765.84/123: Telegram (part air)

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

19. Consulate’s 8, January 11, 6 p.m., third paragraph. I have now ascertained from a strictly confidential and thoroughly informed source that Geneva developments in the Italian-Abyssinian dispute have to date been as follows:

(1) The Abyssinian delegate arrived in Geneva with the intention of placing the question before the Council but deferred this action pending discussing the matter with the British and the French to learn if possible their general position and to solicit their support should he invoke Council consideration.

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(2) The British and the French advised him not to appeal to the Council and the British offered to undertake a direct settlement with Italy.

(3) The British submitted a formula through their missions at Rome and Addis Ababa giving copy to Abyssinian delegate to the effect (a) that the Abyssinian Government should express to Italy their “regret for the incident” and pay an indemnity for Italian losses and, (b) that a commission be set up to determine the moot points respecting the boundary.

Although the British are acting alone in this it is understood that they are conferring with the French.

(4) The first part of this formula was unacceptable to the Abyssinian delegate who suggested a tentative counter formula calling for mutual regrets and mutual indemnities together with a boundary commission. He feels that in this he has gone much more than half way.

He has transmitted his formula to his Government asking for instructions.

(5) The Abyssinian delegate has handed a statement of the Abyssinian case together with documents which he would employ in a Council consideration to the British and informally to the Secretary-General.

Competent opinion is that this case as based on existing treaties is exceedingly strong.

(6) The present situation is that the Abyssinians are considering whether or not to appeal to the Council. They hesitate to reject the British formula thus substituting British good offices for Council action fearing that this would mean definite lack of British and French support in the Council and perhaps opposition. It is also believed that the Italians would not accept the boundary commission feature of either formula inasmuch as juridical opinion indicates that an impartial determination on the basis of existing treaties would find that the Italians had acted inside the Abyssinian frontier and that it would technically disprove pertinent Italian contentions. The Abyssinians are considering whether they can gain the support of other [sic] and Council action having in mind chiefly Russia, Spain and perhaps Czechoslovakia and counting upon a public exposure of the situation to check covert political pressure.

(7) I have sound reasons for believing that the diplomatic moves as described in the foregoing are correct. The contentions as to the substance of the dispute originate however solely from Abyssinian sources.