750G.00/9–1153: Telegram

No. 110
The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1
top secret

1337. Ambassador eyes only. Following is text of proposal re Trieste now under consideration at highest Government levels.2 We have furnished copy to British Embassy here on understanding that it does not in any way represent final Government decision and is given them for preliminary study by FonOff on most confidential basis in order to save time should we reach decision here to approach British formally through you. Agreed by British it will not be discussed under any circumstances with third party.

  • “1. While Department recognizes Yugoslav position now publicly advanced by Tito perhaps reduces Yugoslav freedom of maneuver in immediate future and that Pella’s speech September 133 may further harden Italian position (notwithstanding our efforts to contrary), we believe present and recent tensions may have created a [Page 274] situation in which a solution to Trieste issue might be achieved along Zone A/B lines which would be designed relieve US, UK and France of present embarrassing responsibilities and commitments, and ultimately pave way for that collaboration in mutual defense for that portion of Europe which we are all convinced is essential in common interest of West. While in initial stages solution such as we envisage would be provisional in public appearance, parties concerned would understand that it would probably have to be permanent (subject qualifications below).
  • 2. We have given full consideration to joint views of US, UK and French representatives in Belgrade that it is impractical to propose agreed partition to Yugoslavia at this time, that turning over Zone A to Italians highly dangerous and that internationalization entire FTT best terrain to explore. We must take into account that we have definite knowledge that internationalization would never, under any circumstances, be accepted by the Italians. We also regard it as impractical and dangerous. Moreover, the history of secret negotiations between Yugoslavs and Italians has always indicated that Tito would settle for a Zone A–Zone B division. This was true of Guidotti–Bebler conversations in Paris two years ago, Mr. Eden’s conversation with Tito last year and likewise of the conversations in Rome last May. Tito’s recent speech may well be designed to push us toward offering him the Zone A–Zone B solution which he has always wanted in past. It is believed that plan outlined below avoids risk envisaged by Belgrade and should be given a trial as most promising constructive step at this juncture in a situation which is steadily deteriorating.
  • 3. Department’s thinking conditioned on one hand by recent—and increasingly concrete—Italian suggestions that under certain circumstances that Government could live with de facto Zone A–B solution, always provided first step involved only ‘equalization’ of Italian position in Zone A to that of Yugoslavia vis-à-vis Zone B, and not formal acknowledgment that such solution definitive. Other side of issue is our firm belief that (a) recent Tito position made primarily for bargaining purposes, (b) single most important factor in Yugoslav foreign policy today is necessity progress further with military cooperation with West (i.e., that we have great bargaining power with Tito, accentuated inter alia by recent tripartite emphasis in last military talks on concept that further progress conditioned on modus vivendi between Italy and Yugoslavia), and (c) Tito still basically willing settle for Zone A–B solution proving modalities meet his peculiar political requirements.
  • 4. Schedule of events to this end which we believe desirable and possible to put in motion is as follows: (a) US and UK seek appropriate opportunity make public statement that since all their efforts [Page 275] to apply peace treaty, to encourage agreement between Yugoslavia and Italy—parties most interested, have failed, and with a view to equalizing situation between Italy and Yugoslavia in reference to Zones A and B, powers have concluded that they have no alternative to withdrawal allied military government from Zone A and permitting Italian Government extend Italian administrative and other control into that Zone. Transfer of authority to Italians should take place simultaneously with announcement. (b) Tito annexes Zone B. US/UK will not oppose but must have prior guarantee that he will do no more, i.e., not militarily attack Italy, attempt to occupy all or part of Zone A, or molest Italians in Zone B. (c) Italy then annexes Zone A, with private assurances from Italian Government to US, UK and France that it will not provoke disturbances of any kind in either zone or molest Slovenes in Zone A. (d) Assurances from both Italy and Yugoslavia regarding both minorities and civil rights along general lines of Article 4 of permanent statute of FTT would also be expected. (In our view this would be prerequisite to any ultimate de jure recognition.) (e) US, UK and France will then issue public statement to effect three powers recognize de facto situation created in territory hitherto known as FTT, that they hope both Italy and Yugoslavia will cooperate to allay tensions and work for friendly and cooperative relations between them in common interest of Western defense and solidarity, that they recognize de facto Zone A/B solution does not fully satisfy requirements of either side, and that they hope residual problems, including possible local modifications of boundary, will be worked out on amicable basis between two parties immediately at interest. (f) At appropriate time after initial reactions have subsided, a suitable series of steps would be initiated to bring de facto situation to attention of Security Council for removal from agenda. Given probable inability of SC to act in face of Soviet obstruction, we might later plan seek General Assembly UN endorsement of status quo as contributing to stability of area, peaceful solutions, etc.
  • 5. We propose following schedule of moves designed in first instance to sound out both sides and, in event our analysis proves correct, to move directly towards solution described above.
  • 6. First: Pella be informed by both US and UK that we are contemplating turning administration Zone A over to Italians, that possible consequences of such a step are so serious that we must first ensure that Yugoslav reaction will not result in hostilities; we are therefore, simultaneously with our approach to him, approaching Tito on most confidential basis and will communicate with Pella further when we have made our decision.
  • 7. Second: At same time as foregoing, British and US should inform Tito that we are approaching him and Italians simultaneously regarding Trieste. We should tell him in friendly but very firm fashion that this situation has become intolerable and that we are not prepared to permit it any longer to poison our relations with Yugoslavia and Italy and jeopardize policies of fundamental importance to four governments and indeed to all Western Europe. As Yugoslav Government has frequently been told, and most recently in tripartite military talks just concluded, we are convinced that our military relations with Yugoslavia have reached the point where to permit further progress in planning and programming it is imperative that Trieste situation be stabilized. In circumstances we see no alternative to turning over Zone A to Italians to administer and thereby create a situation of balance between Yugoslavia and Italy that can provide basis for ultimate agreement between two countries. We realize that Tito has a problem with respect to his public positions and that he may feel compelled to react in some way. However, as we have made financial and other sacrifices for him we feel entitled to expect sacrifice on his part. We are confident that he will understand need for cooperation and statesmanship in order that any reaction on his part should not be such as to force our governments to reconsider policies which we have followed toward his government and which we are anxious to continue. (Purpose of conversation should be to ascertain, without specifically asking him, what Tito will do when faced with turnover of Zone A to Italians and to lead him, again without specifically suggesting it, to say that he would annex Zone B.) If Tito says that he would annex Zone B we would inform him that this undoubtedly would lead to Italian annexation of Zone A and that if we did not protest his annexation of Zone B we obviously would not protest Italian annexation of Zone A. At this point it would also seem appropriate to point out to Tito that annexation of Zone B would not require movement of military forces but only parliamentary action in Belgrade. Finally, we should seek assurances (a) that Yugoslav reaction would go no further than annexation of Zone B and would not involve military action, and (b) that Yugoslavia would give guarantees regarding minorities and civil rights refered to in paragraph 4 which of course would also be expected of Italy in Zone A.
  • 8. If, notwithstanding above démarche, Tito reserves his position or indicates he will take military action, the US and UK representatives would inform him that they would have to refer to their governments for instructions. They would emphasize the seriousness with which their governments will view Tito’s reaction.
  • 9. Third: Given anticipated response from Tito that he will annex Zone B, US and UK would again approach Pella, inform him that [Page 277] we are prepared to go ahead with turnover administration Zone A to Italy and that indications are that Tito may annex Zone B. Should he do so, however, while US, UK will not protest, on other hand, US, UK would be prepared to acquiesce in similar action by Italy annexing Zone A provided Italian Government gives necessary assurances referred to in paragraph 4. After being given this information, our assumption is that Pella still will request administration Zone A to be turned over to Italy since he will not be responsible for having agreed to Yugoslav annexation Zone B. If Pella opposes strongly, the plan falls through.
  • 10. As regards the inclusion of French, we believe our joint US/UK responsibilities are such as to justify the US and UK moving forward bilaterally until such point as it would prove useful to include them. French have no responsibilities vis-à-vis AMG, and might even be embarrassed to be asked to concur in a course of action which would not include formal ‘agreement’ on part Italians. Also their commitments to Italians through Santa Marguerita agreement would likely involve leaks of details to Italians and delays which might jeopardize favorable atmosphere for such an operation which we feel has been created by present tensions. We would, overselves, favor informing French of each successive step immediately prior implementation and would hope French would associate themselves with final statement to be made by three powers referred to paragraph 4, point (e).”
  1. Drafted by Byington and cleared with Barbour, Bonbright, and Merchant. The text of the proposal was sent to Rome, eyes only for Luce, in telegram 907, Sept. 12, and repeated to Belgrade, eyes only for Wallner, in telegram 287, Sept. 12, with the prefatory statement that the Department of State would welcome their comments on the proposal. (750G.00/9–1253)
  2. A draft of this telegram was sent as an attachment to a letter from Bonbright to Capt. George Anderson, Assistant to Admiral Radford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bonbright wrote that he understood that Secretary Dulles the previous day had mentioned the Trieste proposal to Radford and that Dulles was anxious that Radford have a copy of the draft proposal so that he could discuss it with the Joint Chiefs. Bonbright also stressed the need for a prompt response from the JCS. The response of the JCS was described in a typewritten, undated note, which bears the following notations: “Handed to HMB [Homer M. Byington] by Defense, 9–12–53, comments on orig. plan.” and “This is Dept’s only record of Defense’s reaction to original plan. WK [William E. Knight]” The note reads, “U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have reservations as to the mechanics of the actual transfer of administrative and military control of Zone A to Italians and timing of the withdrawal of U.S./U.K. forces as envisaged in paragraph 4 a. They deem it is essential that the military commanders of the U.S./U.K. forces in FTT be consulted prior to initial discussions with Italian and Yugoslav authorities and that their comments relative to the security of the forces and the timing of their withdrawal be considered prior to approval of the plan.” (750G.00/9–1253) In telegram 1355 to London, eyes only for Gifford, Sept. 12, the Department of State reported that the text of the proposal should be amended to include the following addition to paragraph 4 a: “It is essential that the military commanders of the U.S./U.K. forces in FTT be consulted prior to initial discussions with Italian and Yugoslav authorities and that their comments relative to the security of the forces and the timing of their withdrawal be considered prior to approval of the plan.” The Department instructed Gifford to present the amended proposal formally to the Foreign Office and to state, in doing so, that the proposal had the endorsement of the U.S. Government at the highest levels. (750G.00/9–1253)
  3. See the editorial note, infra.