No. 168
Memorandum by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Bonbright) to the Acting Secretary of State 1
top secret


  • Progress of US–UK–Yugoslav Talks on Trieste

The first week of meetings was taken up mostly by an extensive review of the Yugoslav point of view on the historical, economic, ethnic and military background of the Trieste problem. Velebit has shown reluctance to get down to cases, apparently on the assumption that the present talks are intended only to reach agreement in principle, leaving substantive details to be negotiated with the Italians, and not wishing to compromise his negotiating position with the Italians. Thompson and Harrison (the UK representative) are [Page 374] resisting his efforts to draw them into the position of speaking for the Italians.

At the fifth meeting (February 8) Velebit put forward the first concrete Yugoslav proposal, most of the conditions of which Thompson characterizes as “clearly unacceptable”. It calls for an internationally guaranteed autonomous status for the City of Trieste, compensation for undefined Yugoslav economic losses apparently since 1922; the whole of Zone B, and presumably the balance of Zone A, to go to Yugoslavia. Thompson considers the opening gambit is out of deference to the position taken by Tito in a recent speech and intends, after pointing out how counterproductive it would be for lasting Yugoslav-Italian relations to try to move on to the examination of more acceptable positions taken by the Yugolavs in the past.

Clearly Velebit is trying it on for size and the talks have not yet produced a basis for real negotiation.2

  1. Drafted by Holmes.
  2. Bonbright also briefly reviewed the progress of the negotiations in London at the Acting Secretary’s staff meeting the morning of Feb. 10. According to the memorandum of conversation at this meeting, Smith told Bonbright that the U.S. negotiators should be advised that if the oil refinery located in Trieste became the issue of whether or not an agreement could be reached, the United States was in a position to assure Yugoslavia that it would build another refinery for Yugoslavia. Smith said that it was a small refinery and that the United States was willing to pay for an agreement. (Secretary’s Staff Meetings, lot 63 D 75, “February 1954”)