740.00/1404: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

914. Leger91 said to me this evening that Daladier had sent for him and Bonnet together this morning in order that there might be no [Page 183] mistake about the reply of the French Government to the Pope’s proposal. They had discussed the question from all angles. It had been their unanimous opinion that a formal rejection of the Pope’s proposal should be sent at once.

Their reasoning was the following: At a conference such as that proposed by the Pope the question of German relations with Poland and French relations with Italy which had nothing essential to do with each other would be tied together and both France and Poland would be expected to make concessions to Germany and Italy with the Pope as arbitrator and Great Britain as super-arbitrator.

Neither France nor Poland would make any concessions at the point of a German gun.

The French Government believed that any establishment of good relations between France and Italy could be achieved only by direct negotiations between France and Italy and was as unwilling today as it had always been to accept the arbitration of any foreign power. Similarly the French Government was certain that the Polish Government would not accept the arbitration of any foreign power in the matter of Germany’s demands.

A conference such as that envisaged by the Pope must result either in complete failure or in the extortion of concessions from France and Poland without any corresponding concessions on the part of Germany and Italy.

The British Government had sensed that at such a conference German demands for British colonies might also be brought up. Halifax92 therefore had replied to the Papal Nuncio in London that he believed the French Government would not accept such a conference and that in consequence Great Britain could not favor it. But he had made a counterproposal which showed clearly that once all question of discussions of British colonies should be eliminated Great Britain would be very glad to arbitrate away the possessions and interests of her associates, France and Poland.

Halifax had proposed to the Papal Nuncio in London that there should be no conference; but that the Pope should offer to arbitrate the dispute between Germany and Poland, and the dispute between Italy and France, and had indicated that the British Government would support the Pope in such an arbitration.

Leger was engaged in preparing a draft of a note to the British Government saying that Halifax’s proposal would be just as inacceptable to the French Government as the Pope’s proposal.

The French Government has received no new information from Moscow today and Leger said that the British Government had informed [Page 184] the French Government this afternoon that it had as yet received no reply to the proposals made by the British Ambassador in Moscow yesterday to Molotov.93

  1. Secretary General, French Foreign Office.
  2. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union, and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs. For correspondence concerning the Anglo-French-Soviet negotiations, see pp. 232 ff.