Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Duggan)

Mr. Butler19 called at my request. He was familiar with the conversations which the British Ambassador has held with Mr. Welles [Page 429] and recently with Mr. Berle regarding the dispute over Belize. I told Mr. Butler that we had studied very carefully the suggestion made by the Ambassador to Mr. Berle and had come to the definite conclusion that we were unable to accede to the Ambassador’s suggestion.

I told Mr. Butler that we had looked up the provision of the arbitration between Great Britain and Venezuela providing that occupation of a territory for fifty years gave a prescriptive right. I said that we did not see how this had the slightest bearing in a case arising from alleged nonfulfillment of a treaty. Mr. Butler attempted to argue that the Guatemalans were trying to have things both ways. On the one hand, they were denying the validity of the treaty on the ground that it had not been fulfilled, and on the other hand they were maintaining that the treaty prevented application of the same principle used in the British-Venezuelan arbitration. I told him that as far as I knew the principle in the British-Venezuelan arbitration had never been discussed with the Guatemalans.

I then went on to tell Mr. Butler that I can only see the role of the United States to be that of a friendly bystander endeavoring to facilitate discussions between two parties to bring about the termination of a long-standing dispute. We did not wish to take a stand on the merits of the case of either party. I added that we felt that our principal contribution had been in helping to bring about a resumption in negotiations and that now the Guatemalan Government and the British Government were carrying on these direct conversations we saw very little more that we could do at this stage.

  1. N. M. Butler, Counselor of the British Embassy.