Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Alfred E. Wellons of the Office of African Affairs

Subject: Eritrea

Participants: The Secretary
NEA—Mr. McGhee
AF—Mr. Bourgerie
AF—Mr. Wellons

Since the Secretary had asked for an explanation of developments concerning the disposition of Eritrea in the General Assembly, Mr. McGhee summarized the events of the last few days. The Secretary mentioned that a recent telegram from Rome (1841, October 251) confirmed the position which Count Sforza had taken with him in a conversation in New York in September.2 The Secretary asked what progress was being made to resolve the points at issue in the formula for the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia.

Mr. McGhee said that the latest information from our delegation in New York (he had discussed the matter with Mr. Noyes by telephone this afternoon) generally confirmed the new instructions which had been sent to Mr. Brusasca by the Italian Government authorizing public Italian support of the Muniz draft proposal provided certain changes were incorporated in it. He reported Mr. Noyes’ feeling that compromises could probably be worked out with regard to taxation, police, and the nationality of inhabitants of mixed Italian and Eritrean parentage. The most difficult point, however, would involve the right of the Federal Government to station troops in Eritrea. Mr. Noyes had reported that the first reaction of the Ethiopians was that they would not make any of the changes but that they were adamant only with regard to this matter of armed forces. The Secretary agreed that any federal government must have the right, if it is to defend the country, to station troops in any part of the territory.

The Secretary recalled that Count Sforza had assured him (in their conversation on September 27, 1950) that if suitable changes were made in the federation formula on the remaining unsettled points, the Italian delegation would be able to support it. He also recalled that Count Sforza had assured him that if these points could not be met, [Page 1686] the Italians still would not attempt to arouse other delegations to oppose the compromise plan. Mr. McGhee pointed out that since that conversation, the Italians had apparently made representations to certain governments to persuade them not to support the federation formula. In particular, he referred to the successful approach made by the Italian Ambassador at Ankara which resulted in the Turkish delegation withdrawing from cosponsorship of the draft resolution. Mr. McGhee said that the proof of this was contained in the memorandum of the conversation which Mr. Noyes had with Mr. Kural of the Turkish delegation in New York on October 19, 1950. Mr. Bourgerie brought up the report received today that the Italians had made representations in Wellington, New Zealand, against the Eritrean federation plan; he referred also to rumors that the Italians had approached other members of the UN. The Secretary stated that if this were the case, it was clearly a breach of faith on the basis of his understanding with Court Sforza and that he was quite prepared to bring the matter directly to the attention of the Italian Foreign Minister.

Mr. McGhee said that the Italian delegation at Lake Success now appeared to be willing to give written assurances that if certain changes were made in the federation formula, they would be willing to support it publicly. He felt this was encouraging and said that if such assurances were made, then we could go to the Ethiopians and urge them to accept at least some of the changes desired by the Italians. However, Mr. McGhee felt that no further approach should be made to the Ethiopians until such specific assurances were obtained from the Italians—Mr. Noyes said that he had asked Mr. Brusasca for some such statement in a day or two. Mr. McGhee said that the Ethiopians had made many concessions over several months of negotiations and had discovered when it came to the last days of the Interim Committee early in September that the Italians had pulled the rug from under them by rejecting the federation formula at the last minute. He was certain that they would not agree to any changes unless a very strong statement of support was made by the Italians in advance.

The Secretary stated that our course of action should be as follows:

To press the Italians to give adequate written assurances of their support, or of the circumstances under which they could support the federation formula, and then to urge the Ethiopians to accept the necessary changes in order to obtain a decision by the General Assembly this year.
If the Italians do not give such written assurances soon, then the Secretary said he would send a personal message to Count Sforza [Page 1687] to remind him of the position he had taken during their conversation in September.3

  1. Not printed. It reported that the Italian Foreign Office was confident that the General Assembly would find a solution to the Eritrean problem and reaffirmed its position of accepting the Muniz draft federation proposal provided that safeguards were added concerning internal security, taxation, and the status of inhabitants of mixed Italian and Eritrean parentage. (765.02/10–2550)
  2. Regarding Secretary Acheson’s conversation with Sforza on September 27, see footnote 1, supra.
  3. On November 6 in Gadel 97, to Austin, signed personally by Secretary Acheson, the U.S. Delegation at the United Nations was informed of the substance of this position (320/11–650).