IO Files: US/A/C.1/771


Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. John Foster Dulles of the United States Delegation to the U.N. General Assembly


Participants: Mr. Schuman, Foreign Minister of France
Mr. John Foster Dulles, United States Delegation

I called to see Foreign Minister Schuman at his invitation on Tuesday, April 12 at 10:30 a. m. at the Hotel Pierre. He said he wanted to discuss Italian colonies before his departure tonight. He was seeing Mr. McNeil2 at 11:30 a. m.

Mr. Schuman invited an expression of my views and I told him, in substance, as follows:

The Italian colonies must be looked on as part of the general problem of Europe and Africa. Tensions between the East and West and the iron curtain have largely interrupted East-West developments and require us to think in terms of North-South, i.e. Western Europe and Africa. There are in Africa vast resources which can be developed to the natural advantage of Africa and West Europe and more than make good the loss of access to the natural resources of eastern Europe and the loss of Asiatic colonies. This North-South development, however, requires friendly collaboration between the native peoples and the peoples of Europe and perhaps some financial and technological assistance from the United States. The Italian people have the qualities needed to make a great contribution toward development, but this cannot be imposed at the risk of disturbing the basic essential which is political tranquillity. If the Italian colonies were dealt with in a manner which excited a Moslem Holy War or a race war of black against white, then the foundation for North-South development would disappear. Certainly, as far as the United States is concerned, private capital would not be available under these circumstances and it would be doubtful whether financial aid through the Marshall Plan or “Point IV” assistance3 would be forthcoming. Already there was strong pressure in the United States to cut off aid to the Netherlands on account of Indonesia and a great deal would be risked if it seemed that American military and economic assistance to Western Europe was being employed to build up a colonial empire that would be resisted by the native population.

In view of this, I said I thought that the political question, was whether or not Italian administration would, in fact, be accepted by the peoples of Tripolitania.

In deciding this question, a great deal depended upon the British. They were, in fact, presently administering the territory. Their judgment [Page 545] was bound to carry great weight and also a great deal would depend upon whether they were willing to attempt to facilitate the reestablishment of Italian administration. Mr. Bevin had said that they would not affirmatively do anything, and their general attitude would be bound to be reflected in the attitude of the native peoples. If the Italians had to fight their way in as administrators, it would be a serious matter.

I suggested that the best solution might be to continue de facto British administration until, say, 1952 with an assurance from the British that they would attempt to bring Italians and Arabs together in various advisory and technical tasks and that the Assembly might then be in a position in 1952 to make a decision in favor of Italian administration of a Tripolitanian trusteeship with confidence that this would not lead to violent resistance.

Mr. Schuman said that he wholly agreed with my general diagnosis of the situation. He thought there could usefully be a short period of transition rather than an abrupt shift from British to Italian administration, but that he felt it imperative that there should be a present decision for Italian administration of Tripolitania. The French Government could never agree to a result which limited Italy to the administration of Italian Somaliland. He did not believe that in Tripolitania there would be any major disturbances unless the British wanted it. He would not, however, be willing to rely upon a prolongation for several years of British administration without any present decision as to even ultimate Italian administration. The British, if they were there for two or three years more, would never get out except perhaps as part of an independence scheme, like that of Trans-Jordan, which would give the British a continuing special position. He referred to the British history in Egypt. The British had a quality, for which he did not reproach them, of looking out for themselves.

The Italian people, naturally emotional, were greatly excited, and that if they did not measurably realize their present colonial aspirations, this might have a serious effect upon the continuance in power of the present government and on Italy’s ratification of the Atlantic Pact and entry into the European union. He regretted the latter, extemporaneous, portion of Sforza’s speech in Committee 1, but it illustrated Italian impetuousness.

I said that it was my impression that Italy was in the Atlantic Pact because she wanted to be, not because she had been pressed into coming in, and that I doubted whether the United States would, or should, take action that seemed in itself unwise merely because Italy threatened otherwise not to ratify the Atlantic Pact. Mr. Schuman said he agreed that Italy had wanted to be in the Atlantic Pact, but he said [Page 546] also that France regarded Italy’s participation as very important because the Italian Alps were vital to a defense of Western Europe.

Mr. Schuman asked whether we had given any consideration to some form of joint, or multiple, trusteeship. I said that this had been tentatively explored and my impression was that it was unacceptable to the United Kingdom.

In conclusion, I said that the United States had only the friendliest feelings for Italy, but that the best interests of Italy and Western Europe would not be advanced by measures which would create political disturbance in North Africa. The United States, I felt, would be prepared to back Italian aspirations in Tripolitania to any degree that the British administering authorities would consider to be compatible with peace and order. Mr. Schuman said that in his forthcoming talk with McNeil he would press strongly for a British position that would be more sympathetic and more helpful, as he was confident that given such a British attitude, a transition to Italian Administration could be effected without any major disturbances.

  1. Master Files of the Reference Documents Section of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Department of State.
  2. Hector McNeil, British Minister of State.
  3. Documentation on the genesis of the Point IV Program is scheduled for publication in volume i .