501.BB Balkans/2–1949: Telegram

The Acting United States Representative on the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans (Drew) to the Secretary of State 1


308. Combal 368. From Drew. During last fortnight have had several exploratory talks with Pipinelis2 regarding conciliatory role of Special Committee. Largely as outcome he has given me and British representatives tentative draft of communication which Greek Government would be disposed to address to committee in reply to projected communication asking Greek Government for its suggestions on possible conciliatory move.

This draft document, a copy of which going forward by air mail3 is premised on hope that recent hints of Yugoslav rapprochement with West and Markos’ purge presage reversal of Yugoslav policy towards Greek guerrillas. Document expresses comprehension of probable Yugoslav hesitation to move too far and too fast for fear of Soviet and Cominform reprisals. It suggests confidential démarche to Yugoslav Government prior to resumption of conversations in Lake Success [Page 254]in April4 designed to prevail on Yugoslavs to undertake on own initiative and unilaterally such steps as sealing of Greek border closing of Greek refugee camps along border return of Greek children and informal meetings in neutral territory with Greek representatives to discuss conclusion of commercial agreement which would be accompanied on Greek side by necessary steps to restore railway traffic through Yugoslav free zone in Salonika. Document goes on to suggest démarche in Sofia for renewal of diplomatic relations and conclusion of commercial agreement and in Tirana for exchange of detained military personnel and renewal of diplomatic relations. The draft Greek communication suggests that these démarches be conducted in secrecy through unspecified diplomatic channels or, alternatively, by Evatt or UNSCOB. It expresses hope that implementation of such proposals would prepare terrain for April conversations.

Following comments concern procedural aspects of problem only without attempting for moment to enter into consideration of substantive considerations.

Greek suggestions are extremely interesting but pose very delicate problems. Within framework of Greek proposal they presuppose absolute secrecy which it would be difficult to achieve through Evatt if for no other reason than absence of Australian representation in capitals of northern neighbors. Request by UNSCOB to outsider to exercise good offices under article 10 C of November 27 resolution5 [Page 255]would immediately raise issue of inherent conflict with proposed Evatt effort in April aside from great difficulty of preserving secrecy. There is no indication that UNSCOB member would be received as an emissary in any one of the three capitals.

Another procedure would be to utilize services of diplomatic representatives of one of UNSCOB member states, namely, Greece or France. Such a course, undertaken without reference to UNSCOB, would have the advantage of simplicity, but would this be consistent with our support of and reliance on the special committee? The answer can only be found in our evaluation of prospect of success against implied threat to effectiveness and prestige of the committee.

The only remaining alternative occurring to me would be to place entire problem before the committee in executive session with a view to requesting US, UK or French representatives to ask government selected to instruct its representatives in northern capitals to undertake démarche at highest possible level; precedent for such procedure found in committee’s action in utilizing services French Minister Sofia last summer in effort to arrange resumption diplomatic relations with Greece.

The effort, incidentally, was kept confidential until disclosed by the Bulgarian Government. The most serious difficulty would probably come from Evatt, who would naturally be kept informed by his representative and might resent competition with his own efforts. It might be, however, that the committee would have to act with full awareness of risk involved from this quarter. Risk might be reduced if Evatt could be persuaded any such move would be complementary to rather than competitive with his efforts.

Decision of committee to act under any one of alternative procedures outlined does not necessarily preclude concurrent or subsequent overt conciliatory effort, such as invitations to neighbors to implement emasculated Soviet resolution or renewed invitations to participate in work of committee.

Decision, however, must be made soon as only six weeks remain before second part of GA when renewal of Evatt talks would logically preclude any action by committee holding threat of conflict. Chances of success are slight and risks from such source as denunciatory disclosure by northern governments are great. If, however, Department feels Tito–Cominform–Markos developments make the moment propitious, effort might be worthwhile.

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Inasmuch as decision exceeds my competence as US representative, I shall await Department’s comments on instructions before acting.6

Sent Department 308; repeated Belgrade 4, Sofia 4.

  1. On March 1, 1949, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Gerald A. Drew as U.S. Representative, United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans. The Special Committee, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in October 1947, was composed of the active representation of Australia, Brazil, China, France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. From July 1948, the Special Committee met in Athens. The U.S. Representative used the telegraphic facilities of the Embassy in Athens for his messages.
  2. Panayotis Pipinelis, Greek Permanent Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. The draft memoraindum from the Greek Foreign Ministry under reference here was transmitted to the Department as an enclosure to despatch 25, February 23, from the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Special Committee on the Balkans at Athens, neither printed (501.BB Balkans/2–2349).
  4. During the Third Session, First Part, of the United Nations General Assembly held in Paris, the First Committee (Political and Security) of the General Assembly on November 10, 1948, established a “Conciliation Committee” under the chairmanship of Dr. Herbert V. Evatt, Australian Minister of External Affairs and President of the General Assembly, to explore methods and procedure with the representatives of Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, looking toward a settlement of their difficulties (U.N. Doc. A/728; A/C.1/380). By the close of the General Assembly meetings in Paris in December 1948, the Conciliation Committee had achieved some progress, and Dr. Evatt announced his intention to reconvene the Committee and resume the discussions when the General Assembly met for its Third Session. Second Part, at Lake Success, New York, in April 1949. For authoritative accounts of the work of the Conciliation Committee during November and December 1948, see Harry N. Howard, “Greece and Its Balkan Neighbors (1948–1949): The United Nations Attempts at Conciliation,” Balkan Studies, 1966, vol. 7, pp. 1–26 and Harry N. Howard, “The Problem of Greece in the Third Session of the General Assembly,” Documents and State Papers, January 1949, vol. i, no. 10 (Department of State Publication 3438), pp. 545–614.
  5. On November 27, 1948, during its Third Session, First Part, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution (193 (III) A) continuing the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans with clarified terms of reference concerning its work of observation and conciliation. Article 10, C of the resolution directed the Special Committee to continue to be available to assist the Governments of Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece in the implementation of General Assembly resolutions regarding the conflicts between the Governments. The General Assembly adopted two other resolutions on November 27, 1948 relating to Greece. Resolution 193 (III) B was concerned with the renewal of diplomatic relations, renewal or conclusion of frontier conventions, and the settlement of the refugee problem. (Resolution 193 (III) C recommended the repatriation of Greek refugee children to Greece. For the texts of these resolutions, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, Third Session, Part I, Resolutions, 21 September–12 December 1948, pp. 18–21.
  6. In his telegram 189, February 24, from Belgrade, not printed, Ambassador Cannon concurred unreservedly with Drew’s analysis of the procedural impediments to the Greek conciliation proposal. Cannon further did not believe that Yugoslavia would commit itself publicly to a rapprochement with Greece before Bulgaria and Albania did likewise. While acknowledging the desirability of developing a durable solution to the Greek problem, Cannon urged caution in moving toward some form of accommodation between Yugoslavia and Greece. Gannon wondered whether a conciliation move might have the adverse effect of enspiriting the Greek guerrillas at a time when they faced disorganization and of discouraging the Greek National Army at a time when its élan was on the rise (501.BB Balkan/2–2449).