765.75/430: Telegram

The Minister in Yugoslavia ( Lane ) to the Secretary of State

65. Have just been informed as follows by recently appointed Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Smiljanic, considered to be expert on Albanian affairs:

Rome has kept Belgrade informed of progress of conversations with Tirana and of “hostility” of Albanian Government which it had observed. [Page 379] Day before yesterday Belgrade was informed of decision to send Italian war vessels “to pacify” Albania.

Italian Government has given Yugoslav Government assurances: (1) that it will guarantee independence of Albania, (2) that its action in Albania is purely provisional; (3) that it will guarantee “Yugoslav interest” in Albania.

Foregoing was brought to the attention of the Cabinet today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As a result it was decided to await developments. No steps towards mobilization have been taken.

Last information from Tirana is that Albanian deputies have met Italian commander with a view to arriving at conditions for armistice.

As Smiljanic was source of first paragraph of my 62, April 6, 5 p.m., it is evident that somebody is not being entirely frank, to put it mildly.

Yugoslav Government is evidently fearful of making any move against Italy or of intimating what is well known here that Italian action is most distasteful to Yugoslav Government. (Note apologetic tone of Yugoslav declaration transmitted in my 61, April 6, 11 a.m.16)

German Military Attaché reports having received visit last night from Italian Military Attaché “to explain” necessity for large number of troops sent to Albania (compare statement regarding a few hundred troops made by Italian Minister transmitted in my 6316). German Military Attaché said that from a purely military standpoint occupation of Albania would be logical first step to occupation of Salonica, that Italy is apparently accepting at face value Chamberlain’s17 statement18 that move against Albania would not constitute direct threat to British interests; and that Yugoslavia is so weak militarily and politically that it can do nothing.

No comment as yet in local press.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister.
  4. Not evident to what statement this refers. For British correspondence regarding the Italian occupation of Albania, see Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939, Third Series, vol. v, pp. 116 ff.