Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Shipping Division, Office of Transport and Communications (Tuthill)

Participants: Mr. D. D. Maclean, First Secretary, British Embassy.
Mr. A. F. Maddocks, Third Secretary, British Embassy.
T—Garrison Norton
SD—John W. Tuthill

Mr. Norton mentioned that the Department had received a cable from the American Embassy in Belgrade to the effect that the British and French1 Ambassadors had not yet received instructions to deliver the identical notes of invitation to the Yugoslavs to be host for the Conference.2 He mentioned Reams’ interpretation that the British might not agree to issue the invitation because of the Soviet rejection of the British exposition of its prewar rights.

Mr. Norton stated that he understood that Lord Jellicoe3 had stated, about a week ago, that the British were prepared to proceed with plans to participate and that, in restating their legal position, they would word their note in such a way as to avoid offering the Soviets an excuse for failing to hold the conference.

Mr. Norton urged that the problems of (1) presenting the invitation to the Yugoslavs and (2) the further exploration of legal rights be treated separately. He advocated the immediate issuance of instructions for the delivery of the notes and at the same time a further exchange of views between the legal advisers of the two Governments on prewar rights. He argued that by proceeding on this basis the responsibility for the next move would be up to the Soviets and/or Yugoslavs. He stated that it was quite possible, if not probable, that the Soviet would be anxious to avoid holding the conference at this time. Accordingly, he argued that the full responsibility for the break should be on the Soviet, and that the Western Powers should not offer [Page 623] the Soviet an excuse for breaking off. He stated that he feared the latest version of the British exposition of its prewar rights might offer such an excuse.

The British replied that Mr. Norton was correct in his interpretation of the statement by Lord Jellicoe; they knew of no change of policy; they appeared to agree that the attempt to issue the invitation should proceed according to plan; they stated that they had informed the Foreign Office we were not fully satisfied with the latest exposition of the British prewar rights, but were anxious for a further exchange of views, and that the United States agreed to the desirability of a subsequent statement by the British further expanding the original statement.

In summary, they appeared to accept Mr. Norton’s position and apparently are advising the Foreign Office accordingly.

  1. Jean Payart.
  2. Chargé Reams reported that all the authorizations had been received by July 4. The identical notes were presented to Yugoslav Foreign Minister Stanoje Simich at 9:30 a. m., on July 6. In the note of acknowledgment received on July 8, Simich wrote: “Accordingly, the Government of the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia has already sent invitations to the interested countries on the contents of which it has been agreed upon.” (840.811/7–848)
  3. The Earl Jellicoe, Second Secretary in the British Embassy.