501.BB/8–649: Airgram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in France


A–906. The GA on April 14, 1949 adopted a resolution on the problem of voting in the SC, one of the provisions of which recommended to the permanent members of the SC that they seek agreement among themselves to “forbear to exercise their veto” under certain circumstances. The resolution was sponsored jointly by the UK, France, China and the US before the Ad Hoc Political Committee in Paris last fall and adopted by the GA in April 1949.

Prior to engaging in the Big Five consultations called for by the General Assembly resolution, USUN had informal discussions with the representatives in New York of UK and France and were surprised to learn that despite their participation in sponsorship of the resolution, neither the UK nor France were willing in the Five Power discussions to offer to forego their veto in connection with all of the decisions covered by General Assembly recommendation.

The French and British both wish to reserve their right of veto in connection with the SC decisions under Article 37 of Chapter VI of the Charter authorizing the SC under certain circumstances to recommend terms of settlement of a dispute likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace. This reservation is comparatively a minor one and would cause no embarrassment in Five Power consultations.

The French, however, in addition wish to reserve their veto in the following matters covered by the second recommendation of the GA resolution:

The SC decision admitting a state to membership.
The SC decision pursuant to Article 34 to conduct investigations in connection with the pacific settlement of disputes.
The SC decision in connection with the pacific settlement of disputes that the dispute or situation before the Council endangers the maintenance of international peace and security. This latter decision must be made either expressly or by implication in connection with any Security Council action directed towards pacific settlement of a dispute or situation excepting the decision to investigate.

Therefore the effect of the reservations is that the French are unwilling to waive their veto on membership matters or on any decisions in connection with the pacific settlement of disputes. These reservations would in effect completely nullify the second GA recommendation.

The Department and USUN were in agreement that it would be politically undesirable if the Five Power consultations on this subject [Page 321] and subsequent SC consideration disclosed such a great divergence between the position of France and the positions of the UK, China and US. Therefore Mr. Noyes of the U.S. Delegation suggested to Mr. Ordonneau of the French Delegation that he take the matter up further with his government and if possible secure a modification of his instructions. The most important part of the text of the memorandum of conversation between Mr. Ordonneau and Mr. Noyes is as follows:

“I wondered whether there was any chance that the French could on reconsideration of the matter agree for the sake of unanimity of the Four to give up their objections to New Members, to investigations, and to determinations that a matter was likely to endanger the peace. If they could do so, we would be willing to forget about Article 37. The Four Permanent Members could then present the world with the unanimous position that we would accept waiver of the veto on a reciprocal basis for all the items listed in the General Assembly recommendation with the exception of items 49 and 50 of the Interim Committee Report dealing with Article 37 of the Charter.…1 With regard to New Members, I said that it was hard for me to feel that the French would ever find a case in which they wished to exercise their veto on a New Member. The UK and the US had now indicated that they would never exercise their veto on this subject. The Chinese had announced that they were willing to do so on a reciprocal basis. I wondered how much the French were really giving up if they now announced that they would agree on a reciprocal basis. Ordonneau agreed that the likelihood of the Russians ever agreeing to a commitment of this kind was almost nil and that therefore as a practical matter the French would not be actually giving up anything if they now agreed to our position.… Ordonneau indicated that he would be glad to take this matter up again with his Government. He was very dubious that his instructions would be changed; he thought his government had gone the limit already. He said that there was a large number of people in the Foreign Office who could see no value in making concessions publicly when it was quite clear that they could get nothing of value in return since the Russians would never agree.”

While the Department considers the problem of veto at this time less important than certain other major international issues, nevertheless the Department for the reasons stated above regards the French position on this matter as unfortunate. It is therefore suggested, that without going into the technical phases of the issue, you might wish to point out to the Foreign Minister: first, that the French Government joined in the original sponsorship of the GA resolution; second, that the consultations of the permanent members and the subsequent SC consideration of this matter are almost certain to disclose the divergencies between the present French position and the position of the [Page 322] US, UK, and China; third, that such public disclosure would be politically unfortunate; fourth, that in view of the practical certainty that the Soviet Union will decline to waive its veto on any of the matters covered by the GA recommendation and in view of the fact that the GA recommendation does not call on any permanent member to waive its veto unless all permanent members agree on this course of action, insofar as France is concerned there is no likelihood that it would in fact be called upon to waive its veto. You might further indicate that under the circumstances the U.S. feels that there is much to be gained if the French Government would reconsider its position as suggested by Mr. Noyes to Mr. Ordonneau so that the four permanent members could present a unified position in accordance with the GA resolution to the Soviets.2

  1. Omissions indicated in the source airgram.
  2. Further instructions from Paris in early September left the French position unchanged (memorandum of conversation Noyes and Ordonneau, New York, September 7, IO Files, Doc. US/S/923).