840.811/6–2448: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France 1


2319. Reurtel 3345, June 24. Following for your info in the event FonOff raises issue US position on reservation of rights under ‘21 Danube Convention.

Statement on pre-war rights made by French their note of June 4 and a similar statement made by British in a note of June 10 were not shown to Dept prior to transmission to Soviet. Dept obviously could not and did not give assurances that it would support an unseen statement on such a complicated legal position. In fact Dept feels that both British and French statements in notes of June 10 and 4 respectively are ambiguous. The French refer to “unanimous approval of interested parties” without clarifying the meaning of “interested parties”. The British have made essentially the same statement in their comment “all the countries concerned”.

On June 23 representatives of the French and British Embassies, together with legal advisers (Gros for French and Fawcett for British) met informally with the Dept together with representatives its legal adviser’s office. Dept pointed out ambiguity in French and British notes and therefore undesirability of US participation in exchange on this subject at this time. Representatives of Dept’s office of legal adviser in addition outlined their conception of international law in this connection. British subsequently submitted a summary of that informal view for transmission to FonOff and Dept offered in place of the British summary the following on what was said in the meeting:

“Officials of the Department of State, without formally committing the United States Government at this time, have expressed the following understanding of general principles:

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“Countries parties to an existing convention may properly, between themselves or together with other countries concerned, conclude a new convention to supersede or replace the earlier convention. The new convention will be effective only as between the countries which become parties thereto, in accordance with the procedure stipulated therein. Countries, parties to an earlier convention, which do not become parties to a new convention retain their rights under an earlier convention as between themselves and any other country continuing to remain party to the earlier convention. As between two countries, both of which become parties to the new convention, the earlier convention will be superseded or replaced. As between two countries, one of which becomes a party to a new convention and one of which does not, the earlier convention continues in effect until such time as one of them takes action, by specific and adequate notification to the depositary government, to cease to be a party thereto.”2

The Dept understands that both British and French are reporting to FonOffs:

Ambiguity of statements in their notes to Soviet.
Dept’s view that it would be inappropriate for the US to submit its views formally to the three powers at this time, and
The above summary of the unofficial US attitude.

You will note that the US may well be able to take a position which, in substance, will support the substance of a more clearly defined statement of British and French views. Dept understands British and French intend to reply to Soviet outlining views in more detail. Dept has advised both British and French that it will decide whether it can make any formal statement in an exchange of notes after the Dept has had an opportunity to examine the proposed more detailed statement of French and British.

The British and French have pointed out that other members of the 1921 Convention (Belgium, Italy and Greece), have raised the question of their rights. It is possible that one or all of these countries may address a statement to convening powers of proposed Danube Conference asking for recognition of their position under existing instruments. The Dept is considering what reply, if any, it will be prepared to make in event of such request but is not itself intending to initiate discussions with Belgians or others.

As you are aware, the US is not a party to the existing instruments. It believes discussion, at this time, should remain between the British, French and the Soviets. This does not however preclude the possibility [Page 622] of the US taking a position if the circumstances warrant either before or during conference which will, in effect, give support of a clearly defined statement of rights by parties to existing instruments.

  1. Repeated as telegram 2421 to the Embassy in the United Kingdom.
  2. This paragraph was included in notes of July 1, 1948, to the British and French ambassadors in the United States, to confirm as being “the views of the Department of State of certain general principles of international law applicable to treaties.” This summary was formulated as a result of informal exchange of views in Washington on the prospective Danube Conference on June 24 among representatives of the Legal Adviser’s offices of the French and British Foreign Offices and the Department of State (840.811/7–148).