777.00/6–2750: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Douglas ) to the Secretary of State

3661. Following are results discussion on Eritrea today between Palmer and Wright and Allen:1

Italian Ambassador2 called Foreign Office yesterday and said he had received letter from Sforza in which latter approved conversations Ambassador has been conducting with Wright, indicated desire reach agreement with Ethiopians and mentioned federation as possible desirable solution. Italian Ambassador evinced desire hold further conversations with Wright prior arrival Italian delegation. Wright told him Foreign Office wished this Embassy be represented any future meetings. Italian Ambassador then stated he would like talk direct Ethiopian Ambassador3 here, but he was at loss how go about it since Swedish Ambassador,4 who might have acted as intermediary, absent from London. At end conversation, Ambassador stated he would like talk further to Wright alone on subject today.
Last evening, Wright saw Ethiopian Ambassador at party and told him of Italian Ambassador’s desire talk to him. Ethiopian Ambassador not unreceptive and also asked see Wright today.
Wright asked us if we saw any objection his seeing two Ambassadors (separately) this p. m., and to their possible meeting some time in future. We replied we did not think conversations through these channels likely be productive of success and we hoped there would not be any wire-crossing. On other hand we could not see any harm and we certainly would not wish suggest two ambassadors should not see Wright or each other.
We informed Wright and Allen of Rome’s 2679, June 26.5 Wright concerned re timing Italian delegate’s arrival since he will not be in London June 30 through July 2. After meeting, Foreign Office received telegram from Rome saying final decision on date arrival London Italian delegate would be taken today. Allen asked us if we would object to Foreign Office asking British Embassy Rome to determine from Italian Foreign Office whether arrival Italian delegate here could not be postponed until July 3 and sailing date delayed, pointing out that if this is not practicable, we hoped delegation would arrive here as soon as possible. We said we had no objection provided it were made absolutely clear to Italians that suggestion re delay did not indicate any lukewarmness on our part and that, on contrary, we would warmly welcome decision send delegation here. Our agreement of suggested postponement prompted by belief that talks with Wright present hold greater prospects success.
We explained to Wright Department’s views on procedure here as outlined Allen yesterday (Embtel 3625, June 266). We said that in view limited time available here, we thought greatest contribution we could make would be to endeavor get both Italians and Ethiopians for purposes negotiations, agree restrict conversations to federation formula as holding best opportunity for compromise. Wright agreed this would be real and valuable accomplishment and that, depending on Italian line at time, we should seek this immediate objective.
Wright then asked whether we thought we should hand Italians copy of Aklilou’s draft federation formula (paragraph 3 Embtel 33807). We said we thought there was some danger if we gave Italians early opportunity knock down first Ethiopian suggested draft. Allen while agreeing, felt there was also danger if we worked ourselves into position of having Italian draft form basis discussions. We then suggested that it might be wise avoid use of drafts at outset and instead to ask each side to set forth their minimum (read maximum) objectives under a federation solution. With these in mind, we might then obtain agreement on non-contentious objectives (if any) and try bring about compromise on contentious ones.
Wright thought this suggested possible desirability of simple GA resolution establishing principle of federation and setting forth certain basic objectives to be accomplished thereunder. If this could be done, UN committee might be set up to draft federal constitution which would achieve objectives. We doubted practicability this suggestion, doubting Ethiopia would or could be expected permit UN committee draft constitution which would be basic organic law not only of Eritrea, but Ethiopia as well. We suggested resolution might state Ethiopia should draw up constitution with advice and assistance president National Court or some other eminent jurist. It might even be submitted to UN committee established by GA which, if it were satisfied constitution achieved basic objectives set forth in resolution, would approve it and federation would come into effect. Wright and Allen suggested possibility using IC for this purpose instead of UN committee. In either event, they questioned whether GA could or would delegate its responsibility to approve constitution either to special committee or to IC and thought they would like to have their lawyer’s opinion of this.
It was agreed that foregoing suggestions purely informal. Wright and Allen said FonOff would wish consider them further and we, for our part, said we would like to obtain Department’s reaction.
Wright noted that solution along these lines might, if it involved GA approval of constitution, necessitate continuing British administrative territory for additional year. He was uncertain whether HMG would be willing do this. He wished particularly to make point that if it were willing, it could never agree to accepting another advisory commission such as in Libya, although it might not object UN commissioner. He asked if we would inquire whether Department similarly would agree re undesirability AC. We pointed out that it was with idea in mind of minimizing period of continued British administration that we had suggested that GA might delegate to special UN committee its power approve constitution.

Comment: We feel that simple federation formula, established principle of federation and setting forth few minor basic objectives would, if it could be sold to Italians, hold greatest promise of success. We fear that an attempt draft so detailed a resolution, which might in itself be in the nature of a constitution, would bog us down impossibly. We would appreciate Department’s early views re foregoing.8

[Page 1662]

Repeated info Rome 310, Paris 1098, Addis Ababa 57, Department pass Asmara 10.

  1. Joseph Palmer 2nd, First Secretary at Embassy London; Michael Wright, Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Roger Allen, Head of the African Department, British Foreign Office.
  2. Tommaso Galarati-Scotti.
  3. Ato Abbebe Retta.
  4. Gunnar Hagglof.
  5. Not printed; it reported the plans of the Italian Delegation. (357.AH/6–2650)
  6. Not printed; it reported that the way was presumably clear “to proceed in any future conversations with Italians to examination of federation suggestions after telling Italians that for purposes of negotiations Ethiopians are willing give up annexation if Italians willing give up independence.” (777.00/6–2650)
  7. Not printed; the draft under reference would have given Ethiopia jurisdiction over foreign affairs, defense, police, communications, commerce, currency, and finance in Eritrea while providing for basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as adequate safeguards for the protection of minorities. (357.AH/6–1650)
  8. On June 28 Retta and Gallarati-Scotti met in Wright’s office to discuss Eritrea. Wright informed them that in the forthcoming talks they should both discard unrealistic solutions and try to find a compromise federation proposal. The Ambassadors asked time to consider this suggestion, but the Italian Foreign Office indicated subsequently that it could not officially support any thesis other than independence although it was sympathetic to Wright’s proposal. Embassy London reported these developments in telegrams 3692, June 28, and 6, July 1, neither printed (777.00/6–2850 and 7–150). Following the failure of the meetings between the Italians and Ethiopians, Wright, Allen, and Palmer met four times with the Italian Delegation to explore thoroughly the Italian position and emphasize the British and American hope that Italy and Ethiopia could reach a general agreement on outstanding matters. Embassy London reported on the conversations in telegrams 7, 8, 9, and 44, July 1 and 3, none printed (357.AH/7–150 and 7–350).