852.00/2343: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Straus ) to the Secretary of State

705. Reference to our 696, July 31, 4 p.m. The Council of Ministers met yesterday morning to consider the Spanish situation with particular reference to the matter of Italian aid to the insurgents. The meeting was a prolonged one lasting from 10 o’clock until 1:30, and we are informed that it was a stormy session. The extremist members of the Government urged, in view of the fact Italy was sending airplanes to help the rebels, that the policy of non-intervention which the French Government had adopted should be abandoned [Page 455] forthwith and authorization granted for shipments of war material to the Spanish Government. The moderate members of the Government opposed this and urged the adoption of the plan mentioned in our 696, namely, an appeal to the other principal Mediterranean powers, England and Italy, to join in a declaration of strict neutrality and non-intervention in the struggle. No decision was reached in the Council of Ministers and the discussions were continued among members of the Government all afternoon. Finally at 8 o’clock last night a communiqué was given out at the Foreign Office, the terms of which indicate that the more moderate view within the Cabinet won out.

This communiqué states that the Government had examined the problems arising out of the Spanish crisis and particularly the questions relating to the facts of foreign intervention resulting from furnishing war material. The French Government had the double concern of saving the international situation from the harmful effects of such foreign intervention and at the same time of maintaining friendly relations with a regularly constituted and recognized Government struggling to reestablish internal order. The French Government, in an effort to contribute by all possible means to shortening the troubles in Spain and to avoiding the development there of foreign activity the result of which might prove prejudicial to the maintenance of good international relations, had decided “to address an urgent appeal to the principal interested Governments for the immediate adoption and strict observance with regard to Spain of common rules of non-intervention.” The communiqué states that the French Government had observed “until now” in the strictest fashion its decision not to authorize any exportation of arms to Spain even in execution of contracts made before the beginning of the present troubles. While awaiting the establishment of a common viewpoint on this subject among the principal interested powers the communiqué added (and here is the concession to the extremists views in the Cabinet) that “the fact that war material is now being furnished from abroad to the insurgents obliges the French Government to reserve its freedom of judgment for the application of the decision which it had adopted”.

We understand the French Government has already approached the British and Italian Governments with an appeal for a declaration of non-intervention in Spanish affairs and that if agreement is reached among the three powers the effort would doubtless be extended to other powers including Germany.

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  1. Telegram in two sections.