740.00119 (Potsdam)/5–2446

No. 651
Briefing Book Paper

top secret

Future Status of the International Zone of Tangier

At the invitation of the French and British Governments we are about to begin informal conversations in Paris with representatives of those two powers regarding the future status of the International Zone of Tangier which was occupied on June 14, 1940, by Spanish military forces in pursuance of a unilateral decision of the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government’s justification of this act, as notified to the interested powers, was stated to be its desire to preserve the neutrality of the Tangier Zone during the war. The Spanish Government has now indicated that it is desirous of regularizing the situation in the Zone and, accordingly, the immediate problem to be discussed is the form which the provisional regime will take, following the departure of the Spanish forces and administration and pending the establishment of a permanent regime for the future. It is expected that an international conference of all the interested powers will be called at some future date to consider the permanent regime of the Zone.

The international regime at Tangier was formulated in the Tangier Statute of 19231 to which the following powers adhered: France, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal[,] the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. In 1928 the Statute was amended2 to include Italy as a party. The United States, though invited to do so, did not become a party to the 1923 Statute and has never participated in the administration of the Tangier Zone, in as much as this Government did not feel that the limited representation assigned to the United States was commensurate with the responsibility which it would be forced to assume in [Page 981] connection with the administration of the Zone. However, the leading role which the United States has assumed in world affairs as a result of the war as well as its long continued interest in Morocco and its special position there deriving from a series of treaties to which it is a party,3 makes it logical that we should assume responsibilities in respect of the International Zone of Tangier commensurate with our position as a world Power. Moreover, Tangier’s strategic position on the Straits of Gibraltar makes it an important post-war security problem which cannot fail to be of interest to the United States as a great maritime power.

Soviet Russia has never manifested any interest in the Tangier Zone, and has never had a representative stationed at Tangier, although the Russian Imperial Government prior to 1917 had taken an active part in the formulation of various treaties and conventions concerning Morocco, including the Act of Algeciras of 1906.4

Regardless of its position in the past, however, this Government considers it desirable to notify the Soviet Government concerning the conversations between Great Britain, France and the United States and to keep the Soviet Government informed of developments. If, upon notification of our intention to hold these preliminary conversations with regard to the International regime for Tangier, Russia should express a desire to participate, it should be our policy to admit that country into the discussions on an equal basis. The British Government appears to favor this view also, but there is some hesitation on the part of the French to admit Soviet Russia to the conversations and to active participation in the administration of the Zone, apparently for fear that Russia’s admission will operate to weaken the predominant position that France held prior to the Spanish occupation, and which it hopes to regain. The Spanish Government, in the tradition of the Franco regime, has already voiced its unconditional opposition to Soviet participation in the organization of the International Zone.

The conclusions reached during these conversations will be communicated to the Spanish Government at an early date, when appropriate steps can be taken to effect the transition to a provisional international regime.

  1. Signed at Paris, December 18, 1923. Text in British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxvii, p. 499.
  2. By an agreement signed at Paris, July 25, 1928. Text printed ibid., vol. cxxviii, p. 449.
  3. See the Convention for the Establishment of the Right of Protection in Morocco, signed at Madrid, July 3, 1880 (Treaty Series No. 246; 22 Stat. 817), and the General Act of the International Conference at Algeciras and Additional Protocol, signed at Algeciras, April 7, 1906 (Treaty Series No. 456; 34 Stat. (3) 2905). Text of the Act of Algeciras also in Foreign Relations, 1906, pt. 2, p. 1495.
  4. See footnote 3, supra.