750G.00/3–3154: Telegram

No. 179
The Ambassador in Yugoslavia (Riddleberger) to the Department of State 1
top secret

1061. Foreign Secretary suddenly convoked Mallet and me late today for interview on Trieste which lasted two hours. He went over most of points recently discussed London and set forth in London’s 4180 to Department.2

Popovic opened by saying that London discussions seemed to have come to a dead-end and Yugoslav Government had impression that US-UK disappointed at result to date. Yugoslav Government [Page 397] in turn was not certain exactly what we expected of it and perhaps he could give the two of us his estimate of where we stood. He thought London conversations had thoroughly explored the political aspects of Trieste question and that better understanding had been realized.
Foreign Secretary then said that territorial problem was obviously the most difficult but that in his opinion three governments had come closer together in their views. Somewhat to our surprise he stated that the last US-UK proposal was not far away from what Yugoslav Government could accept. It had been agreed that while not possible to have a Yugoslav port in Trieste it had been agreed that another port could be found at St Niogolas to serve Slovene hinterland. He furthermore had impression that US-UK more inclined to recognize the necessity of connection between such a port and Slovenia. It was essential to Yugoslav Government to have a direct connection for this proposed port. Referring to US-UK proposal on territories, he emphasized that Bassovizza was required for Yugoslavia even on the basis of US-UK proposal as otherwise a long road detour would be required. Furthermore, Bassovizza has a strong emotional appeal as a sort of Yugoslav Lidice. He therefore appealed to US-UK to accept Bassovizza strip as involving only a small segment of territory populated with only a few thousand Slovenes.
Next point of real importance to Yugoslav government was question of economic aid for construction of port and railroad. He noted that this had been involved in reparations question but believed that reparations were not really a part of Trieste settlement. This was basically a question between Yugoslavia and Italy and he realized that it was not responsibility of US-UK but would appreciate our good offices. While territorial discussions had been specific, discussions on economic aid had not been precise. Thompson was presumably not authorized to make any commitments. Turning to me, Foreign Secretary said he hoped that as we were closer together on territorial questions that it would be possible to give a more precise indication on what could be expected in way of economic assistance. He referred to EisenhowerPopovic conversation3 said expressed firm hope that Yugoslav Government could have more certainty.
Yugoslav Government considers as fundamental establishment of a statute for minorities which would be reciprocal. This should at least be established in principle although the statutes themselves would not have to be identical. He thought it would be necessary to have a protocol on this.
Re autonomy and a free port, Yugoslav Government had presented proposals that were perhaps not perfect but at least an effort to consider what might be done. He had impression that these proposals had received a reticent reception in London perhaps because they had not been fully understood. Yugoslav Government realized that US-UK could not undertake obligations in this field but proposals made were not without precedent in Italy and could be considered. Re port arrangements, what had been proposed in way of international control were not remote to what had been provided in Italian Peace Treaty.
Re compensation to Slovenes, Yugoslav Government did not hope for total reparations but asks only partial recompense principally for real property. He cited several examples of Slovene property confiscated under Fascist laws and eventually returned to Italians by AMG.
In concluding Foreign Secretary expressed opinion that London talks have gone far in reconciling our respective views. Yugoslav people would not be content with concessions offered which would be difficult to explain but Yugoslav Government in spirit of large comprehension was willing to make these concessions to effect settlement. His one anxiety was that after making concessions, and if three powers reach agreement, this might be regarded as starting point for new Italian demands. In case Italy should present new claims Yugoslav Government could not be bound by present offers. We should not give impression that London negotiations have broken down, and we must shortly decide what to do. He suggested that sometimes those who have not been involved in all the details might find a way out and he had therefore laid before us with great frankness Yugoslav Government’s viewpoint.
Mallet and I then replied that while speaking without instructions we were cognizant of developments in London and that we would comment immediately upon what Foreign Secretary had said. In our opinion, we were not nearly as close to territorial questions as Foreign Secretary seemed to assume. There had been one stage of London negotiations, which we thought was about 16 of March, at which time it looked from Velebit’s attitude as if we were coming closer together. However the subsequent demands for Bassovizza strip had separated us again. Furthermore, claims for autonomy in Trieste were much larger and could only give trouble with Italy. What Yugoslav Government was asking was simply to keep sovereignty over Zone B while city of Trieste would have a different regime. If we were to present an agreed package to Italians, we must have some chance of acceptance. To date, we had not found in Yugoslav Government proposals this possibility and therefore [Page 399] we had been greatly disappointed by latest Yugoslav Government proposals. Both Mallet and I took a very strong line and repeated in most emphatic terms that territorial adjustments must be equalized between Zone A and Zone B. At this point a map was produced and Foreign Secretary again emphasized the extremely small amount of territory which they were asking in Zone A. It would comprise only that corner of Zone A taking in the road from Yugoslav to Bassovizza and then continuing southeast until the road rejoined Yugoslavia. He said we were arguing about only a tiny piece of territory and that if this were included Yugoslav Government could accept US-UK proposal. At this point we asked Foreign Secretary as a personal suggestion whether he would trade corner of Zone A against the corner of Zone B and drop the rectification on the peninsula. He hesitated somewhat but finally said that he could not. I again urged him to agree to a territorial solution which could be presented as a balanced concession on both sides, and we told him that this was an essential point.
Then ensued a lengthy discussion on autonomy, including reiteration of our objections and a least a semi-agreement on a suggestion of Mallet that it might be possible to present this question in a sufficiently vague form. As we did not dwell on our objections to Yugoslav Government detailed plan on autonomy, we eventually extracted from Foreign Secretary that if a minority statute could be agreed Yugoslav Government might accept autonomy in principle and then negotiate later on details with Italians. He then said we could consider the Velebit proposals on autonomy as examples and this perhaps would not have to be specified for Trieste or the port regime.
As neither Mallet nor I were sufficiently satisfied (apart from territorial question) we then pressed Foreign Secretary very hard to extract his minimum demands. After a lengthy debate and on the assumption that we are approaching a territorial settlement we pinned him down to the following:
Minority statute with reciprocity.
Economic aid.
At least partial compensation for Slovenes, recognizing that some of this might be affected under AMG.
Contrast to his customary biting manner, Popovic was conciliatory throughout and I left with impression that this may be beginning of Yugoslav concessions. At one point I asked him flatly whether he wanted us to take present Yugoslav proposals to Italians with no hope of success or to continue in London. He avoided [Page 400] direct answer but immediately began to give ground on autonomy. Our comments follow tomorrow.4
  1. Also sent to London and repeated for information to Rome, Trieste for Butterworth, and Paris eyes only for Luce.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See Document 173.
  4. See telegram 1065, infra .