NEA Files: Lot 55–D36

Statement by the United States and the United Kingdom Groups

top secret

The Problem

Disposition of the former Italian Colonies other than Cyrenaica.

[Page 589]


It was the consensus that whatever decision were adopted concerning the future of these colonies, it was essential in the interest of Middle East security and world peace that the Soviet Union should obtain no direct or indirect foothold in them.
The American group reserved its position regarding the disposition of the former Italian colonies other than Cyrenaica, specifically mentioning as reasons for deferring decision that the Four Power Commission’s report was still awaited and that it would seem desirable to allow sufficient time for the observation of internal developments in Italy.
The suggestion was made that in such consideration as may be given this matter either in the CFM or the UN, importance should be attached to dealing with this question on the basis of separate colonies rather than as a single problem.
It was felt that the November meeting of the CFM would not be an appropriate occasion for discussion of this problem because the report of the Commission would not have been received and also because such discussion would afford an opportunity for Soviet trouble making.
The American group suggested that, bearing in mind the importance of Italy in the general Mediterranean picture, it would be helpful if the British could adopt as friendly an attitude as possible in their general approach to Italian problems.
Tripolitania: It was generally recognized that Tripolitania was the colony on the return of which the Italians are particularly insistent; that its return to Italy would undoubtedly receive French approval; but that such a course would arouse violent opposition on the part of the Arabs which might not only seriously prejudice a successful solution of the Cyrenaica problem but also that of other outstanding questions in the other Arab countries.
The possibility of a British trusteeship for all of Libya was discussed and, although the strategic advantages were recognized to be considerable, it was noted that there were serious political difficulties involved. The possibility of the American Government accepting a trusteeship over Tripolitania at this time was ruled out by the American group.
Somaliland: It was the view of both groups that an Italian trusteeship over Somaliland would encounter less objection than would one over any other former Italian colony. Its economic value was, however, negligible. Ethiopia, of course, would strongly oppose such a solution but might be mollified by concessions in Eritrea. The British [Page 590] group observed that consideration had at one time been given to a United Somaliland, but that the suggestion had since been withdrawn.
Eritrea: The British group stated that an Italian trusteeship over Northern Eritrea, the rest being ceded to Ethiopia, might be worth discussion. The American group said that tentative thought had been given to the cession of Eritrea to Ethiopia except for a northern portion which would go to the Sudan, but that no final decision had been reached.


Both the American and British groups reserved their positions regarding the disposal of the former Italian colonies other than Cyrenaica.
In any plans which may be evolved it is essential to prevent the Soviet Union from obtaining any direct or indirect foothold in the territory of the former Italian colonies.
In reaching decisions on these questions the development of the political situation in Italy, the attitude of the Arab countries and the views of France would all have to be considered.
The question of the former Italian colonies should not be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the CFM.
It is most important that close consultation should be maintained between the two Governments on the whole subject.