501.BB/5–2549: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State


2034. 1. In general, talk May 24 with Hare,1 Kopper2 and Jones,3 Michael Wright4 on personal basis expatiated on problems faced henceforward by UK in continuing to administer Italian colonies—particularly Cyrenaica (Embassy’s 2016, May 235). Wright made clear views below have not been discussed with Foreign Secretary Bevin but represent trend thinking his level.

2. Political situation is not static any [and] Italian colonies and conditions which it took over 6 years ago cannot be embalmed by British Administration. Care and maintenance basis without regard aspirations local inhabitants or their employment government posts increasingly difficult to maintain. It is too early to know effect recent demonstrations Tripoli but Foreign Office officials feel certain situation there will never be same again. Desire Emir’s supporters hold congress to declare immediate Cyrenaican independence, puts problem; squarely up to UK.

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3. Successful British administration all Italian colonies calls for expenditure beyond scope present care and maintenance formula on economic of locals in executive jobs in internal administrations and permitting progress toward self-government.

4. Wright said Foreign Office legal adviser consulted specifically re steps UK might take to meet Cyrenaican aspirations and at same time conform to UN obligations. Adviser replied: “Legally, in our present administration of the ex-Italian colonies, I doubt if Article 73 of Charter applies to us at all. Further, we are not at present in this administration subject to The Hague rules either. Our position rests now entirely on Italian peace treaty, which means we are caretakers whose office as such may now terminate next autumn. The limitations on us derive from fact that we are caretakers and should not therefore do anything which prejudices a decision by UN as to the future of the territories. Subject to this, we are free to spend as much money there as we like and to administer the territories as we think proper. Having regard to the length of our caretaking, to the general agreement in UN that political development of territories of this kind Should be encouraged, and to fact that Article 73 approves this as a policy for dependent territories, generally seen, we are right to entourage political development in these ex-Italian colonies up to the point that we do not do anything which prejudices a free choice by UN in the autumn. I cannot put it more definitely than this.”

5. In light above opinion, Foreign Office officials believe there would be very little valid objection to UK forthwith recognizing Emir as leader of his people and making him head of internal administration with local government at first appointed but later moving toward elections and constitution framing on Sudan pattern. Wright admitted that such steps in Cyrenaica would give rise to agitation for comparable action Tripolitania and possibly other Italian colonies, but it was clear he personally favored going ahead in Cyrenaica because of special British interests there and Emir’s willingness to cooperate with UK.

6. On understanding that no UK decision has been taken, Wright inquired whether Embassy could secure urgently comments Department’s legal adviser on opinion quoted paragraph 4 above. At this working level stage it would be most helpful to know in general way whether Department concurs that internal reforms Cyrenaica along lines sketched could be undertaken legally by UK.

7. Wright said UK delegation NY pessimistic re possibility obtaining two-thirds vote for any solution in foreseeable future and consequently UK must take into account possibility September UNGA will not terminate UK responsibilities. Inter alia Wright referred [Page 556] nostalgically to Greater Somaliland as “best” solution those areas and reiterated standard UK thinking re stabilizing effect on ME of US assuming trusteeship Tripolitania.

  1. Raymond A. Hare, Deputy Director, Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  2. Samuel K. C. Kopper, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  3. George L. Jones, Jr., 1st Secretary of the Embassy at London.
  4. Michael Wright, Assistant Under Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office.
  5. Not printed.