865.014/6–2949: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Dunn) to the Secretary of State

top secret

1960. Remytel 1682, June 7.1 Sforza has informed me that he has not yet made any decision regarding his pending resignation over [Page 565] colonial issue. He told me that he was tremendously discouraged by general failure to understand basic importance of colonial issue to Italy and the lasting harm that would be created by an unwise policy in that regard. He was attempting informal confidential discussions with British in order to reach some basis for joint consultation between US, UK, French and Italian Governments. These conversations had been so far without result and he was beginning to suspect that fundamental British objective was to exclude Italy entirely from participation development North Africa.

Following their unilateral action establish independence of Cyrenaica, he noted that instructions to British working party now being sent to Tripoli included consideration of such long-range problems as education and social welfare.

With regard to British argument that two-thirds General Assembly had approved solution for cession of Eritrea to Ethiopia, Sforza pointed out that arrangement had been supported by states favorable to Italy on basis of understanding that Italy would be given favorable consideration on question of Tripolitania. He did not believe cession of Eritrea to Ethiopia would receive two-thirds vote in Assembly if considered completely aside from question of Tripolitania. He believed there should be sufficient number of Latin American and other votes to support Italian view that Eritrea should under no circumstances be ceded to Ethiopia which state was in no condition to improve or even take care of the territories in question which had been developed by Italy.

My British colleague2 has had no recent word from Foreign Office as to how British regard recent new Italian overtures but he believes Bevin is adamant on question of cession Eritrea to Ethiopia.

Sforza concluded by saying he had made every possible effort to further Italian cooperation with western democracies in broad interests of Europe as against narrow Italian nationalism. If he were to be driven to the wall on the question of former Italian colonies and it were to appear that US and UK had no regard for Italy’s justifiable desire to participate in economic and cultural development of North Africa, public opinion would insist that he would have to go.

I am convinced that we would make a grave mistake if we support a solution for Eritrea and Tripolitania that completely excluded Italy. De Gasperi’s and Sforza’s deep concern is completely justified by seriousness of this issue throughout Italy. Both the forces of extreme nationalism and Communism will be permanently aided in their violent attacks against Italy’s cooperation with western democracies by the lasting resentment which would be created by a settlement in total disregard of all that Italy has aspired to and accomplished in her former colonies.

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In present strained situation here it would be extremely helpful if Department could give some public assurance to Italian Government and people that aside from political disposition of the areas involved as may be decided by UN, the US fully recognizes what Italy has contributed in past to economic development of North Africa and that just arrangements should be made whereby Italian people can continue to play a peaceful and industrious role in the further development of North African continent.3

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sir Victor Mallet.
  3. The Secretary of State made these assurances to Ambassador Tarchiani in Washington on July 18, 1949 just before Tarchiani’s departure to Rome for talks with De Gasperi, Sforza, and other Italian leaders. (Secretary’s memoranda, Lot 53 D 444, July 1949.)