840.811/7–2448: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State


3869. Deldu 4. Overnight French had apparently reconsidered their position or had become concerned by initiative shown by USDel at subcommittee meeting which considered British paper. In any event after report by British rapporteur French took strong line that they would not be bound by US position on freedom of navigation but must base their claim to membership in any Danube commission on their rights under 1921 convention. Payart, French Ambassador at Belgrade, is obviously sparking French delegation on this point. French increasingly concerned lest Soviets be given any pretext for asserting claims to representation on other international waterways, particularly Rhine.

US legal position re abrogation 1921 convention circulated to French and British delegates and subject of discussion subsequent meeting legal experts Friday evening.1 British and French lawyers admitted concurrence in new convention by all parties 1921 convention unnecessary and dangerous position to take. French insisted upon distinction between conventions establishing and governing international organizations and conventions establishing merely contractual obligations. He and British lawyer insisted organizational conventions cannot be modified without approval all competent members organization. US suggested limitation to members having substantial vested interests in subject matter of organization. British concurred necessity some such modifying language and agreed submit matter to Foreign Office. French seemingly satisfied without additional wording. Has Department any suggestions on this matter?2

Both US and British have emphasized refusal to admit discussion at Belgrade of international waterways other than Danube and British have pointed out that reliance on 1921 convention is essentially identical with reliance on principle of freedom of navigation. French, however, are not convinced and are clearly influenced on this point by their general preoccupation with possibility of appearance of strong world power on their frontiers.

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Agreed position of western delegations is that plenary sessions of conference should be open to correspondents but committee meetings closed. Western proposal will be for three conference committees, i.e. steering, technical and drafting. Delegations from western countries will arrange for briefing correspondents of their respective nationalities on day-to-day developments. Conference procedure would be determined by standard UN rules. Agreement reached on desirability opening statement in general terms by chief western delegations.

This meeting concludes our deliberations with British and French in Paris. We shall reconvene informally but inconspicuously in Belgrade before opening of conference to consider final drafts and decide on tactics for opening sessions.

Informal discussion with Foreign Minister Gruber revealed that Austrians prepared to take strong position that they will not accept any Danube convention which does not adequately guarantee Austrian interests. They believe they should have right of participation on equal basis in preparation of convention as well as seat on commission. They also want US, British and French on the commission. While taking realistic view of coming conference they are somewhat optimistic. They see no particular difficulty in getting agreement upon general principles of freedom of navigation and feel that principal controversies will revolve around membership on commission and administrative setup which will guarantee the carrying out of those principles.

Gruber has also talked with British and French, and British indicate concurrence in our tentative view that a strong stand by Austria at beginning of conference might provide a basis for reopening question of full Austrian participation in conference at appropriate time. Positive Austrian stand likely to encourage British and French to take more positive attitude in line with US position.

  1. July 23.
  2. In reply by telegram 418, Dudel 1, to Belgrade on July 28, 7 p. m., it was stated that the suggestion of the United States delegation regarding approval of a convention by all parties “having substantial vested interests in subject matter of organization” was acceptable to the Department as a compromise to the British position. This was provided, however, that it would be clearly understood that the United States, the United Kingdom, and France as occupying powers, acting on behalf of Austria and Germany, possessed such vested interests, and that they may by virtue thereof participate in a new international convention, or may refuse to apply a convention which was not in the best interests of Austria and Germany. (840.811/7–2348)