793.94 Conference/12: Telegram

The Ambassador in Belgium (Gibson) to the Secretary of State

82. I called upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs this morning. He said that before giving a final answer which he hoped would be favorable the Belgian Government felt that it must ask for more specific information on three points:

By what authority would the Belgian Government issue invitations to the signatories non-members of the League of Nations (United States and Japan)? Belgian Government is chiefly concerned to know whether Italy has agreed to this procedure in order that there may be no complications later on. In this connection the press has already contained statements from Rome to the effect that the Italian Government would not recognize the rights of the League to act in this matter and would therefore decline to attend Conference. The Government burnt its fingers in the matter of sanctions and is particularly anxious to avoid any further complications with Italy or any other great power.
An intimation had been received from Washington that we should like to have Van Zeeland preside over the Conference. Van Zeeland has been ordered away by his doctors and stated last night to the Foreign Minister over the telephone that he was so exhausted he doubted whether he could return before early November. I took it upon myself at this point to say this would seem to offer no difficulty as, in the absence of some other arrangement, it was customary for the Conference to choose its own president, usually the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
If Italy and Japan refuse the invitation just what is envisaged as the program of the Conference? I said on my own responsibility that I felt this did not materially affect the proposal as the absence of one or more signatories, far from diminishing the necessity for consultation, only made it more urgent.

Unless the Department desires me to express different views as regards points 2 and 3 point 1 would seem to be the only essential difficulty facing the Belgian Government. If I can be given an immediate answer on this point I shall hope to secure a decision today.

British Ambassador is communicating with his Government along the lines of the foregoing and hopes to have an early reply.