357.AH/4–3050: Telegram

The Ambassador in France (Bruce) to the Secretary of State

2009. From Utter.1 From April 26 to 28, I held conversations in Geneva with members UN Commission for Eritrea, explaining US position and going into considerable detail reasons which led us take our decision.2 All delegates received me cordially and expressed appreciation unofficial communication US views. Theron,3 South African delegation, would like to have our views in writing and suggested that I send him under cover of personal letter aide-mémoire setting out our position in detail. Other delegates welcomed this proposal. Theron, Norwegian and Burmese delegates considered it inadvisable to raise in commission question of obtaining official US Government statement as this would perforce mean requesting views USSR. If Department approves Theron’s suggestion, please send me memorandum for forwarding to members of commission as soon as possible. Any such document should stress US opposition to UN trusteeship, for it is abundantly clear that this solution is paramount in minds of Pakistani and Guatemalans, who are aided and abetted by Secretariat.4

Following are present views of various delegates and Secretariat:

1. South Africa inconsistent.

While still toying with idea of federation for whole or two separate provinces (i.e., plateau and western province) with Ethiopia, it appears likely they would accept UK–US proposal for partition provided suitable guarantees for minorities could be obtained from Ethiopia.

2. Pakistan.

Independence seems to have been definitely shelved in favor of UN trusteeship. Highly critical of Ethiopia’s treatment of Moslems and, therefore, opposed to subjecting any Eritrean Moslems to control Coptic Government Addis Ababa. Argue that after ten-year trusteeship, Eritreans would be free to join Ethiopia if they wished. Furthermore, [Page 1648] if Ethiopians showed themselves progressive, tolerant and capable during that period, Eritreans including Moslems would be eager for union. Strong abhorrence of monarchy was expressed by Pakistan delegation.

3. Norway.

Desires uncomplicated solution and, therefore, favors incorporation of all Eritrea in Ethiopia. However, would probably support partition if majority decision.

4. Burma.

Delegation sincerely favored reunion eastern Eritrea with Ethiopia but had misgivings re western province where inhabitants had shown no desire incorporation in Sudan. He told Stafford5 in all confidence that while he had received instructions to “go along with Pakistan as far as possible”, he had pointed out to his government that Pakistan had now shifted from independence (which found favor with Burmese Government) to trusteeship and he was, therefore, hopeful his government would revert to original instructions whereby he was given fairly free hand. (This information should be treated utmost secrecy.)

5. Guatemala.

Every indication points to support of UN trusteeship. Abandoning of earlier predilection for independence may be due to change in Italian position.

6. Secretariat.

Schmidt, Principal Secretary, optimistic that UN Commission for Eritrea will produce unanimous report; but his rather smug attitude based on conviction that, after earlier disagreement due to political approach each member to problem, commission would recommend UN trusteeship all Eritrea as only feasible solution likely to be acceptable to two-thirds majority GA. He seems unaware of South African delegate’s strong instructions from his government to oppose this solution and is perhaps overconfident in believing he can persuade Norwegian and perhaps Burmese to support UN trusteeship. While admitting that UN trusteeship was in effect postponing issue and not facing up to problem, Schmidt quite frankly stated it would provide more employment for UN personnel.

Conclusions and Comments.

A unanimous report from the commission seems to be utterly impossible. In my opinion the best that can be hoped for is a 3–2 majority in favor of something resembling US–UK position, provided, of course, Burmese Government allows its delegate to use own discretion. Stafford believes my visit useful in making clear to members commission that US–UK views on Eritrea are identical.

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On April 28, Stafford masterfully defended British position as set out in UK statement handed commission on March 18.6 Press summary being airmailed. Most important points clarified were that (1) UK had never made official pledge during war that Eritrea should be united to Ethiopia and (2) UK did not wish to accept responsibility of trusteeship for whole or any part of Eritrea. French sent no representative to answer questions on their statement, which we are forwarding.7

Commission will begin exchanging views on solution May 3 and delegates believe discussion previous to drafting report may be long, drawn-out. Meanwhile economic subcommission has prepared study intended to show whether Eritrea can become viable state or not. Only economist in group is South Africa Deputy who is apparently responsible for most of document. He is convinced that Eritrea cannot become economically viable.

Repeated London 567, Rome 159. Department pass Asmara 1. [Utter.]

  1. John E. Utter, Second Secretary of the Embassy in France.
  2. In telegram 1817, to Paris, April 25, not printed, Utter had been instructed to emphasize in his conversations with the members of the Commission that the United States continued “to favor disposition of Eritrea by which eastern part wld be united with Ethiopia and western province joined with Sudan.” (357.AH/4–2050)
  3. Gen. F. H. Theron, head of the South African Delegation to the United Nations Commission.
  4. On May 3 Utter was advised that the Department of State approved his proposal for sending a personal letter aide-mémoire to the members of the Commission outlining the views of the United States on the disposition of Eritrea. Suggestions for the substance of the message were also sent that day. On May 9 Utter reported that he had sent each member of the Commission such a letter explaining the views of the United States along the lines quoted in footnote 2 above. Telegrams 2050 and 2051, to London, and 2548, from London, none printed (357.AH/4–3050, 5–350 and 5–1050).
  5. Frank E. Stafford, Officer in charge of affairs dealing with the Italian Colonies, African Department, British Foreign Office, and Liaison Officer to the United Nations Commission.
  6. Not printed; it stated that the British Government supported the incorporation of the central and eastern provinces of Eritrea in Ethiopia subject to safeguards for the minorities, and incorporation of the Western province in the Sudan. A copy of the British statement was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 1, from Asmara, April 17, not printed (357.AH/4–1750).
  7. In this statement, dated April 15, Foreign Minister Schuman reiterated the French view that the only acceptable solution for Eritrea was one that satisfied the claims of the peoples involved and received the agreement of both the Italian and Ethiopian governments. A copy of the French statement was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 952, from Paris, May 1, not printed (357.AH/5–150).