881.00/7–645: Telegram

No. 670
The Chief of the Division of African Affairs ( Villard ) to the Secretary of State 1


4061. From Villard.

Meyrier of the Foreign Office handed to us yesterday evening a note (in translation below) setting forth the present French position in respect to the conversations on Tangier. It states that in view of the Russian request for participation in the discussions the necessity arises of defining as precisely as possible the terms on which the conversations are to be held and it seeks to obtain agreement on those terms before an answer is given to the Soviet Government. A similar note was handed to the British.
After referring to the fundamental changes in the statute implied by the British draft proposals,2 the note describes the French objectives as follows:
[“]By letters dated May 25 and June 12,3 the Ministry has had the honor to inform the Embassy that the French Government considers that the factual and juridical conditions existing at Tangier in 1940, prior to the military intrusion of the Spanish, must be reestablished and that it is the statute of 1923 which must be brought back into force and substituted for the Spanish regime. In the view of the Ministry the purposes of the conversations which are to take place in Paris are to define the procedure of the joint action to be taken towards the Spanish Government in order to obtain its evacuation of the zone, to determine the practical measures by which the international administration shall be reestablished, and to define adjustments in detail which, in view of the circumstances, may be found necessary to permit the harmonious functioning of this regime. Inasmuch therefore as the object is to lay down the conditions of political, and [Page 1000] eventually of military action to be pursued for the purpose of securing the reestablishment of a position of international legality in Tangier, it is normal that the conversations destined to prepare such action, and to determine the modalities to be adopted in this connection, should be held between representatives of the great powers. It is with this view in mind that the French Government has agreed to a meeting which shall include the representatives of the British, American and French Governments, if the British and American Governments are similarly disposed, it will raise no objection to the association of the USSR in the conversations.”
An interesting addition which, Meyrier observed, did not refer to Tangier but involved France’s desire to be represented on such bodies as the reparations commission, states that:
“However, the French Government expects that, in the same spirit, the Governments of the USSR, of Great Britain and of the United States will admit that the French Government shall itself be invited to participate in all international conferences in which matters of interest to it will be raised.”
The note adds that following the establishment of a provisional regime the French Government is not opposed to undertaking a new examination of the Tangier questions “looking to provide the city with a definitive statute such as will conciliate the sovereign rights of the Sultan with all international interests concerned” and remarks that “it considers that all powers signatories of the Act of Algeciras (with the exception of those who have ceased to be in a position to invoke this convention) must be associated in such an examination”.
Finally it is asked that the position of the American Government on the points above set forth be communicated within [sic] the briefest possible delay.
French objection to the British plan appears to be based on the mistaken impression that it seeks to undermine the French position in Tangier and Morocco and in particular to threaten the authority of the Mendoub4 by appointment of an assistant administrator for native affairs. Our feeling was that the latter provision would actually enhance French prestige since the post would be under French control, but the French profess to see in this and in other parts of the British draft a deliberate attempt to reduce French influence. This may be a reflection of General de Gaulle’s personal attitude in the matter[.]
Meyrier proposes that if the American and British delegations are in agreement with the above stated purposes of the conversations and concur in the admission of Russia, the French Government will accede to the Soviet request and set a date eight or ten days ahead [Page 1001] for the start of conversations. Meanwhile, informal discussions could continue at the Foreign Office with a view to reaching a common understanding between French, British and American representatives before opening the subject with the Russians. The British are now seeking instructions and state that the question of Russian participation has been referred to the Cabinet, with the possibility that it may go to the “Big Three” meeting for final decision.
The French seem to believe that the background of our objectives at Tangier is the desire to obtain an international security base in accordance with plans worked out at San Francisco for the World Security Council. This the French Government would be willing to discuss, according to Meyrier, but only in its proper setting of the international organization and not in relation to the Tangier statute.
  1. Sent over the signature of Caffery.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Neither printed.
  4. The Mendoub represented the Sultan of Morocco at Tangier and was responsible, among other things, for the administration of native affairs.