765.84/427: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

332. I had occasion to discuss yesterday with the French Ambassador the Italo-Abyssinian conflict with special reference to Eden’s visit to Rome.26

Chambrun said, in the first place that France’s interest in the matter was governed by three concepts, namely, her desire for peace; her support of the League; and her friendship for Italy. France’s direct interests in East Africa, he continued, were largely economic and were centered in French Somaliland, with the hinterland and the strip of territory contiguous to the Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railroad. These interests, he said, in so far as the Italians were concerned had been amply safeguarded in the agreements reached during the Laval-Mussolini conversations in Rome.27

Chambrun stated that he had taken occasion to present to the Duce the attitude of the French Government as outlined above and that before leaving for his recent trip to Paris he had been authorized by Mussolini to state to the French Government that he, the Duce, was definitely in favor of a peaceful solution of the conflict with Abyssinia if Italy’s prestige and interests could be safeguarded in that way. He said that when, according to the prevailing impression Mussolini in demanding a solution which by instituting in Abyssinia in favor of Italy some regime analogous to that established in Morocco destroyed the sovereignty of that country, it was easily conceivable that he would [Page 611] reject a proposal such as Eden is said to have made involving certain concessions by Abyssinia to Italy after the cession by England to that country of an outlet to the sea through British Somaliland.28 And in connection with this cession Chambrun parenthetically stated that it was not entirely favorable to the French as it would detract from the importance of the Djibouti Railroad.

Chambrun felt however, that some other solution might still be found, always on the assumption that the Duce preferred a peaceful solution. He said that the cession of the Province of Ogadin to Italian Somaliland was in itself not sufficient nor would Italy be satisfied if in addition she received certain territorial concessions on the frontier of Eritrea together with certain economic advantages in Abyssinia. Some gesture was essential to vindicate the honor and prestige of Italy and this could be effected by the cession of Adowa which would enable Mussolini to advertise the triumph of his regime over the defeat of the previous government. If then over and above the foregoing a perpetual treaty of amity with the Emperor could be arranged safeguarding order along the frontiers and granting special economic advantages to Italy in the country which could gradually be extended in scope to the advantage of Italy by peaceful means Mussolini, Chambrun was inclined to believe, would be in a position to stop short of an actual war.

The French Ambassador repeated that the foregoing were merely his views. Everything, he said, now depended upon England and her willingness to participate directly or indirectly in finding a solution. France for its part he declared was profoundly interested in avoiding any war and also in safeguarding the prestige of the League, which he felt should become more and more an entirely European institution and France and Italy, as well as England, must cooperate to that end. The relations between France and Italy were now very favorable and the present tension between Italy and England was less likely to develop to such serious proportions as in the event of a similar disaccord between France and Italy who have only recently abandoned a policy of mutual recrimination. Although Mussolini’s position he considered had not weakened and there was every indication that he intended to carry through his aims, he felt that there was at present a greater chance of avoiding a conflict than there was two months ago and repeated that England was now the prime factor in warding off the danger. Anything he concluded that could be done to impress England with that responsibility would be in service of the cause of peace.

Cipher messages mailed Paris, Geneva.

  1. Anthony Eden, British Minister for League Affairs; in Rome June 24–26. See statement by Eden in the House of Commons, Hansard, July 1, 1935, col. 1520–1522.
  2. See telegram No. 46, January 16, 8 p.m., from the Ambassador in France, p. 173, especially last paragraph.
  3. See telegram No. 50, July 3, noon, from the Chargé in Ethiopia, infra.