The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 11—4 p.m.]
355. My 352, July 10, 6 p.m.32 The Director of Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on whom I called today to discuss a subject of routine brought up the matter of the suspension of the activities of the Wal Wal Commission at Scheveningen and reiterated the Italian contention in that regard; namely, that the Italian Government had declared that the Commission would be competent to determine only the facts of the incident in question and the responsibility therefor; that it had understood that this standpoint had been accepted by Abyssinia although the latter Government had expressed the wish that steps be also taken to determine the boundary question; that in spite of this understanding the French and American members of the Commission had insisted on behalf of the Ethiopian Government that the frontiers be discussed; that if these discussions were admitted the present Commission would, contrary to the original purpose, develop into a boundary commission and that the Italians had therefore decided that it was futile to continue the work of the Commission. The official added that the same objections to the discussion of boundary questions by the Commission would be raised against the submission of those matters to any arbitrator and that no further steps were contemplated by the Italians as regards the particular phase of the controversy as they considered that the next move should be made by the Abyssinians. I was given to understand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here proposes to furnish certain Italian representatives abroad for the information of the respective Governments to which they were accredited, documentary evidence in support of the Italian contentions as to the duties of the Wal Wal Commission and I also gathered that Italian representatives abroad [Page 615] might also be instructed to offer certain explanations in refutation of statements alleged to have been made by the Emperor of Abyssinia in making his appeal to the United States33 on the basis of the Pact of Paris.34
In reference to the Abyssinian controversy in general the Foreign Office official said that there were no developments to report in connection with a possible solution of the conflict by peaceful means. He added that the press report from London to the effect that Grandi35 had submitted certain proposals for a settlement was entirely without foundation. Although Italy’s claims he continued may not yet have been stated in detail they should be well enough understood by now and need no longer be the subject for speculation. The Italian Government he continued was proceeding to the realization of its aims as soon as possible and in that connection the usual allusion was made to the time of the cessation of the rains in East Africa in the latter half of September. In short the general tenor of the conversation indicated that although the possibility of a peaceful solution should not be excluded it was at least the intention of the Italian Government to convey the impression that Italy was prepared to follow her course as regards Abyssinia and that in so doing outside considerations were not to be accorded undue significance.
In the meanwhile troop shipments and other military preparations continue and rumors are being circulated in military circles that some untoward incident might precipitate hostilities even before September. An official of the War Ministry admitted to the Military Attaché today that an estimate of 200,000 men as representing the number of native and Italian troops and workmen now in East Africa was not far from the truth and added that the mobilization of a fifth Black Shirt Division under General Teruzzi, Chief of the Fascist Militia, would be shortly announced.
Cipher message mailed Geneva.