865.014/8–648: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

3568. See Embtel 3550, August 5.1 Bevin called me to Foreign Office this afternoon to inform me of Cabinet decisions regarding Itcol. [Page 937] Clutton,2 Scott-Fox and Charles UK, and Utter and Bagby3 US were also present.

Bevin said Cabinet had approved his proposal place Somaliland under Italian trusteeship but War and Colonial Secretaries4 were strongly opposed return of Italy to Eritrea, feeling that Somaliland was as much as Italy could undertake or should expect. Colonial Secretary especially feared repercussions in British African colonies if Italians returned with British military assistance. Bevin’s scheme for Ethiopian trusteeship over Eritrea was therefore approved with addition South America[n] to the Legislative Council. After 10 or 20 years, trusteeship would terminate and territory would become a part of Ethiopia.

As far as Libya is concerned, Bevin said that UK would like to get Cyrenaica settled this year but would be willing to have Tripolitania postponed. Conversations between British Ambassador in Rome5 and De Gasperi and Sforza led him to believe Italy accepted fact that British would stay in Cyrenaica. He said that Foreign Office study indicated British trusteeship for Cyrenaica would receive UNGA approval. He was most anxious to start work on bases in Cyrenaica without delay since internal Egyptian political situation was unstable and British bases in Egypt might be jeopardized by formation government under Soviet influence. He felt obliged to reduce troops in Egypt to treaty level by end of 1948 since Egypt might well bring complaint to Security Council again. I assured him US felt that UK should go ahead with construction bases in Cyrenaica whatever developed in CFM or UNGA, and he agreed risk must be taken if British trusteeship not approved.

Conversation then turned to procedure in DepItcol. Bevin felt discussions should begin with Somaliland. After other powers had stated their positions and if all three favored Italian trusteeship, UK would agree for sake of unanimity. Bevin was anxious, however, to get all questions re Itcol out of hands of Four Powers and would make the agreement on Somaliland subject to agreement on Eritrea.

After Somaliland he felt Eritrea should be discussed. Russians and French would presumably come out for Italian trusteeship with Assab going to Ethiopia. UK would oppose this solution because of wishes of inhabitants and military difficulties involved in Italy’s return and would propose Ethiopian trusteeship. Agreement presumably would [Page 938] not be reached and both Eritrea and Somaliland would be referred to UNGA.

I reiterated that US was anxious to have whole question of Libya postponed both in Deputies and UNGA. Bevin at first said that while he had no objection to postponement of Tripolitania he did wish to stake claim to Cyrenaica in DepItcol. He expected negotiations to break down, of course. Later he said that he had no objection to postponement of whole Libya question in DepItcol but did not make clear whether he would expect to bring up British claim to Cyrenaica in UNGA this year. (Subsequent conversation with Foreign Office officials, however, indicated that this last remark did not constitute a commitment and British may revert to original intention of proposing British trusteeship for Cyrenaica in DepItcol).

We find procedure as regards Eritrea and Somaliland satisfactory and will agree to it unless instructed to the contrary. As far as Libya is concerned, we are still awaiting Paris report of reaction French re postponement. If French agree British may also be persuaded to agree. We see no harm, however, in letting British put forward their claim to Cyrenaica in DepItcol and supporting it in first instance. We believe that in case of both Tripolitania and Cyrenaica it would be difficult and awkward to recommend postponement for one year in DepItcol.

It would be better simply to state that in view of conflicting opinions we do not believe question can be settled in CFM and prefer not to discuss it and let it go to UNGA by default. Proposal to postpone for one year could then be made in UNGA.

No interested governments other than Italy and Ethiopia have requested hearing. Next meeting DepItcol August 9, 3:30 p. m.

Sent Department 3568, repeated Paris 458.

  1. Not printed.
  2. George Lisle Clutton, Head of the Egyptian Department of the Foreign Office.
  3. Philip Bagby, Advisor to Ambassador Douglas and member of the U.S. delegation on the Field Investigation Commission.
  4. Emanuel Shinwell, Secretary of State for War; Arthur Creech Jones, Colonial Secretary.
  5. Sir Victor Alexander Mallet.