Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1


Subject: Moroccan Situation

Participants: The Secretary of State
M. Bonnet
Also present: Mr. Bonbright, EUR
Mr. Van Laethem, French Embassy

M. Bonnet began by stating that he had received several messages from M.Schuman and was under instructions to discuss with us the North African situation with particular reference to the action of the Egyptian Government on October 6 in placing the subject on the agenda of the forthcoming General Assembly. He left with me the attached note setting forth the French position.2

The Ambassador began with a brief reference to the very strong feeling which existed in France on the Moroccan question and said that M.Schuman himself was surprised by the depth of this feeling which [Page 1390] had been brought to a head by the Egyptian action. He referred to the Bourghiba episode3 and to the question of the exchange of communications between the French and American Governments suggested by M.Schuman in September.4

With regard to the UN matter, M. Bonnet said that the French Government had decided to fight the placing of this item on the agenda on the grounds that this was an internal matter under the UN Charter. He was instructed to emphasize the very great importance which the French Government attached to obtaining our full support.

In reply I stated that we were in accord with the view that the United Nations was not competent to deal with this question in the sense of passing any condemnatory resolution or setting up a commission of investigation, etc. We would want to work with the French and talk over with them the best means of reaching the desired end. With respect to tactics however, I wished to throw out some suggestions which I hoped the French Government would take under consideration. I pointed to the difficulty of keeping any question off the agenda and inquired whether, unless we were sure of a favorable vote, it would be wise to put up a fight on this issue. If we lost, the result, would be two debates instead of one, first on the question of procedure and then on the substance. In this connection I referred to the manner in which we had handled the Formosan issue when the Communists introduced a resolution branding us as aggressors there. Instead of fighting it we had welcomed the opportunity to present our side. We had then gone quietly to work and succeeded in getting the resolution placed at the bottom of the agenda and in the end, due to the pressure of other business, the item was never reached. I thought that it might be useful for the French Government to consider this precedent and see whether from their own point of view it would not be best for them to take the attitude that they were proud of their record in Morocco and glad of the opportunity to tell the world about it. If the French would give us some material, we could occasionally “chime in”. I said that our minds had not been fully made up on this but I thought the idea was worth their consideration.

I then threw out the suggestion that if the negotiations with the Egyptians on defense matters5 went well, it might be possible to persuade them to withdraw their request for a debate on Morocco.

M. Bonnet replied that if the Egyptians were to withdraw, this would, of course, be very satisfactory. He doubted if they would do [Page 1391] so, however, and he also understood that although the Egyptians took the lead on Saturday some of the other Arab states intended to take identical action. With regard to my suggestion on tactics he was sure that his government had already considered the possibility of proceeding along those lines. He agreed that two debates were undesirable. On the other hand, the French Government doubted that their public opinion would stand for failure to meet the issue squarely. Moreover, in the light of the Iranian situation and the Egyptian abrogation of the British Treaty of 1936, the French felt that the line had to be drawn somewhere in order to halt the deterioration of the Western position. He felt sure his government would wish to draw the line on the Moroccan question and adopt a very stiff attitude toward it. He also referred to the serious effect in the Middle East if the US were to show hesitancy in backing up the French position. Finally, if the UN agreed to have the Moroccan question on the agenda the French foresaw the possibility of Egyptian-inspired disorders in Morocco to back up the Arab case.

As for the present situation in Morocco itself, the Ambassador characterized it as “good” and he thought that General Guillaume, the new Resident General, had got off to an excellent start with the Sultan. He then read me what the Sultan had recently said to the General which was along the following lines: “You will always find me at your side in defense of the common interests of our two countries. The erection of the edifice has been too rapid. Only the roof is missing. If difficulties remain, we will find means together to meet them. There shall be no division between France and Morocco and we will work together hand in hand.”

The Ambassador seemed personally to share my views concerning the unfortunate effects of fighting a losing battle on the procedural question and agreed that we should go over together the prospects for the individual country votes. It would be particularly important to find what position the Latin Americans will take.

Turning to M.Schuman’s proposal for an exchange of notes, I indicated that I had just returned to the office and had not yet had an opportunity to go deeply into the question. I asked him outright however what M.Schuman wanted to do with the notes. Did he wish to make them public? Just what purpose would they serve?

M. Bonnet stated that he had no specific information on the question of publication although he assumed that his government probably would wish to publish the notes. Certainly M.Schuman would wish to show them to the Cabinet. As for their purpose he thought that M.Schuman wanted them to show that the US approves the policy which France is following in Morocco.

As he was leaving, the Ambassador stated that he would report our conversation and wanted to make certain that he understood the extent [Page 1392] of our support on the UN matter. I repeated to him that we were in accord with the French with respect to substance, namely, that we would oppose any commission of investigation or resolution denouncing the French. On the matter of tactics I had not made up my mind but had merely offered some suggestions for the consideration of his government.6

Dean Acheson
  1. This memorandum was drafted by Bonbright; copies of it were sent to Paris, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunis, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangier, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
  2. There was no attachment to the source text; however, a memorandum from Bonbright to Perkins, also dated October 9, has attached to it both a French and an English text of the note under reference. (771.00/10–951)
  3. Regarding Habib Bourguiba’s visit to the United States in September and the events and incidents connected therewith, see pp. 1405–1418, passim.
  4. According to a memorandum from Bourgerie to McGhee, dated September 21, Schuman had asked Acheson during the NATO Council meeting at Ottawa, September 15–20, to exchange letters in which the United States would point out that it supported the French position in Morocco and had no interest in the internal political affairs there. (771.00/9–2151)
  5. For documentation on proposed Egyptian accession to a Middle East Command system, see pp. 1 ff.
  6. The question of Morocco was considered by the Steering Committee of the General Assembly following the application by Egypt for inclusion on the agenda. On November 9 the Steering Committee decided to postpone indefinitely the application and on December 13 the General Assembly concurred with that decision. For documentation on the question of putting the Moroccan case before the United Nations, see vol. ii, pp. 135 ff.