No. 130
Editorial Note

The following announcement was released by the Department of State at 3 p.m. on October 8 and simultaneously by the British Foreign Office in London:

“The Governments of the U.S. and U.K. have viewed with great concern the recent deterioration in the relations between Italy and Yugoslavia which has resulted from the dispute over the future of the Free Territory of Trieste.

“Since the conclusion of the Second World War, the two Governments have jointly exercised the administration of Zone A of the Territory under the terms of the Italian Peace Treaty. Similarly, the Yugoslav Government has continued to be responsible for the administration of Zone B. These responsibilities were to be purely temporary and it was never envisaged that they should become permanent. For reasons that are well known, it proved impossible to reach agreement with the other signatories of the Peace Treaty for setting up the permanent regime for the Free Territory provided for in the Treaty.

“The Governments of the U.S. and U.K., who were thus faced with a situation not contemplated in the Treaty, subsequently employed their good offices on frequent occasions in the hope of promoting a settlement by conciliation between Italy and Yugoslavia. Unfortunately it was not possible to find a solution acceptable to both sides. Moreover the recent proposals put forward by Italy and Yugoslavia have been reciprocally rejected.

“In these circumstances, the two Governments see no alternative but to bring the present unsatisfactory situation to an end. They are no longer prepared to maintain responsibility for the administration of Zone A. They have therefore decided to terminate the Allied Military Government, to withdraw their troops, and having in mind the predominantly Italian character of Zone A to relinquish the administration of that Zone to the Italian Government. The two Governments expect that the measures being taken will lead to a final peaceful solution.

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“It is the firm belief of the two Governments that this step will contribute to stabilization of a situation which has disturbed Italo-Yugoslav relations during recent years. They trust that it will provide the basis for friendly and fruitful cooperation between Italy and Yugoslavia, which is as important to the security of Western Europe as it is to the interests of the two countries concerned.

“The withdrawal of troops and the simultaneous transfer of administrative authority will take place at the earliest practicable date, which will be announced in due course.” (Department of State press release 547, October 8, 1953, reprinted in Department of State Bulletin, October 19, 1953, page 529)

Although the reaction of the Italian Government and the Italian people was highly favorable to the announcement, the reaction in Yugoslavia was angry and violent. Belgrade radio comments on the night of October 8 were extremely critical and indicated that Yugoslavia would take measures through the United Nations against the decision. That evening large demonstrations took place before the United States, British, and Italian Missions in Belgrade. The demonstrators waved flags, shouted “Trieste is ours,” and sang Slovene songs. Numerous windows in the United States Embassy and USIE building were broken, but there were no personal injuries and no Americans were molested. (Telegram 421 from Belgrade, October 8; 750G.00/10–853) Further demonstrations occurred on October 9, at which time more stones were thrown and windows broken in the United States Embassy. (Telegram 429 from Belgrade, October 9; 750G.00/10–953) At the Secretary of State’s staff meeting on the morning of October 9, Merchant reported that he thought the demonstrations in Belgrade had probably had a helpful effect as far as Italian acceptance of the Trieste solution was concerned. He also said that he was particularly interested in the fact that the demonstrations were “apparently spontaneous and unrehearsed since they began almost immediately following the announcement.” (Memorandum of conversation, October 9; Secretary’s Staff Meetings, lot 63 D 75, October 1953)

The first official Yugoslav Government reaction was in a note of October 9 delivered to the United States Embassy in Belgrade, which demanded that the decision on Trieste be withdrawn. A second note, given to the Embassy on October 12, indicated that the Yugoslav Government intended to bring the Trieste dispute before the United Nations. It also contained the Yugoslav Government’s request that a conference involving the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Yugoslavia be convened to give urgent consideration to the Trieste matter.

In a speech at Leskovac October 10, Tito strongly denounced the United Kingdom–United States decision on Trieste and reaffirmed his previous position that Yugoslavia would consider Italian occupation [Page 304] of Zone A as an act of aggression. He said that Yugoslavia had already sent military reinforcements to Zone B. Tito stated further that Yugoslavia had cooperated with the United States and the United Kingdom in order to resist aggression, not to secure aid, and that Yugoslavia would not trade territory for aid. He concluded his speech by asking that the October 8 decision be revoked and that consideration be given to a new Yugoslav proposal that the Free Territory of Trieste be divided into two autonomous units, one under Italian and the other under Yugoslav sovereignty. This speech was summarized in telegram 447 from Belgrade, October 10, 1953. (750G.00/10–1053) On October 11 Tito spoke at Skoplje and, according to the Tanjug English-language summary of the speech, said that Yugoslavia had to tell the outside world that it was ready to prevent a new betrayal of its interests and that Yugoslavia was not “clamoring or jesting” because the whole Yugoslav people were ready to lay down their lives for the defense of the interests and rights of their country. The moment Italy entered Zone A, said Tito, Yugoslavia would enter it. Tito again called for the two Western countries to withdraw their decision. (Telegram 451 from Belgrade, October 11; 750G.00/10–1153)

In telegram 1233 to Rome, October 9, eyes only for Luce, Secretary Dulles expressed his gratitude for “the skillful way in which you have handled the delicate and important program for Trieste.” Dulles said that the first reactions indicate that the operation would be successful and “we hope and believe that your handling of the matter will enhance our prestige in Italy.” (750G.00/10–953) In telegram 1206 from Rome, October 10, eyes only for Dulles, Luce thanked the Secretary for his message and “above all for your unflagging confidence and firm leadership which have permitted me to carry forward here the President’s policy.” She also said, “The consequences of your Trieste decision must inevitably create difficulties elsewhere but I believe they will be overcome and be compensated for by increasing Italian cooperation with your European policies as the result of a great improvement in Italian-American relations.” (750G.00/10–1053)