724.34119/21: Telegram

The Ambassador in Argentina ( Weddell ) to the Secretary of State

120. From Gibson. It may be useful to summarize the situation in the Peace Conference before the regular work begins.

It is an accepted fact here that the essential immediate difficulty is not the solution of territorial and other problems but the personality of the presiding officer. Saavedra Lamas is on his home ground and he intends that this Conference shall be his. He is openly resentful of any ideas or suggestions put forward by other members and it would appear that if necessary he will drag things out until he has exhausted opposition to his plans.

First, he kept the Conference marking time in a rather obvious way until the visiting Foreign Ministers left. Then, although the other delegations have expressed their readiness to proceed, he has now insisted upon a suspension of activities for a week or more in his discretion. The reasons for this have not been fathomed unless it be that he is utilizing the time for preparatory work of his own. Color is lent to this conjecture by the fact that while he would not consider suggestions that the Conference appoint committees to take up the questions set forth in the Protocol, he has had an Argentine committee set up by Executive Decree to advise him on the subjects covered by paragraphs 5 and 6 of article I of the Protocol.

As matters now stand a pretty definite quietus has been put on initiative from other delegations. Both the Chilean and Peruvian Foreign Ministers told me confidentially that they had learned their lesson and did not anticipate making any further suggestions at least in plenary session. The Uruguayan delegate is merely an echo of the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Brazilian delegation still remains an unknown quantity.

Our chief concern being the formulation of an agreement which can be accepted by the two parties, it seems to me that our best hope lies in recognizing the existing situation and seeking to wield a moderating influence toward keeping peace in the Conference.

I have avoided advancing any suggestions of substance and have thus far concentrated my efforts on making clear to Saavedra Lamas that I was ready to support him and facilitate his task wherever possible and that I was not looking for personal credit. Thus far he has responded satisfactorily and I believe he has confidence in our attitude. It seems to me that we should seek to maintain these relations in order [Page 96] that we may be in a position to smooth over some of the constant bickering, endeavor to keep him on the rails and advance ideas to him privately from time to time without arousing resentment.

When the Conference does eventually meet, it is Saavedra Lamas’ present apparent intention, subject of course to change without notice, to have all the problems involved in a settlement discussed in plenary session. Such a course obviously gives little hope for useful conclusions. It would be premature and perhaps even harmful however to advance any suggestions here at this time but I have been giving thought to some way of getting onto a more business like basis and should like to suggest for the Department’s consideration and comment one possible method.

After the general discussion has run its course, we might suggest in private conversation with Saavedra Lamas, in order that he might adopt the idea as his own if he so desires that the time appeared to have come when a small committee could more expeditiously proceed, on the basis of our discussions, to formulate actual terms of agreement; that to this end he might appoint a committee comprising representatives of Bolivia and Paraguay and perhaps two others, one to be chosen by each of the parties, with himself as chairman or at least as constructive chairman; this body to settle down to continuous work on formulating the terms of an agreement to be submitted to the plenary session which could be called whenever a draft agreement was ready. This would appear to have many of the virtues of the scheme proposed by Cruchaga without arousing the objection that the committee was assuming the functions of the Peace Conference.

Perhaps Saavedra Lamas might be more inclined to favor some such plan if I could make clear to him that we did not seek a place on the small committee and in fact would prefer to remain aloof from its detailed discussions thereby reserving our influence for use in support of any plan of settlement the committee might be able to evolve. In frequent conversations I have had with him he has shown a great anxiety to have our consistent support and in order to get it, he may be willing to meet us part way in some such scheme.

In an ordinary conference such questions of procedure would work themselves out but the Department will appreciate the special circumstances which lead me to feel this is a delicate matter which should be handled carefully and that I am therefore impelled to submit this suggestion in order to elicit the Department’s views and any alternative suggestions as to how the next stage of proceedings can be approached. [Gibson.]