The British Embassy to the Department of State




The British Embassy has been instructed to refer to the State Department’s Aide-Mémoire of the 9th December, 1949,2 regarding a conversation between Mr. Perkins3 and Mr. Bebler4 on the subject of the future settlement of the Trieste question. They have been asked to inform the Department that His Majesty’s Government, having taken into consideration also the references to Trieste in Mr. Kardelj’s5 speech in Belgrade on the 27th December, and in an informal interview on the 16th December between Mr. Bebler and His Majesty’s Ambassador in Belgrade6 about which the State Department have been informed, consider that although the Yugoslav Government are anxious to negotiate with the Italian Government for a solution of the Trieste question, they will not make the first approach unless His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government somehow pave the way. On the other hand indications from Rome are that the Italian Government will also take no initiative unless encouraged to do so.

2. The following are among the reasons for thinking that it is now in the common interests of the United Kingdom and United States to take positive action to promote an agreement between Italy and Yugoslavia regarding Trieste as soon as possible:—

It does not seem likely that Mr. Bebler would have spoken as he did unless the Yugoslav Government attached real importance to an agreement, even though it only resulted in their obtaining a portion of the Free Territory. They clearly consider that an agreement would [Page 1303] enhance the internal prestige of the Regime and that such an increase of prestige is necessary if the Regime is to weather future storms. The Foreign Office consider that the Yugoslav Government are the best judges of the value of an agreement from this point of view. In addition they hold it probable that the Yugoslav Government will be subjected to increasing pressure from the Soviet Government within the next few months. Any help that we can give Tito7 should therefore be given before this period of renewed trials.
The continuation of the present status of Trieste is an obstacle to the development of good relations between Yugoslavia and the West.
If Marshal Tito’s Government were to fall before an agreement was reached between Italy and Yugoslavia, an opportunity for solving the Trieste question would have been lost, the Free Territory would continue to be split, and the United Kingdom and United States would have to continue responsibility for Zone A indefinitely.
The present state of affairs gives rise to increasing tensions and difficulties locally. At the same time, there have been indications that the inhabitants of Zone A, who find themselves in exceptionally favourable circumstances under Allied Military Government, may progressively lose interest in the idea of reverting to Italian sovereignty.
The possibility cannot be excluded that the Soviet Government, in order further to embarrass the Yugoslav Government and to secure the withdrawal of Allied troops, might decide to associate themselves with the Tripartite Declaration on Trieste of the 20th March, 1948.8 The line being followed by the Cominform Communists in Trieste is consistent with such an intention. If this were to happen, it would be more difficult for the Italian Government to accept a solution involving less than a return of the whole Free Territory to Italy, and a compromise solution would be made practically impossible. The adverse effects of this on the present Yugoslav Government should not be underestimated.

3. His Majesty’s Government consider that, if these negotiations are to be promoted, encouragement and advice would have to be given to both parties. For their part, His Majesty’s Government would be prepared to send the necessary instructions to their Ambassadors in Rome9 and Belgrade, provided that the United States Government were willing to send similar instructions.

4. His Majesty’s Government suggest, as regards the approach to the Italian Government, that without in any way withdrawing from the position that the right solution is the incorporation of the whole territory in Italy, the two Governments could inform the Italians of their opinion that it would be as much, in their interest as in the British and American interests that they should enter into negotiations [Page 1304] with the Yugoslavs for the reasons given in sub-paragraphs 2(a) to 2(d) above. The suggestion could be made that the Italians might assist in breaking the deadlock by sending a message to Mr. Bebler to the effect that they had been informed of his approaches to Mr. Perkins and Sir Charles Peake, and that they were anxious for clarification of his proposals.

5. As regards the approach to the Yugoslav Government, His Majesty’s Government suggest that the two Governments could say that they doubted whether the Yugoslavs were right to assume that the Italians would reject all overtures for a compromise, that they had found the Italian Government to be responsive to reasonable suggestions and willing, as were the two Governments, to see the Trieste question settled. The two Governments could say that, in the circumstances, the Yugoslav Government would do well to reconsider their decision not to raise the issue with the Italians direct.

6. The British Embassy would be glad to receive the comments of the State Department on His Majesty’s Government’s proposals, and to learn whether the United States Government would be willing to join with His Majesty’s Government in approaching the Italian and Yugoslav Governments on the lines suggested.

  1. Not printed.
  2. George W. Perkins, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
  3. Aleš Bebler, Deputy Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia.
  4. Edvard Kardelj, Yugoslav Foreign Minister.
  5. Sir Charles Peake.
  6. Marshal Josip Broz Tito, Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.
  7. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, March 28, 1948, p. 425.
  8. Sir Victor Mallet.