The Ambassador in France (
) to the Secretary of State ad interim
3981. FonOff rec’d this morning note from Russian Embassy referring to notification regarding Tangier conversations delivered in Moscow Saturday1 and expressing astonishment that such conversations should be called with so little advance notice to Soviet Union. Note then expressed Russian interest in matter of Tangier and requested that opening of conversations be postponed until consultations could be held to arrange for 4 power discussions.
Meyrier of FonOff, who conveyed above information to Abbott and Holman of Brit Embassy said that Russian action had been rendered inevitable by Brit and Amer desire for temporary regime to replace Spanish administration rather than acceptance of French desire to reestablish status existing in 1939. Meyrier stated he did not see how Russian request to take part in conversations could be refused unless French thesis was adopted. Russians could then be informed that no changes in Tangier administration were contemplated at this time and that Soviet Govt together with other interested powers would naturally be invited to take part in a subsequent conference for revision of Tangier convention. Meyrier added that this [the?] chief objection to admitting Soviets at this time would be endless delays which would follow with result that Spaniards would remain in Tangier for months and years.
Holman while obviously reluctant to envisage Soviet participation in talks to be held in Paris stated he had not [no] information as to his govt’s attitude and would have to request instructions.
The above ground was gone over again this afternoon at a meeting in Meyrier’s office with members of Amer and Brit delegations. Amer position was stated in accordance with instructions to Villard,2 namely that we favored admission of Russia to discussions on an equal basis. Brit delegation stated they would have to ask instructions from London and added that owing to the elections and the dispersal of cabinet ministers it would be difficult to obtain a decision for several days. Privately Peake informed us the Brit delegation had received instructions based on a decision taken by the cabinet to oppose the admission of Russia to the conversations. Peake explained also to us that he would not communicate this to the French at this stage inasmuch as since our instructions were different he considered it [Page 992] inadvisable for the Brit delegation to take the onus of opposing Russian participation and in his view the question would have to be reexamined at the top level.
Meyrier stated that the French Govt prepared to say no to the Russians but it was not prepared to take this stand unless the decision was unanimous on the part of the 3 powers namely the US, France and Great Brit. Likewise in a conversation this morning with the Russian Ambassador3 Bidault took the position that any reply to the Russian request for participation in the discussions could not be made by France alone but was a matter which called for a decision representing the views of all 3 powers.
Meyrier stated that there were several alternatives: (1) that the Russians be informed the question of Tangier solely concerned the French and Brit Govts as signatories of the statute of 1923, and that they proposed to restore integrally the 1923 three [sic] statute provisionally, and that both the USSR and the US would be invited to participate in the drawing up of a definitive regime; (2) a refusal of the Russian request and the continuance of the present plans for a provisional regime to be followed by the drawing up of a new statute and (3) acceptance of the Russian request, in which case he saw no reason why other interested powers including Belgium the Netherlands Portugal Sweden and Spain should not be invited to participate in the conversations.
The Brit delegation has expressed itself to us as entirely opposed to the reintegration of the 1923 statute, and they do not wish to see us stand aside. The French stated this afternoon that the Brit draft agreement4 involved fundamental changes in the statute and would therefore involve extended discussions.
Brit have informed Amer delegation privately that if favorable decision should be made to admit Russians they would favor inclusion of the smaller powers in the discussions so that the task may well assume that of drawing up the final statute for Tangier rather than a provisional regime.
Inasmuch as we were careful not to associate ourselves with the Brit and French Govts in the notification to Moscow Villard and Childs feel strongly we should be most careful not to be drawn into associating ourselves with any negative decision by the Brit Govt in respect of the Russian request.