357.AH/6–1450: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1
us urgent

2894. Reports that Itals and Ethios apparently willing resume discussions on Eritrea encouraging.2 Dept hopes prelim conversations can be held. London to “break the ice” and pave way for discussion compromise formula (at Lake Success, if necessary). Fol raises certain considerations which you shld discuss with Brit re Italo-Ethio conversations:

Review recent reports this subj leads Dept to believe that one of major stumbling blocks to reaching agreement on any compromise formula will be disposition Western Province. While convinced most reasonable solution is its incorporation in Sudan, we are faced with fact that there is very little support for such proposal. Since our approach to problem has involved continuation Brit admin Western Province in one form or other we desire ascertain what alternatives, if any, wld be acceptable to UK. This is particularly important since in record of recent mtgs London of US–UK FonMin the 9 point agreement on Eritrea included fol: “Note was taken of HMG’s view that Western Province Eritrea shld not be administered by HMG if this solution cld possibly be avoided.” Therefore Emb shld raise question with FonOff of alternative solutions for Western Province on assumption that US and UK will continue favor solution whereby [Page 1655] eastern Eritrea will in fact be controlled by Ethio, whether under an arrangement for incorporation, federation, or trusteeship. In particular, wld UK be willing agree to incorporation or federation all Eritrea with Ethio? We assume UK, like ourselves, wld not favor UN trusteeship for Western Province alone or for all Eritrea. Dept wld appreciate receiving views FonOff re proposals, or parts of proposals, in Report UN Comm (which Dept has not received) which might be acceptable to UK or suitable as basis for compromise.
In light recent reports, it appears some form federation cld be considered first as basis for compromise. In order be successfully implemented, any federation proposals shld be based on conditions acceptable to Ethio Govt and majority Eritreans. In this connection Dept has noted fol press report carried in Il Quotidiano Eritreo,3 Asmara, on March 11, 1950: “On 9 March, the UN Comm of Inquiry in Eritrea heard the secy of the Unionist Liberal Party, Ato Seium Maashio, who favors union with Ethiopia on the basis of the conditions outlined below. According to Ato Seium, the Ethio Govt already has accepted these conditions.
  • “1. Maintenance of the territorial integrity of Eritrea within her present land and sea borders.
  • “2. Official languages to be authorized: Tigrina in the highlands and Arabic in the western and Red Sea territorial divisions.
  • “3. Human rights to be upheld as provided by the UN Charter.
  • “4. Minority rights to be safeguarded.
  • “5. Creation of an Eritrean Parliament (Council of Elders).
  • “6. The Eritreans must have their own reps in the Ethio Parliament.
  • “7. The Governor-General of Eritrea must be an Eritrean, appointed by the Ethio Emperor upon proposal by the Eritrean Parliament.
  • “8. No fon civil or mil official may be assigned to the admin of Eritrea without the approval of the Eritrean Governor-General.

“Ato Seium explained that these conditions must be officially registered in the UN as further guarantee that they will be carried out and must apply even in the event that only a part of Eritrea is united with Ethio. He added that he had every reason to believe that the Ethio Govt wld keep its recently given promise to abide by these conditions.” Presumably Report of UN Comm, when recd, will explain foregoing and other similar statements so they can be put in proper perspective. Dept suggests, however, that above listed points might offer basis for sounding out both Ethios and Itals on what wld be initially acceptable to them.

Dept believes it wld be best from point of view of tactics for US and UK to maintain their present positions publicly and officially as long as possible and not to give support to any modifications or alternatives until Itals and Ethios have been brought together. During [Page 1656] Ital-Ethio conversations it is, of course, highly desirable that US and UK reps strongly maintain concerted position and fol similar tactics in order to get Itals and Ethios to agree.

  1. Repeated to Paris, Rome, Addis Ababa, and Asmara.
  2. At the beginning of June U.S. Embassies in London, Rome, and Addis Ababa had reported that conversations with officials of the governments to which they were accredited indicated that the Italians and Ethiopians apparently were prepared to discuss Eritrea. The United States supported the idea for direct conversations in telegram 2813, to London, June 10, not printed (357.AH/6–1050).
  3. Italian language newspaper in Eritrea.