The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 4—4:25 p.m.]
311. My 307, August 1, 5 p.m. The French Ambassador called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday afternoon and submitted a proposal whereby France, Great Britain, and Italy would maintain a strict neutrality in regard to the situation in Spain. I understand from French sources that this proposal included an agreement to withhold aid both governmental and private to the contending forces in Spain and a statement refuting the allegation that France was rendering assistance to the Madrid Government but pointing out that as that Government was the recognized authority in Spain there could be no objection as a matter of right to the sale thereto of arms and material from abroad. It is reported from other sources that the French Ambassador stated that the French Government would feel free to render aid to the Madrid Government if it was found that other countries were assisting the opposing forces but this report has not been confirmed. After making the foregoing representation the French Ambassador said that although Ciano27 refrained from expressing any opinion on the matter he received the impression that this démarche was not particularly welcome to the Italian Government.
In a conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs this afternoon he told me that no decision had been reached as to the nature of the reply to be made to the French representations as it was a matter on which it would be necessary for him to consult with Mussolini who might not return to Rome for a day or two. He expressed the tentative opinion, however, that a Franco-Italo-British agreement such as the French proposed might prove of little practical value in that other countries which were not bound by the agreement might furnish aid to either side in the Spanish conflict.
Count Ciano then said emphatically that the Italian Government had maintained throughout an attitude of strict neutrality both in withholding any practical assistance to the conflicting forces in Spain and in refraining from expressing unneutral views in the press as well as over the radio. Certain other countries, however, he said, might not be in a position to make such a categorical assertion in so far as they were concerned. As regards the reports of the delivery of Italian airplanes on Spanish territory, he said that he could give no opinion on the matter until the investigation now in course was concluded but added that even if it should be ascertained that private interests in Italy had sold planes to private interests abroad which subsequently [Page 461]reached Spain no reflection could thereby be cast on Italy’s policy of strict neutrality. He concluded by expressing his deep concern at the situation in Spain and his fear of the consequences of the continued disturbances there.
- Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.↩