500 CC(PC)/9–1445: Telegram

The United States Representative on the Preparatory Commission (Stettinius) to the Acting Secretary of State

9437. Copre 97. It was evident after the ExCom meeting on Monday that no agreement would be reached on the time and place of the first meeting of the General Assembly unless urgent steps were taken. I called in Ambassadors Koo and Gromyko and spoke to Massigli and Noel-Baker separately in an effort to reach agreement between [Page 1447] ourselves before the ExCom meeting yesterday. It was clear Monday at ExCom meeting that Noel-Baker was stalling on this question. He has told me that he was not sure the British could hold the constituent meeting in London, and that he was anxious to hold a final meeting of the League Assembly in Geneva during December and the first meeting of the General Assembly of United Nations Organization in January, also in Geneva.

I do not believe it is possible to hold a meeting of the General Assembly in December except in London. We therefore have had to consider the possibility of postponing the meeting of the General Assembly until January at some location other than London.

I reviewed this matter with Koo and Gromyko together and we agree that there were only two acceptable alternatives: 1, that the General Assembly should meet around December 1st in London: or 2, that it should meet early in January in the United States. Koo and I preferred the former, Gromyko preferred the latter, but seemed ready to withdraw his objection to London, if urged.

Noel-Baker advised me that he would not be prepared to reach a decision between these two alternatives for 2 weeks. I told him this was not satisfactory and later asked Massigli to postpone the meeting of ExCom arranged for yesterday morning and to call instead an informal meeting of the Big Five to thrash out this problem in a frank discussion. Noel-Baker strongly resisted in a Big Five meeting on the grounds that he had not been able to get a decision from Mr. Bevin, and I finally gave in on the understanding that he would be prepared to reach a decision on these two questions within 3 or 4 days.

At the ExCom meeting yesterday, by agreement, we postponed until Monday discussion of the time and place of the first meeting of the General Assembly (reference our Copre 91).

We feel that Noel-Baker’s plan for a full dress final meeting of the League in December in Geneva, followed within 2 or 3 weeks by the first meeting of the General Assembly also in Geneva, would be a mistake. In preliminary discussions, I have, without formally objecting to it, indicated this view. I would prefer to see the League pass away quietly and with dignity, and doubt that any apology for the expulsion of the Soviet Union would make them more amenable to Geneva. A highly publicized full dress final meeting of the League in Geneva would detract from United Nations Organization and if followed by the first meeting of the General Assembly in Geneva might invite cynical comment and do United Nations Organization positive injury at home.

I discussed this matter with Secretary Byrnes22 who agreed with this view generally. I propose therefore in future discussions to try [Page 1448] to prevail on the members of the League to avoid this policy. I also propose, in case it is not agreeable to hold the organizing meeting on United Nations Organization in London in December, to work against Geneva and toward holding the meeting in the United States in January. In such case, it probably would be desirable to hold the full dress meeting of the General Assembly at the same place and for the permanent organs to remain there during the interval. I do not plan to urge openly the United States as the location at present. Secretary Byrnes agrees with this plan. I expect to have the support of at least the Chinese, the Russians and the Australians in this. If the Russians, as I expect them to, take a strong position against Geneva, I expect almost unanimous agreement to hold the first meeting in the United States, without prejudice to the final determination of the permanent headquarters.

There has been some talk of not attempting to settle finally the permanent headquarters until the spring meeting of the General Assembly. I am not opposed to this decision, but favor reaching it as a compromise after we have discussed the question sufficiently to get a clear idea of what the issues are and how the countries probably will line up.

We would welcome any comment you may have on the above.23

  1. The Secretary of State was in London at this time, attending the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers.
  2. In telegram 8064 (Preco 82), September 17, 7 p.m., the Acting Secretary of State indicated that the Department agreed “generally” with the points made in this telegram, while cautioning against pressing the British “unduly” with regard to a meeting of the General Assembly in London, in tight of the “material difficulties” confronting them (500.CC (PC)/9–1445).