765.84/3494: Telegram

The Consul at Geneva ( Gilbert ) to the Secretary of State

20. I now learn from a Council member the chief developments which took place in a secret meeting of the Committee of Thirteen held yesterday in the Itaio-Ethiopian affair.

My informant characterized the tone of the meeting as hesitating and inconclusive both in respect of the more fundamental matters discussed and in respect of the positions taken. Five aspects of the question were considered, (1st) the request of Ethiopia for financial assistance (Consulate’s 577, November 5, 11 a.m.74), (2d) the request of Ethiopia for a Commission of Inquiry respecting illegal warfare (Consulate’s 2, January 7, noon), (3d) the matter of conciliation, (4th) the question of sanctions and [(5th)] mutual position of the League vis-à-vis the whole question were discussed.

(1) The granting of financial assistance was unanimously opposed both for technical reasons (the treaty75 which Ethiopia had cited not being in force) and for political reasons. Bruce76 pointed out that any entering upon the path of assistance was extremely dangerous inasmuch as Ethiopia might ask for financial assistance today and military assistance tomorrow.

(2) The sending of a Commission of Inquiry on illegal warfare was considered as not falling within the province of the League, the statement being made that “the purpose of League was to stop a war and not to observe a war”. Eden suggested that this might be undertaken by some other organization perhaps the Red Cross.

(3) A lengthy discussion took place on the question of the Committee’s functions with respect to conciliation at the present time.

Madariaga77 pointed out that the only new information available since the last meeting was that composed in the notes received from Italy and Ethiopia. He inquired what the Committee should do with reference to the matter raised in the Ethiopian note of January 20 (Consulate’s 19, January 21, noon).

Titulesco78 stated that the Committee should decide whether its fundamental mission was one of conciliation. Madariaga felt that the function of Committee was to consider the whole affair. With this Eden agreed and stated that in consequence they must consider if any [Page 96] possibility existed of taking an initiative to put an end to the conflict. If there was the Committee should pursue it. If not it should so state.

Titulesco agreed in principle but felt that it would be dangerous to leave the impression with Italy that the whole question was again under consideration which might imply that the League’s action in declaring an aggressor and in enforcing sanctions was not a final judgment. He felt that the work of the Committee was a matter for the future and not for the past or present. In consequence the Committee might report to the Council that it could not pronounce on the Hoare-Laval plan which had not obtained the approval of the parties and that it had no suggestions to make respecting conciliation.

Beck79 agreed, feeling, however, that the Committee should state that it was ready to consider all proposals for conciliation.

Eden felt that the initiative in conciliation could not be taken by the League which could only act in response to the two parties. There was no material on hand for conciliating and the Committee of Eighteen should pursue its work.

Laval disagreed entirely with Eden’s attitude. The position which he had taken with Hoare in Paris in the evolvement of plan had not changed. He did not wish to revive the plan but he wanted to make clear that its purpose was to reach a conciliation before the reenforcement of sanctions. He felt that the situation was precisely the same as it was at the time of the plan and that it would be most dangerous for the League to assume the position that the moment was not opportune for conciliation.

(4) Eden stated that some order had to be established in the work of the League on the relationship between the questions of sanctions and mutual assistance and referred to the diplomatic conversations which had taken place respecting the latter. He felt that the states which had agreed to mutual assistance should present individually a report to the Council for its information.

There was no response to this suggestion on the part of the other members of the Committee but it was apparent from the attitude of some that these remarks aroused uneasiness.

(5) Bruce discussed in particular the position of the League at the present juncture. At the beginning of the conflict public opinion felt that the League was only an ideal but was helpless in the face of action taken by any great power. The application of sanctions had changed opinion and it was felt that the League could accomplish something for collective security. At present there was the question in many minds whether an extension of the economic sanctions would [Page 97] produce reactions which would result in a new conflict. The League was thus faced by two dangers, (a) public opinion of the world that it could not stop the war, (b) consequences which might arise should the League apply the letter of the Covenant. He suggested that great attention should be given to the possible results of the application of slow pressure.

The Committee decided to meet again to adopt a resolution80 which it was understood would include only subjects mentioned in paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) above, the remaining subjects not being within the competence of the Committee.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Convention on financial assistance to states victims of aggression; for text, see League of Nations, Official Journal, November 1930, p. 1649.
  3. S. M. Bruce, Australian delegate to the League.
  4. Salvador de Madariaga, Spanish permanent delegate to the League of Nations.
  5. Nicolas Titulesco, Rumanian permanent delegate to the League of Nations.
  6. Joseph Beck, Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, taking the place of the permanent Polish delegate on the Council.
  7. For the text of the Committee’s report to the Council, January 23, 1936, see League of Nations, Official Journal, February 1936, p. 106.