Truman Papers

No. 711
Proposal by the United States Delegation1

top secret

Memorandum

Subject: Draft Proposal for the Establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers

One of the most urgent problems in the field of foreign relations facing us today is the establishment of some procedure and machinery for the development of peace negotiations and territorial settlements without which the existing confusion, political and economic stagnation will continue to the serious detriment of Europe and the world.

The experience at Versailles following the last war does not encourage the belief that a full formal peace conference without preliminary preparation on the part of the leading powers is the best procedure. Such a conference without such preparation would be slow and unwieldy, its session would be conducted in a heated atmosphere of rival claims and counterclaims and ratification of the resulting documents might be long delayed. I therefore propose as the best formula to meet the situation the establishment of a Council composed of the foreign ministers of Great Britain, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, France and the United States, namely, the countries which compose the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations organization. It is my thought that this Council should meet as soon after our meeting as preparations therefor can be completed. I should like to present therefore a draft proposal along these lines which I have drawn up for your consideration.

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[Attachment]

Draft Proposal for the Establishment of a Council of Foreign Ministers

(1)
There shall be established a Council composed of the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, China, France, and the United States.
(2)
The Council shall meet at ___________2 and its first meeting shall be held on ____________. Each of the Foreign Ministers shall be accompanied by a high-ranking deputy duly authorized and capable of carrying on the work of the Council in the absence of his Foreign Minister. He will likewise be accompanied by a small staff of technical advisers suited to the problems concerned and to the organization of a joint secretariat.
(3)
As its immediate important task, the Council would be authorized to draw up, with a view to their submission to the United Nations, treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria,3 and Hungary and to propose settlements of territorial questions outstanding on the termination of the war in Europe. The Council shall be utilized for the preparation of a peace settlement for Germany to be accepted by the Government of Germany when a government adequate for the purpose is established.
(4)
Whenever the Council is considering a question of direct interest to a State not represented thereon, such State should be invited to send representatives to participate in the discussion and study of that question. It is not intended, however, to fix hard and fast rules but rather to permit the Council to adapt its procedure to the particular problem under consideration. In some cases it might desire to hold its own preliminary discussions prior to the participation of other interested States. In other cases the Council might desire to convoke a formal conference of the States chiefly interested in seeking a solution of the particular problem. It is so authorized.
  1. Attachment 1 to the minutes of the First Plenary Meeting, July 17. See ante, p. 52.
  2. The blanks in this sentence are in the original.
  3. Byrnes, on his copy of document No. 214 (see vol. i), has made a manuscript note in the margin that “Finland” should be inserted here. Cf. ante, pp. 68 69.