Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs (Horsey)

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Having called ostensibly on one or two unimportant matters, Mr. Sanz-Briz1 then said that their Embassy had been told by Madrid of the conversation of Mr. Culbertson at the Foreign Office at Madrid, [Page 1091] reported in Madrid’s telegram 904 of October 23. He asked me whether we had yet heard and what my personal reaction was.

I said that we had received a report of Mr. Culbertson’s conversation and that we were giving it consideration. The matter seemed to me, personally, to be entirely between the Spanish and British Governments. I said that we knew nothing whatever about the alleged commitment made by Mr. Eden not to permit activities of Spanish political refugees in England, but that we felt strongly on the question of the general principle involved. As far as we were concerned, I said that we would not consider limiting ourselves, in the case of any particular country, to persons considered inoffensive by the government of the country concerned. I said that we would consider ourselves free to talk to anyone we wished in assembling all possible information on any given problem and that this action would not necessarily imply official agreement with the views of any one particular person.

Mr. Sanz-Briz said that they would not mind the British and us talking to relatively unimportant Spaniards, such as Negrin and Albornoz, but that the case of Prieto was different. I suggested that this meant that, in their eyes, Prieto had a following in Spain and that his opinions on the Spanish political situation were of some significance. It therefore seemed to me all the more important to have his views as a contribution to the total picture.

My impression was that the Spanish Embassy here had received instructions to repeat to us the protests which they have already made to both Embassies in Madrid, and that Mr. Sanz-Briz was sent in to get a preliminary reaction as to how such a protest would be received.

As to Mr. Bevin’s failure to deny press reports that he had given his blessing to Prieto’s activities, I suggested that they were taking this a little too seriously and that, for our part in a parallel case, we could not undertake to confirm, deny or correct every statement about our activities appearing in the press.

  1. Angel Sanz-Briz, second secretary, Spanish Embassy.