611.49/2–2453: Telegram

No. 23
The Ambassador in Czechoslovakia (Wadsworth) to the Department of State


385. 1. My letter February 1 to Barbour1 reported conversation with Foreign Minister Siroky re détente United States-Czechoslovakian relations in general and Oatis case in particular. It ended on note his willingness continue conversation for week. During that week reorganization Czechoslovakian hierarchy (Embtel 367 February 42) involved his relinquishing Foreign Affairs portfolio to David.

2. Diplomatic confusion marked second ensuing week: Would Foreign Office arrange for Ambassadorial courtesy calls, or what? Finally new Foreign Minister issued invitations to reception for chiefs of mission February 13. As Embassy received same day Foreign Office note requesting visa for Foreign Minister who would leave February 16 as chief Czechoslovakian delegation UNGA, I said when meeting him I hoped he could find time see me before departure. Chief protocol said if any appointments made I would be included. None were, so on February 18 I requested appointment visit acting Foreign Minister Sekaninova. Appointment was fixed for February 23.

3. Meanwhile I received helpful Deptel 194 February 183 and outlined carefully what I wished to say to her. I spoke from typed [Page 51] notes and at her request I left them with her. Following is summary thereof:

Object my call is pursue my earlier conversations with Foreign Minister Siroky and yourself and discuss Oatis case as key to détente US–Czechoslovakia relations.

As basically my mission has been to seek such détente on working level, I had hoped solution Oatis case would be found within that general framework and on basis suggested by Mrs. Oatis’ petition to President Gottwald. But, in my talks with him and with your Prime Minister and Foreign Minister I found clearly-put position that key to any general settlement lies in Oatis case. Therefore I come today to discuss Oatis case in that light.

My position is quite simple, it is not rigid and I should welcome your comment. I suggest favorable action on Mrs. Oatis’ petition i.e., expulsion under your law and precedents. If this can be done, I undertake the following steps will be taken simultaneously or as soon as possible immediately thereafter:

Certification Consular invoices and meat inspection certificates.
Removal export restrictions, except as required by law.
Non-restraint of trade, subject laws general applicability.
Issuance visas, within 1952 Immigration Nationality Act and regulations.
Lifting travel ban US Zone Germany.
Appropriate prisoner exchange, Czechoslovakia Government being invited submit names those it would wish released.
US will do everything possible obtain immediate resumption overflights West Germany.

In addition these assurances, related specifically to Oatis case, I should continue hold myself available for full discussion compensation agreement, steel mill matter and Statni Bank case, which latter already receiving Department’s reconsideration.

4. In reply, Sekaninova made following points which however, she said, should be considered only preliminary comment pending more careful consideration:

She took exception my premise that to Czech Government Oatis case was key to general détente, making good point that Siroky had wished discuss “whole complex”. I yielded latter point but insisted that President and Prime Minister had been very clear and that Siroky has used phrase only at end long discussion in which Oatis case had been a major theme.
She also took exception my joining steel mill matter with compensation agreement and argued bitterly that United States treatment this matter for over two years was crying proof discrimination and continuing bad faith. I demurred, insisting she must by now believe I truly wished find mutually agreeable solution both problems, together or separately; for instance, we would be glad facilitate [Page 52] sale of mill at fair price, part of which might be used as down payment on account compensation, and I was prepared consider sympathetically any views she might care express as to amount such down payment and percentage of value Czech exports to be credited compensation account.
After commenting that she found little of importance which was new in my proposal as compared Ambassador Briggs’ proposals last July,4 she asked specially re meaning assurance on over flights. My reply on latter point was based on numbered paragraph nine Deptel 194 February 18 and appeared reassure her considerably. In replying her general comment I touched briefly on new elements my proposal but stressed particularly its new basic approach was earnest effort seek détente, using Mrs. Oatis petition as point of departure and eliminating prestige angle this difficult case. She concurred consideration prestige need not determine Czech position.
She ended comment by recalling President Gottwald’s promise that I would be informed of action on Mrs. Oatis’ petition and again said my proposal would be studied carefully.

5. I am of course not optimistic this meeting has laid basis for early solution Oatis case, but I feel all possible progress, within limits my instructions, has been made towards seeking such basis.

6. Foregoing discussion may facilitate Department’s replies to Hague Embtel 1132 February 20 repeated Prague 7 and Brussels Embtel 906 February 20 repeated Prague 85 re landing rights. My Dutch and Belgian colleagues have made no mention this matter at any of our several informal meetings. Would Department wish me do so, recounting frankly my seeming progress towards solution Oatis case and arguing that, from very pointed interest shown by Sekaninova in over flights question, they would be weakening one of our more important trumps were they just at this time to settle landing rights question Czech favor?

Department please repeat Hague and Brussels if desired.

  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. Telegram 367 reported that Václav David had replaced Široký as Foreign Minister effective Jan. 31. Široký maintained his position as one of Czechoslovakia’s Vice-Premiers. (749.00/2–453)
  3. Telegram 194 noted that the Department was encouraged by the conversation reported in Wadsworth’s letter to Barbour and authorized him to continue negotiations on all matters at issue between Czechoslovakia and the United States. (611.49/2–253)
  4. See footnote 1, Document 10.
  5. Telegrams 1132 and 906 reported that, since the Dutch and Belgian Governments could no longer find technical justifications for denying landing rights to the CSA, both were prepared to notify the Czechoslovak Government that permission to land was being granted. (940.5249/2–2053)