750G.00/9–654: Telegram

No. 259
The Chargé in Italy (Durbrow) to the Department of State1
top secret

908. Limit distribution. We see great merit in proposed trip of Murphy (Deptels 742 and 7672) in effort to obtain Trieste settlement. However, plans for cover for trip as contained in Department’s messages indicate that visits to Rome and Belgrade might not take place immediately and might even require several weeks. This time element raises problems here for following reasons:

Scelba will face a situation when Parliament reconvenes about September 22 which may determine fate of his government. With inability to obtain satisfactory Trieste settlement and with present status of EDC he must face in Chamber foreign policy debate attacks by right and left and with major doubts in his own Cabinet and party concerning advisability of accepting Trieste settlement as now proposed (Embtel 899, September 43).
As October 8 approaches government will be under increasing pressure on Trieste question and will face risk of extremist disorders particularly those inspired by Communists who have proposed tough action as means of preventing partition FTT.

Scelba’s problem, therefore, is urgent. If Cabinet does not issue formal rejection of proposed settlement prior to parliamentary debate Scelba may be forced by political necessities to make outspoken statement in Chamber rendering any future negotiations most difficult. While Piccioni stated “Italian Government would study proposals very carefully” his other statements and additional informal information indicates that majority of Cabinet Ministers is against proposals since they fear government would fall if present proposals accepted. Piccioni left definite impression that while he stated that Italian Government would seriously consider proposals he in effect made counter-proposal; i.e., US–UK make high level appeal to Yugoslavs in order obtain some territorial concession on coast so that Italian Government could accept agreement and would not have to turn down proposal formally. Therefore Italians [Page 521] apparently waiting to hear from us whether we have agreed to make high level approach. If we make this approach and it fails then they will have to decide to take present proposals or turn them down.

As immediate course of action prior to decision re Murphy visit recommend that serious consideration be given to suggestions fourth paragraph Embtel 8994 which would give Scelba government a better position in facing complex internal political battle on this subject. Proposal worked out could then be given to Velebit and be accompanied by messages from Secretary or President and from Churchill to Tito urging acceptance. Until some move of this kind is tried do not believe we should tinker with such settled points as Bassovizza strip.

We believe steps proposed above and in Embtel 899 might help forestall formal Italian rejection and would certainly convince Scelba that we understand the complicated political problem he faces.

I hope some step can be taken before we receive formal rejection but, if anything is done, it must be done soon. I am sure Department realizes intimate connection between this question and whole range of Italian foreign policy as it will emerge in forthcoming crucial conferences on alternatives to EDC. Scelba even with his slim majority gives every indication his government will cooperate with us in working out EDC substitute. A minor concession by Yugoslavs might mark difference between Scelba’s defeat or victory.

Thus as seen from here we have to decide whether at this delicate juncture in European affairs we should make a very strong, forthright appeal to Tito using aid threats if necessary in order to prevent a possibly serious political crisis in Italy.

  1. Repeated for information to London, Trieste, and Belgrade.
  2. Printed as telegram 1292 to London, Document 255.
  3. Not printed. (750G.00/9–454)
  4. In the fourth paragraph of this telegram, Durbrow referred to a proposal which Piccioni had made the previous day for a swap whereby Italy would give up the Zone B rockpile in exchange for a satisfactory coastal rectification.