an Italian army was annihilated by the Abyssinians.