The Ambassador in Spain (Armour) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 6—10:05 a.m.]
969. On instructions from his Government, the French representative called on the Foreign Minister at noon today and formally requested that Laval and his party be delivered to the French authorities at the Franco-Spanish frontier. The Foreign Minister asked that the request be submitted in writing and apparently did not at the time commit himself although Truelle lately appeared to be somewhat optimistic.
This afternoon my British colleague and I called together on the Minister and supported the French request. We state that our Governments considered this to be primarily a French question but we hoped that the Spanish Government would accede to it.
The Foreign Minister was most emphatic in stating that the Spanish Government could not consider for a moment acceding to this extraordinary suggestion of the French Government: that it ran counter to the traditional relations between Spain and France; not to mention international law and to accept it would submit the Spanish Government to the most justifiable criticism. The Minister pointed out that a large number of political refugees from the Spanish Civil War charged with serious crimes were in France, the Spanish Government had never attempted to secure their extradition. He pointed out that the Spanish Government’s position had been clear from the beginning; they wanted to rid themselves of Laval at the earliest possible moment. When he had refused to leave by plane, he had been interned [Page 715]in a fortress and the Spanish Government continued ready to hand him over to the United Nations representatives at any time. They would, for example, be entirely agreeable to placing Laval and his party on a British or American warship or merchant ship with French officers on board either in the Bay of Barcelona or any other suitable point. Or they would be glad to put Laval across the border at Gibraltar where within ten minutes he could be made to board a French ship. Lequeriea made it clear that once they were rid of Laval through one of the procedures described the Spanish Government was not interested in his ultimate destination. But it was out of the question, he insisted and it would create break [in?] a long tradition which was founded on realistic humanitarian consideration for France and Spain gratuitously to extradite people for purely political offences. My British colleague and I told the Minister that we would communicate this [apparent omission] the French representative would be notified.
Truelle was later called to the Foreign Office and informed by the Under Secretary of the Spanish Government’s position along the same general lines set forth above. I have acquainted both my British and French colleagues with the purport of the Department’s 733, May 4 for which I wish to express my appreciation. It now remains to be seen whether the British and French Governments are prepared to take accommodating action.
Repeated to London as 277, Paris as 195 and Lisbon as 95 and by pouch to Tangiers.