320.22/7–754: Telegram

The Chargé in Iceland (Dillon) to the Department of State


8. Re Deptel 3.1 CA 7677,2 received COB last night. Aide-mémoire based on it presented Foreign Minister3 this afternoon. His first comment was “Iceland views this matter very seriously”. He went on to say that protection of fisheries was life and death question to Iceland, and he hoped UN would not attempt to “pass a law” aimed at fisheries protection. The Faeroes Islands had been fished out by British trawlers and the Faeroes now had to fish off Greenland and Iceland. He understood the grounds off Boston had also suffered from overfishing and said the Icelanders were determined that would not happen here.

He then commented that fisheries were not so important to US as to Iceland and asked whether rich countries thought that poor countries had no rights. After a pause I replied that large countries had interests no less than small ones, and they had an equal right to protect them. I referred to the historical interest of US in freedom of seas doctrine, and mentioned our commercial and naval as well as fishing interests in problem. I said US was disturbed by encroachments on traditional doctrine, and would not wish to see situation where few powerful states controlled seas. Foreign Minister agreed this would not be in interest of smaller states.

He then commented three mile rule not universal, Sweden for example having four mile limit and asked if Canada did not as well. I said I understood Canada observed three mile limit (he was probably thinking of Canadian interest in ground fish tariff question here).

Foreign Minister then remarked US claimed offshore interest in oil wells beyond three miles. I said I was not familiar with this matter but thought we did not claim sovereignty there. Foreign Minister replied Iceland did not claim sovereignty either, only protection of fish. I quoted last sentence instruction resolution both freedom of seas and fisheries problem and said that should be our aim, adding that purpose of aide-mémoire was to give Icelandic Government advance notice of our intention, as friendly act toward ally.

[Page 1704]

Foreign Minister said he appreciated this, adding we would probably have reply setting out Icelandic Government position.4 He repeated matter was very serious one for them, and he hoped UN would not act contrary to The Hague decision in Norwegian-British fisheries case.

Foreign Minister was obviously disturbed by US approach, but meeting was cordial throughout.

  1. Not printed. (320.22/7–254)
  2. Supra.
  3. Kristinn Gudmundsson.
  4. On July 10, 1954, Foreign Minister Gudmundsson handed to Chargé Dillon an Icelandic aide-mémoire reaffirming the position expressed by Gudmundsson during the conversation of July 7. The Legation in Iceland transmitted the text of the aide-mémoire to the Department of State in despatch 18 from Reykjavik, July 12. (320.22/7–1254) Dillon’s summary of his conversation with Gudmundsson on July 10 is in telegram 11 from Reykjavik, July 12, not printed. (320.22/7–1054)