No. 142
Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Sandifer) to the Secretary of State1
top secret


  • Observations Regarding Possible United Nations Action on Trieste

In a communication to the Department dated October 25, 1953, the British Embassy apprised us of Mr. Anthony Eden’s suggestion of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry, with authority to make recommendations regarding a solution of the Trieste problem.2

In recent years the subject of Trieste has been handled outside the United Nations, rather than in it; and we have for various reasons allowed the solution envisaged in the Italian Peace Treaty of the Free Territory of Trieste to fall into abeyance. Mr. Eden’s suggestion, therefore, involves a radical shift in policy, bringing the subject back into the United Nations. It seems to us in UNA that [Page 328] the following observations should be borne in mind before a decision is made to take such a step.

The October 8 declaration represented a conscious decision to settle the Trieste question by direct action through fait accompli. If we undertake UN action of the kind sought by Mr. Eden, we must realize that this is not consistent with such unilateral action and that the future of Trieste will have to be discussed in the UN for months or years to come.
This means re-opening the entire Trieste question. The ultimate outcome may be something quite different from the solution envisaged in the October 8 declaration. A UN body would be very likely to take up the question of resettlement of minorities and redrawing the boundary between Zone A and Zone B. It might also recommend UN supervision of some sort in the territory for a transitional period.
Before we begin UN action looking toward a Trieste settlement, it is essential to have Italian approval or at least acquiescence. Otherwise the Italians, with their influence over the Latin Americans, can seriously hamper any efforts we make in the UN.
Assuming we can get Italian acquiescence to UN action looking toward a final settlement, we might try with reasonable success to have the POC sub-commission or some other UN body work out recommendations on the future of Trieste.
However, regardless of the views of the parties, we can establish a Peace Observation Commission sub-committee to exercise observation functions in and around Trieste. This might get us out of the difficulty created by the Italian proposal for troop withdrawal. It could be done quickly and would have no direct bearing on a final settlement of the Trieste problem.

Before his departure, Mr. Murphy asked that these observations be communicated to you.3

  1. Drafted by David H. Popper of UNA. A copy was sent to Merchant.
  2. The document under reference was attached to a memorandum of Oct. 26 from Merchant to Dulles, in which Merchant summarized the communication from the British Embassy and gave his opinion that it would be better to proceed with the plans to arrange a five-power conference rather than refer the matter to the United Nations. (750G.00/10–2653) In telegram 2260 to London, Oct. 27, the Department reported that Secretary Dulles informed British Ambassador Makins the previous day that there was still a reasonable chance of setting up a conference and every avenue toward this end should be explored. Seeking a U.N. solution, he said, was an undesirable alternative to be used only as a last resort “to save our own faces were we to admit defeat.” (750G.00/10–2753)
  3. In a memorandum of Oct. 28 to Merchant, Secretary Dulles said that he had seen the UNA memorandum commenting on the possibility of bringing the Trieste matter to the United Nations. The Secretary noted that he disapproved of this course of action, but he said it was “barely possible that there would be merit in suggesting a peace observation commission in Trieste which would report on the use of force in violation of Article 2.” Dulles stated his assumption that the Soviet Union would veto such a proposal in the Security Council unless it were a member of the commission, which was something the United States could not permit. Dulles said, however, that the proposal could probably be put through the General Assembly without delay. (750G.00/10–2853)

    On Nov. 4, when the Trieste issued was to be discussed again in the Security Council, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France supported a motion by Colombia to postpone debate on the issue again. Only the Soviet Union voted against this motion.