357.AH/5–2250: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Dunn) to the Acting Secretary of State 1

2137. London’s 2751, May 182 to Department as well as more detailed reports from Stafford which British Embassy here has made available to us, confirm our earlier conviction UNComInq report at very best will be inconclusive. Unless a satisfactory compromise formula is put forward before drafting of final report of Commission, it seems apparent (despite Stafford’s persistent optimism) that Guatemala, Pakistan and Burma will support independence under [Page 1650] one guise or another; South Africa, federation with almost complete local autonomy for Eritrea; and Norway, unification of all of Eritrea with Ethiopia. It would seem, therefore, that despite our best efforts to convince the Commission of the excellence of our position, literally the only enthusiastic support on horizon for US–UK position continues to be US and UK.

Our experience at Lake Success during last two sessions of GA should leave no doubt in our minds as to attraction of idea of independence to great majority of delegates and inability of many others to vote against independence despite their private convictions that it might not be wisest course. We can certainly assume that Soviet bloc will again sponsor a resolution calling for immediate independence of Eritrea. If even one (not to mention three) of the members of the UNComInq recommend independence it would seem certain that the solution would receive wide support and the pro-independence delegates could almost surely muster the one-third plus one vote to block any other solution. Furthermore, if independence receives any support in UNComInq and wide support in IC and GA it is difficult to see how Italian Government could oppose it. It would seem, therefore, that if we are to avoid another stalemate (or worse) we must adopt a more realistic approach to this problem and try to find a solution which will not only meet our minimum requirements of contributing to, rather than endangering, the peace and security of East Africa, but a solution which also has at least an even chance of being accepted by two-thirds of GA. Such a solution must offer an appealing alternative to early outright independence.

While this Embassy is not informed of discussions which have been proceeding in London in “sub-group” referred to in Depinfotel, May 16, 1 a. m.,3 we have been giving serious thought to problem and have discussed frequently and at length with Italian Foreign Office and British Embassy here.

During informal discussion recently with Count Macchi di Cellere, Zoppi’s4 deputy in charge of colonies, problem we have evolved outline formula which would appear to us to meet minimum requirements of situation from point of view of our interest and also reconcile enough of the many conflicting points of view so as to command necessary majority at UN. This formula has not been discussed with Zoppi or Sforza;5 however, Count Cellere personally is of opinion that it might receive support of Italian Government should it find favor with [Page 1651] the British and US. Foreign Office is uninformed of any conversations Sforza may have had on subject in London.6

It is assumed that (A) Collective or direct UN trusteeship is undesirable for many reasons; (B) single power trusteeship would be bitterly opposed by Ethiopia; (and besides, who would take it?); (C) independence is impracticable as well as undesirable and; (D) there is not enough support for our preferred position to warrant further consideration of it. The following formula is suggested on presumption above assumption valid.

GA would find that findings of UNComInq are inconclusive as were findings of earlier Four Power Commission.7 The principal reason for inconclusiveness of findings is difficulty if not impossibility of ascertaining true wishes of inhabitants due to their lack of political maturity and organization.
In order establish conditions prerequisite ascertaining wishes inhabitants GA would recommend that present administering authority establish institutions for local self-government in Eritrea (along the lines of provisions for development of self-government in preparation for independence of Libya8). The administering authority would be assisted by a UN commissioner who in turn would be assisted and guided by a commission comprising representatives of other interested governments as well as representatives of inhabitants of territory.
GA would recommend that local self-government institutions be established within a minimum period of say 10 years (which would undoubtedly be reduced to a maximum of 5 years by Assembly in plenary session). Pending establishment of local self-government in territory administering authority would continue to bear its present responsibility but might be assisted in maintenance security and in expense economic development by such other governments represented on the Advisory Council as might be mutually agreed.
Immediately upon coming into force of this recommendation administering authority would be authorized undertake to negotiate customs union between territory and Ethiopia to permit complete freedom of movement of commerce between the two territories.
The administering authority would immediately undertake to establish free ports in Massawa and Asab to accommodate requirements of Ethiopian Government.
Upon the achievement of local self-government in Eritrea in accord this recommendation GA would further consider the ultimate disposition of territory taking into account the wishes of the inhabitants as expressed through their “government” without prejudice to the possibility of: establishment of full independence; any of various [Page 1652] degrees of association, including full union of all or part of territory, with Ethiopia; or any other solution which might be preferred by the people of Eritrea.

We believe that the above formula while obviously sketchy and certainly imperfect in some respects would still meet the imperative criteria of: (a) Acceptability to Ethiopia as being best they can hope to get at this time; (b) acceptability to pro-independence [Italians?] since preparation for self-government would be necessary prelude to independence in any event and this formula would not in any way prejudice eventual independence; (c) the peace and security of area would be maintained through the continuing British administration which would, inter alia, safeguard our own strategic interests in the area during coming critical years.

Should Department consider this strictly working level suggestion a possible basis for satisfactory solution of problem Embassy will discuss it further with Foreign Office and explore possibility obtaining support therefor of Italian Government.9

Department pass Asmara 7. Sent Department 2137, repeated information London 308, Paris 257, Addis Ababa 26.

  1. Secretary Acheson was in London for meetings with Schuman and Bevin, May 11–13 and for the fourth session of the NATO Council, May 15–48. For documentation on these meetings, see vol. iii, pp. 828 ff. and 1 ff., respectively.
  2. Not printed; it reported the views of the five members of the United Nations Commission, substantially along the lines of those reported in telegram 2009, supra. (357.AH/5–1850)
  3. Not printed. For documentation on the work of the U.S.–U.K. subcommittee on the Middle East, see vol. iii, pp. 975 ff.
  4. Vittorio Zoppi, Secretary General in the Italian Foreign Ministry.
  5. Count Carlo Sforza, Italian Foreign Minister.
  6. For documentation on the fourth session of the NATO Council, held May 15–18 at London, see vol. iii, pp. 1 ff.
  7. For documentation on the work of the Four-Power (United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union) Commission on the former Italian Colonies, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iv, pp. 526 ff.
  8. For documentation on the preparation of Libya for independence, see pp. 1601 ff.
  9. On May 26 the Department of State informed Dunn that no proposal should be put forward before the drafting of the United Nations Commission report, and with regard to the compromise suggested by the Ambassador stated as follows:

    “While compromise formula suggested your reftel is ingenious, it appears unacceptable because: (1) it does not settle problem but merely postpones decision for 5 or 10 years during which situation could only grow worse; (2) it does not provide for minimum requirements Ethio and therefore wld not be acceptable that country; (3) it leaves Brit in position holding ‘squalling baby’ for several years and because of difficulty and expense of doing so, we feel Brit wld not agree to undertaking such task (you will remember when federation of Eritrea with Ethio was proposed during last GA and transitional period of some length was involved, Brit threatened withdraw completely and immed); and (4) it appears likely to facilitate movement towards eventual independence Eritrea which we have long considered unreasonable solution because Eritrea cld never become viable state.”

    For these reasons the Department of State requested the suspension of talks with the Italian Foreign Office. (Telegram 1880, to Rome, not printed, 357.AH/5–2250).