Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Dunn)
The Italian Ambassador came in this morning by appointment and stated that he had been instructed by his Foreign Office to inquire whether there was any new reason for our decision to close our offices at Addis Ababa. He said that the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Ciano, had understood the arrangement with Mr. Phillips to be that we would make no announcement with regard to the withdrawal of our representation for the present.
I informed the Ambassador that the decision of the Department to close the offices in Addis Ababa had been under contemplation for some months and that it was finally decided upon entirely as an administrative measure because all of the Americans in Ethiopia have been accounted for and as there were no commercial relations between Ethiopia and the United States there seemed to be no warrant for maintaining a representative of any character there at the present time.
I explained to the Ambassador that we had told Mr. Phillips that upon the departure of Mr. Engert, our Minister, on March 5 on leave we contemplated announcing his departure on leave and the fact that Mr. Hughes would remain in charge of the Consulate until the end of this month when the office would be closed. I said that Mr. Phillips [Page 695] had reported that Count Ciano had asked that the statement not be made before Hughes’s departure, whereupon we had replied that we would accede to the Foreign Minister’s wishes in that regard, but that the news of the withdrawal of our offices would no doubt become public by reason of the necessity to give notice of termination of the lease and to arrange for the packing of all the effects and also the necessity for notifying those few Americans who remained in Ethiopia that there would no longer be any Government offices there after the departure of Mr. Hughes. We had told Mr. Phillips that in response to any inquiries on the part of the press as a result of our intentions becoming known we would make reply in the sense of the statement which we had expected to give out before Engert’s departure. That statement merely said that because there were no commercial relations between Ethiopia and the United States and as the Americans in that country were all accounted for the offices were being closed.
The Ambassador said that the Italian Government had hoped that we might have been induced to delay the departure of the Consul and that we might eventually have adopted a course similar to that followed by Great Britain and France, that is, withdraw our diplomatic representation and leave a consular officer there to represent us. He also asked whether our action in withdrawing our offices entirely was to be construed with having any relationship with the question of recognition of Italian authority over Ethiopia.
I told the Ambassador that the position of the French and British Governments was quite different from our own as we had no commercial interests in Ethiopia and both Governments had not only commercial interests but other interests by reason of having colonies or mandated territories adjacent to Ethiopia. I further said that our action in closing the offices in Addis Ababa had no effect upon the question of recognition.
I further pointed out that at the same time we had arranged to close the offices in Addis Ababa we had put into effect arrangements for closing our consular offices at Kingston, Sault Ste. Marie (in Canada), and our consulate at Tripoli.
The Ambassador appeared to find satisfactory the answers which I put to the questions he had brought up.