IO Files

Memorandum of an Informal Meeting of Certain Members of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, November 24, 1951


[Here follow list of persons (25) present and discussion of a prior agenda item.]

2. After the working group on this matter had withdrawn to undertake the drafting job, the Delegation, or those members present, were asked by Mr. Taylor1 to stay and consider an urgent problem to be presented by Mr. Gerig2 and Ambassador Sayre3 concerning developments in the Fourth Committee. This had to with the French walkout of the day before, following a political discussion of Morocco in Committee 4, and an Iraqi motion that Committee 4 had the power to discuss political questions concerning the non-self governing territories.

Mr. Gerig said that a serious crisis had arisen in Committee 4 when the French had walked out. The Belgians and UK were taking the same general line as the French although they had not walked out. He pointed out that by Monday afternoon when the Committee would meet again, a decision would be necessary from the Delegation on how to deal with this matter for the US. He added that Padilla Nervo4 was meeting at that time with the UK and French and might later see the Iraqi. Padilla Nervo was understood to feel that this matter should not go into the General Committee but rather that he would go to the Chairman of Committee 4 who, it was hoped, would say that this was not a proper proposal and that he would not put it to a vote in the committee. That was the line which the UK and the French were seeking to pursue at that time. Padilla Nervo might also approach Khalidy,5 the Iraqi, and point out to him the very dangerous results that could follow from carrying through on his draft resolution. The results would be dangerous for not only Committee 4 but also for the very existence of the Special Committee to Receive Information submitted under Article 73(e) of the Charter. The result might be that no more information would be submitted. The hope would be that Padilla Nervo could get Khalidy to withdraw his motion or get him to suspend pushing it forward to a vote. The problem for the US however was what to do if the approaches currently being made were unsuccessful. [Page 667] The Arabs in their speeches, he pointed out, were covering the whole problem of Morocco in all its aspects. The last few years had seen a process develop within Committee 4 of what the UK called amendment to the Charter by resolution. New functions and powers were being given to Committee 4 by resolution saying that the Committee was so empowered. The colonial powers of course insisted that they had not subscribed to any such agreement at San Francisco.6

The French, according to Mr. Gerig, felt that they were being maltreated in the UN in regard to Morocco and were getting quite nervous about it. The UK had taken the matter up on the highest levels. It was desirable to have the question withdrawn in favor of a rule of thumb heretofore practiced by which it was generally agreed that since one could not separate completely the political aspects from what were primarily economic, social and educational questions, if the bounds of reason were maintained there would be no objection to occasional reference to these political aspects. The UK reluctantly has accepted this but if the rule of thumb method was disregarded a ruling would have to be made that political matters were outside the scope of the Committee to discuss. This latter position of the UK was felt by the Legal Adviser to exceed the limits of propriety. An attempt was in progress to draft a speech for Dr. Tobias to make, on Monday afternoon expressing the US position on this matter.

Ambassador Austin asked what the parliamentary situation was. Mr. Gerig said that Committee 4 had received the motion one hour before it adjourned on Friday. It would therefore come up Monday. Ecuador and Iraq had moved in a short statement to the effect that Committee 4 was empowered to discuss political matters in connection with the report on the territories which were non-selfgoverning. Ambassador Austin7 wondered whether the non-selfgoverning part of this statement took it outside of the general mandate of Article 10. Mr. Gerig said that on the contrary the feeling was that Article 10 was the generally permissive basis on which the present motion had been made. Mr. Meeker8 said that the Legal Adviser felt that this was not a problem of Charter interpretation or of what powers in general the Assembly had, but related solely to the propriety of Committee 4 action of such a nature. This was a much narrower issue. He pointed out that while Article 73(e) did not call for political information, the countries responsible for non-selfgoverning areas submitted political information. Our feeling was that when the discussion under Article 73(e) got too far away from the basic purpose of that article, [Page 668] it would be appropriate to have the chair call the meeting back to that primary purpose.

Ambassador Sayre agreed with this legal opinion. He pointed out that the French feel that a discussion of political matters by Committee 4 was illegal. They said that Chapter 11 of the Charter was a unilateral declaration by the countries responsible for the non-selfgoverning areas and not an agreement. They would submit information but they were not bound to come and discuss it before the special committee, at least on the political aspects. He agreed with Mr. Meeker also that this was an unsound legal position to the extent that it denied the general competence of the Committee to discuss political matters. If the GA could discuss political matters under a general mandate, so could Committee 4. The UK and French position was not of course a purely legal one. There had been a long-continuing fight going on in Committee 4 wherein the non-colonial powers would ask political representatives of the colonial powers to appear in Committee 4 and talk to political matters. They might further consider the idea of sending visiting missions out to the non-selfgoverning areas. This would be clearly illegal. The important question was where to fight the big battle that would inevitably have to be fought. Should it be fought out when the non-colonial powers adopt the clearly illegal position of sending out these visiting missions, or should we decide now to depart from firm legal grounds and fight it out for political considerations connected with the UK and French desire to take the stand now? Ambassador Sayre felt that the US should continue to stick to its legal position but show a readiness to fight, if illegal steps were taken as indicated above. He preferred to wait till the battle lines were drawn on firm ground and not to fight on the quicksand of the present position. Ambassador Sayre felt that the UK and France had gone too far in saying that no political questions could be discussed, and that the Iraqi had gone too far in saying all political questions could be discussed. He therefore proposed that a middle ground be sought and that the US seek also to bring the two sides somewhat nearer this middle.

Mr. Ross9 felt he might somewhat overstate his case out of strong feelings on the subject but he disliked intensely the tendency of the present US position. He admitted that each country was entitled to its own legal interpretation of this or any matter. The UK and France felt that our interpretation was wrong in this case, that the Charter was being interpreted by this motion, and that the US was at fault for making ex cathedra statements about the legality of this matter. He recalled the difficult history of Committee 4 between the “enlightened policies” of the colonial powers and the “irresponsible demands” [Page 669] of the noncolonials. He felt that we had come upon the crisis of which the UK and France were so certain. Our conduct vis-à-vis the non-selfgoverning areas and the East–West struggle was highly important. The best analogy he could recall would be the recent decision to back the French to the fullest in Morocco.10 An equally firm stand would have to be taken in this case, in his opinion. This would not of course prevent our urging calm counsel upon our friends.

Mr. Nolting liked Mr. Ross’ analogy. Mr. Meeker said, in response to a question by Mr. Nolting, that the legal adviser’s opinion was that the Iraqi motion ought to be opposed not on the basis of the Charter but on the basis of “allocation of work”. Ambassador Austin called for hitting the problem squarely on the nose. This, he said, was a constitutional announcement of a judgment that the Charter empowered Committee 4 to discuss these political items in the particular connection mentioned. This was a new item, and had not been assigned to any committee yet. There was only an accidental relation of this item to the Moroccan matter. According to Mr. Gerig, Padilla Nervo was going to object only to the form of the motion by Iraq and not to the substance of it. Mr. Nolting said that we should approach this problem one step at a time. Ambassador Sayre gave an exact recapitulation of what happened and how the issue arose and how tangled the procedure was. He also pointed to a difficulty underlying all this business which was the necessity for the US to avoid giving the impression it was basing its actions on the “unhumanitarian” ground of backing the colonial powers in their differences with the non-colonial ones.

Ambassador Austin could not see how this Iraq resolution could be advanced in Committee 4 since it had not gone through the appropriate procedures for new matters. Mr. Sandifer11 said he approved of the Chairman’s suggestion that this matter be dealt with on procedural grounds. We would only be faced with the policy conflict outlined by Mr. Ross if this procedural approach failed. On the substance of the matter he would disagree with Mr. Ross, in the argument that we should back up the UK and French on untenable legal grounds, and for that reason he felt we should seek to steer clear of the substantive issues by getting the UK and France onto procedural grounds.

Ambassador Austin wondered how France could avoid coming back into Committee 4 and raising a point of order on the Iraqi motion. Ambassador Sayre said that the French had raised a point of order on the Egyptian speech which had precipitated this whole matter. It was during the course of the Committee 4 chairman’s attempting to dodge a ruling on the point of order that the Iraqi motion had been presented. Ambassador Austin wanted to see the fuzziness of the [Page 670] parliamentary situation erased and the record kept straight. Mr. Gerig said that in view of a clear cut decision going against our point of view, a certain amount of fuzziness would not be a bad idea, unless of course the proposal we made for the rule of thumb were to be adopted. This could hardly come out of a ruling by the Chair. Ambassador Sayre urged seeking the middle ground he had suggested earlier. In view of the alarm of nearly everyone on the Committee and the particularly nervous state the UK and France were in over this matter, it would be useful to compose their differences this way.

Mr. Taylor said that it would be wise to try first the suggestion by Ambassador Austin to solve the question on procedural grounds. In the event we should lose on this move, which seemed likely, we could consider how to vote on the resolution. In any case, we could talk around with the other more reasonable members of the Committee tomorrow concerning the most effective procedural approach.

Mr. Maffitt12 agreed with Mr. Taylor that the procedural gambit be tried and asked whether the time element were not the most important one. Ambassador Sayre agreed, saying that if one week’s time could be gained on the item or motion, the Committee would then be on to other matters and the matter would probably not bother us. However, there was an aspect that might recur. This was that the Arabs were continually trying to plague the French over Morocco and might try it in other ways if this particular method failed. He agreed, too, that the procedural approach be tried first.

Charles D. Cook
  1. Paul B. Taylor, Executive Secretary of the U.S. Delegation.
  2. O. Benjamin Gerig, Director of the Office of Dependent Area Affairs and member of the Advisory Staff of the Delegation.
  3. Francis B. Sayre, United States Representative on the Trusteeship Council.
  4. Luis Padilla Nervo, of Mexico, President of the Sixth Session of the General Assembly.
  5. Awni Khalidy, Chargé d’Affairs, Permanent Delegation of Iraq to the United Nations, delegate of Iraq on the Fourth Committee.
  6. For documentation on the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held at San Francisco, April 25–June 26, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  7. Warren R. Austin, United States Representative at the United Nations, and Delegation chairman.
  8. Leonard C. Meeker, Assistant Legal Adviser for United Nations Affairs and member of the Delegation’s Advisory Staff.
  9. John C. Ross, Deputy United States Representative on the Security Council, one of two Senior Advisers on the Advisory Staff of the Delegation.
  10. A reference to the Moroccan question in the General Committee; see footnote 1, p. 663.
  11. Durward V. Sandifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs, and Senior Adviser on the Delegation’s Advisory Staff.
  12. Edward P. Maffitt of the United States Mission to the United Nations, member of the Advisory Staff.