740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 248
Briefing Book Paper
top secret

Italy : Territorial Problems


a. The Government of the United States favors the creation of an international Trusteeship over the area embraced within the former Italian colony of Eritrea.

b. Basic data

The Italian colony of Eritrea began with the purchase of Assab in 1869 and reached its approximate modern boundaries during the 1880s. In the periods 1893-1896 and 1935-1936 the colony served as the basis for attacks against Ethiopia.

In 1931 it had an area of 46,000 square miles and a total population of 600,000 of whom 4,600 were Europeans. In 1936 after the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, Eritrea was incorporated as a “government” of Italian East Africa. A considerable number of Italians went to [Page 308] East Africa after this conquest, but most of the settlers in Ethiopia were driven out during the war. In 1943 it was reported that there was a total of 48,718 Italians in Eritrea.

Eritrea in itself did not attract colonists, and the lowlands are not suitable for European settlers. Ethiopia has certain vague historic claims to the region which, together with French Somaliland, blocks her from access to the sea. Outright cession to Ethiopia, however, might jeopardize the Italian population and appear as a violation of the Atlantic Charter.1

  1. Executive Agreement Series No. 236; 55 Stat. (2) 1603.