765.84/4269: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

125. Department’s No. 37, May 4. I have just called by appointment on the Director for Political Affairs at the Foreign Office and have requested information as to the steps which the Royal Government is adopting to meet its responsibility to protect the lives of foreigners in Addis Ababa and as to when the Italian forces may be expected to reach Addis Ababa in order to render such protection. In making this inquiry I emphasized the fact that I was requesting information solely as to whether the Italian authorities were prepared to meet the responsibilities which they are called upon to discharge as a result of the situation which they have created.

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I was informed that Italian troops were hastening the occupation of Addis Ababa and that as soon as the city was occupied all possible measures would be taken to protect the lives and property of foreigners in accordance with the rules of war. I was also told that exact information as to when the Italian troops might be expected to enter the city was not known but that it was believed to be only a question of hours and that in the meanwhile Italian aeroplanes were flying over the city in order to dispel bands of marauders and to render all possible protection to foreigners.

I desire to add that when in the course of the conversation I referred to the situation in Addis Ababa as a consequence of the disappearance of the Ethiopian Government as a result of the Italian military advance, the Foreign Office official countered with the statement that the Italians had not attacked Addis Ababa and that the rioting there could have been prevented if the Negus in departing had left a police force to preserve order in the city. I gathered the impression therefore that, although the Italian Government will take all possible steps to protect the lives of foreigners in Addis Ababa, there is a probability that it would not admit the responsibility for the creation of the situation of danger itself prevailing there. If, therefore, this point should be further clarified please instruct. I am seeing Suvich on another matter at 6:30 this afternoon.