The Ambassador in Cuba ( Messersmith ) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 19.]
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s circular telegram of June 17, 1940, 10 a.m. addressed to the [Page 184] Governments of the American Republics and suggesting the desirability of holding a conference at the earliest moment possible to discuss questions which may arise in connection with the possessions and colonies of non-American States in the Western Hemisphere in view of developing conditions in Europe. The substance of this telegram had been communicated to me by telephone by the Department on the morning of June 17 and I immediately sought an interview with Dr. Campa, the Secretary of State. He informed me that the Cuban Government was entirely in accord that such a meeting should be held at the earliest possible date and I so informed the Department by telephone on the afternoon of June 17.
The Department’s circular telegram of June 17, 10 a.m. did not reach this Embassy until late that evening and after it was decoded I called on the Secretary of State, accompanied by Mr. Beaulac, the First Secretary of the Embassy. I communicated to him the substance of the Department’s telegram and in my telegram of June 18, 10 a.m. [noon]10 to the Department I have been able to give the following reactions of the Cuban Government.
The Cuban Government agrees as to the urgency of a second consultation of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs following that of Panama and is of the opinion that this meeting should be held at the earliest possible moment.
The Cuban Government is prepared to have this meeting in Habana at the earliest date which may be agreeable to the other Governments. The Secretary of State expressed the hope that it would be possible to give sufficient time for the Foreign Ministers of the more distant countries to reach Habana, but at the same time he expressed his complete understanding of the urgency of the meeting.
The Secretary of State further informed me that he would transmit his memorandum on a proposed preliminary agenda for the October meeting which he had already prepared and which I have already forwarded to the Department, to the other American Governments today, but he made it clear that he would arrange to have omitted from the proposed agenda that part relating to ships. He further said that in transmitting his memorandum to the other American States he would make it clear that his suggestions for the October meeting were entirely preliminary and without prejudice to the earlier immediate meeting which our Government has proposed and which he believes may usefully be confined to the questions of possessions of non-American States in this Hemisphere.
At the request of the Secretary of State I called on him this morning and he handed me the appended confidential memorandum for transmission to my Government which memorandum the Department [Page 185] will note is practically textually the same as the copy of the memorandum I transmitted some days ago. When I saw the Secretary of State last evening I suggested to him the desirability of leaving out of this memorandum the reference to ships and he agreed that he would do so. This morning when he handed me the appended memorandum he said that the reference to ships remained in the memorandum but he was making the necessary arrangements through the Cuban Embassy in Washington to have this part of the memorandum eliminated by the Pan-American Union when any agenda for the October meeting was prepared.
It was my hope that I might be able to persuade the Secretary of State not to send this memorandum at this time and immediately following our initiative in suggesting an immediate meeting, but for various reasons I did not deem it advisable to press this point, particularly as he was prepared on our suggestion to eliminate the reference in the preliminary agenda to ships. The Secretary of State feels a very definite responsibility with respect to the October meeting in view of the resolution of the Panama conference and that it is the duty of the Cuban Government to take some preliminary steps with respect to the Habana meeting.
It will be of interest to the Department to know that the Secretary of State was very definitely of the opinion that it would be desirable to hold a meeting such as the one we suggest at Habana at the earliest possible date to discuss the questions arising out of the possessions and colonies of non-American States in the Western Hemisphere. He indicated that the Cuban Government would be prepared to have this conference take place in Habana at any moment that our Government and the other American States may deem it advisable. He has already taken steps to make available the necessary personnel for such a meeting if it should be held within the next six or seven days. Just before I saw him he had called in Senator Verdeja, the President of the Senate, in order to make the arrangements with him for making available the facilities of the Senate Chamber and offices.
In view of the urgency of the discussion by the American States of the question raised by our Government he believes that this conference should take place at the earliest possible moment and as time would not be available for the preparation of a full agenda of other subjects which could usefully be discussed it is his thought that the meeting contemplated by our Government at Habana be confined to the consideration of the question which we have raised and that in the meantime the Pan-American Union proceed with the elaboration of the agenda for a meeting to follow which would also be held at Habana.
The question arose as to whether it would be possible for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the more distant countries to reach [Page 186] Habana for this urgent meeting. The Secretary of State strongly expressed the hope that it would be possible for the Foreign Ministers of the more distant countries to participate in this first as well as in the following meeting. In case it were not possible for the Foreign Ministers of any American States to attend the urgent meeting I suggested that certain Governments might find it desirable to give proper powers to their diplomatic representatives in Cuba, Washington, or contiguous States to represent them at this first meeting in order that there may be no delay in its taking place. The Secretary of State expressed himself as believing that this was a solution which some of the States might have to find for this immediate meeting in view of its great urgency. I brought out, however, that in case the meeting is held five or six days hence there would be time for the Foreign Ministers to arrive here by air.
I think I should take this opportunity to inform the Department that Dr. Campa placed great stress on the importance of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of all the American States to be present at the October meeting, the actual holding of which he said he thought could also be advanced if this seems desirable in the opinion of the American States. He indicated that in his opinion the experience at the first consultation in Panama showed clearly the desirability of having persons with proper authority and adequate responsibility attend these meetings.
The Secretary of State showed not only a full comprehension of the importance of the meeting which our Government has proposed, but a very real desire on the part of the Cuban Government and on his part to cooperate to the fullest possible extent in this meeting.