714.44A15/138: Telegram

The Minister in Guatemala (Des Portes) to the Secretary of State

24. The British Minister yesterday presented a reply to the Guatemalan note of February 3. The reply is an “explanation of the attitude of His Majesty’s Government which implies no departure from or weakening of their previous point of view”. It goes on to say that the proposed terms of reference have been drawn up widely to cover all relevant legal and equitable principles. “They do not see how any claim for a cession of territory could arise in this dispute or be within the jurisdiction of the tribunal. They have however no knowledge of how, if made, such a claim would be put. They would in the circumstances dispute the validity of any such claim and would urge that it was not open to the tribunal to give effect to it”. The note adds that the British Government has no intention of going back on the wide terms of reference which have already been submitted and if the Guatemalan Government is of the opinion that a claim for a cession of territory can and should be brought within the scope of the dispute, it will be open to them to bring it forward and seek the ruling of the tribunal upon it. The British Government reserves the fullest liberty to contend that the claim for the cession of territory could not and should not be considered by the tribunal as a proper method, whether in law or equity, of ensuring that it fulfill their obligation, if any, incurred under article 7 of the Treaty of 1859.

The British Minister informed me on March 2 that he had just received a communication from his Government which he believed would satisfy the Guatemalan complaint against the terms of reference. [Page 431] He did not, however, indicate the terms of this communication or leave his note of March 4 with me.

I was informed by the President yesterday that he considered the new British note most unsatisfactory and that he had lost patience. I repeated the sense of the Department’s telegram No. 5, January 31, 11 a.m.

The President stated if the British Minister and the Foreign Minister could get together and discuss the matter man to man, passing over the annoying preliminary discussions which were serving no purpose, something might be accomplished. The British Minister informs me however that he has been instructed not to discuss the matter orally.

This would appear to answer the Department’s inquiry contained in the last paragraph of its telegram 13, March 2, 1 p.m.

For my information I would appreciate being informed by the Department if there are precedents in cases of this kind wherein cession of territory has been awarded by an arbitral tribunal.

Text of note by airmail tomorrow.

Des Portes