The Ambassador in Portugal (Baruch) to the Secretary of State
[Received 10:10 p.m.]
480. For Hickerson from Culbertson. We called on Mathias this morning and went over with him all of the various problems raised in your 541 and 542, May 29. We also discussed with him the mechanical problems such as those raised by O’Malley in the latter’s conversation with Mathias reported in Embtel 476, May 29.40 Mathias made very clear that he could not undertake any specific commitments outside of the language appearing in the proposed exchange of notes.
Mathias accepted our preferences to treat the agreements themselves as classified documents, which will remove any necessity to explain [Page 997]them to the American press and we feel quite appropriate in view of the hoped for interim nature of these papers. There was, however, no hesitation in his assurances to us that within the framework of the proposed exchange of notes there would be no difficulty in ironing out mechanical or other problems in a friendly, cooperative manner at any time. Insofar as the 18 months period is concerned there is no reason to feel that the two Governments may not in a friendly spirit reexamine the requirements which may then exist in relation to our occupation forces.
While we were not able to “nail Mathias down” on any of the specific issues, we were quite satisfied ourselves with the manner in which he covered the problems in general. We have constantly in mind the views and experiences of both US and UK Embassy personnel. Crocker particularly cited instances of Portuguese adherence to oral understandings even after both parties to the original conversation had departed. Mathias agreed to an extension from ninety to one hundred and twenty days (90 to 120) for the transition; he agreed that the ceremony on June 2 at Santa Maria would be a simple turning over by the commanding officer to the Minister of War, who will go out to Santa Maria for that purpose. We discussed the simple dignified ceremony that has been used throughout the world when we have returned military air bases to their proper owners. There will be a ceremony of some sort here in Lisbon which may in fact merely reduce itself to separate press conferences at which the respective Ambassadors would make polite statements. We feel that the assurances that we got this morning are as good as we can get and will therefore proceed to an exchange of notes in which we will quote the agreement as proposed by the Portuguese.
Kuter made clear to Mathias the fact that he bases his acceptance of this paper on his confidence that a longer range accord will be reached between the American and Portuguese prior to the expiration of the time periods indicated. Mathias again clearly stated his willingness to continue long range discussions, but once more inescapably inferred that the impetus was ours.
We then told Mathias that the two of us had been ordered urgently to return to Washington in order that we might the better bring Washington up to date on the present discussions. We made clear that our departure should not be interpreted in any way as an interruption to the long term discussions which would be continued by the Ambassador. Mathias wanted to know whether Kuter or Culbertson would return and in response we said that in all likelihood Kuter would not, but that there was a possibility that Washington would order Culbertson back to assist in these negotiations.[Page 998]
At present we expect to pay goodbye calls on Mathias and have accepted his invitation to lunch about midday May 31. At this time we will leave with him draft copies of the June 2 statement by the Ambassador, an outline of the ceremony at the Santa Maria air base and a draft of the final exchange of notes.41
We propose to depart about 1100Z, June 1, for Santa Maria. Due to the fact that our B–17 lacks bomb-bay tanks the airplane may be delayed some time awaiting favorable winds. It is therefore, not possible at this time to forecast our time of arrival in Washington.
These final actions will naturally be coordinated with O’Malley in detail, and it is our intention to ask him to be sure that the special provisos which he may wish to put on the British-Portuguese agreement be given a parallel extension in the American-Portuguese considerations. [Culbertson.]