No. 278
Memorandum of Conversation, by the First Secretary of Embassy in Italy (Collins)
top secret


  • The Deputy Under Secretary, The Ambassador, Mr. Hooker, Mr. Williamson, Mr. Collins, Mr. O’Sullivan.


  • Trieste

The Deputy Under Secretary opened the conversation with a résumé of what had taken place in Belgrade. He said that so far as he was concerned, he thought we could get a settlement. He pointed out that President Eisenhower was very interested in settling Trieste as soon as possible and that the United States needed a diplomatic success now. The Yugoslavs want to settle Trieste although he found the lower levels very cautious. He was upset by Kardelj whom he likened to a miniature Molotov—the party men gave very little and had a very insular view of the situation, but when Tito read the President’s letter suggesting a slight adjustment Tito came around to agreement. Tito impressed Mr. Murphy as sincerely wanting a Trieste agreement and as also looking for an invitation to visit the United States. He has burned his boats with the Soviets and knows it. The Yugoslavs were not impressed with USSR offers to help as the price is always internal interference and control.

Insofar as the conversations regarding territorial adjustment were concerned Mr. Murphy said that Tito does not care about the real estate but that he seems concerned with the party reaction. Although the Yugoslavs admit now that the May 31 proposal was not a commitment on the part of the British and ourselves, they apparently told their party people that it was and now find some difficulty in changing. Mr. Murphy said that Tito had offered and that Popovich and Bebler had later confirmed the following alternate Yugolav offers—

A small rectification of the May 31 line (from a point at parallel 50 on the coast line, about half way around the point to the present Zonal line, straight to the May 31 line at the top of San Michele) in return for all the rockpile.
An even smaller slice starting from a point on the coast 300 meters south of the Punta Sottile lighthouse and going due east 800 meters to the May 31 line, but without asking the Italians for the rockpile so that in effect the Italians would get something in Zone B.

In neither proposal is Bassovizza mentioned.

The conversation then turned to the tactics that might be used in selling this solution to the Italians and after some general discussion the following points were stressed—

The May 31 line should not be mentioned as an alternative but during the talks the statement should be made that we assume that the May 31 line is not acceptable to the Italians but would like to know why.
Throughout the talks the personal interest of President Eisenhower and the fact that he went so far as to send a personal letter to Tito urging a territorial rectification should be stressed.
Both the President and the Secretary were impressed by the Prime Minister’s statesmanlike utterances with regard to Italy’s desire and readiness to play a larger role in European affairs and by his assurance that once the Trieste question were settled a flow of agreements (ratification of NATOSOF, Facilities agreement, etc) would automatically follow.
When Italy asked for a high level intervention to settle the Trieste question, the United States responded immediately. We too agree with the Italian thesis that Trieste is the key which will unlock a number of doors and we have therefore intervened and obtained two alternative territorial settlements. It is up to the Italians to say as quickly as possible which of these two Italy will accept.
From the black dire picture of Europe and the world we proceed to a little light—Trieste requiring an act of true statesmanship on the part of the Italians. The West needs a victory badly now. Italy can show her role of leadership in Western Europe by providing that victory of a very touchy problem.
We think that either [both?] alternatives are excellent solutions of this the last hurdle to a settlement. There can be no further negotiations insofar as we are concerned. We have performed our role and gotten what the Italians asked for—a rectification of the May 31 line.
These alternatives are not Yugoslav ultimata but are the logical successful end of the negotiations.
When Italy has accepted suitable procedures will have to be worked out to have the agreement initialled in London but Mr. Murphy would like to have the Italian word of acceptance before he returns to Washington because of the extraordinary interest of the President. There is every likelihood that efforts will be made to exempt Italy from the rather severe effects of the Richards Amendment.1
Francis Williamson will start the ball rolling by telling Casardi and Del Balzo Sunday afternoon what has happened in a broad general way and enlisting their support to push this settlement over. Then Mr. Murphy will enlist Zoppi’s support in the same way and so on.
The Italians especially the Prime Minister should not be given a chance to argue their side of the question—they should be kept on the defensive by our painting our picture and our solution first.
Agreed text of press statements should be prepared in advance.
A map showing the two alternatives should also be prepared for submission to the Italians.
Insofar as timing is concerned it was felt that we should push as hard as possible now because the Italians are desperately looking for some diplomatic victory to counter the failure of EDC on which they had staked their foreign policy and to take some of the heat off the Montesi case.2 The Foreign Affairs debate comes up within two weeks in Parliament and the anniversary of October 8 follows shortly. In other words the administration is in a spot. The change of the Foreign Minister will help not hurt the chances for agreement. Timing is good and all pressures should be used.

  1. The Richards Amendment to the Mutual Security bill of 1953 provided that 50 percent of the military assistance funds for Europe in fiscal year 1954 be used for equipment and materials to be transferred to the European Defense Community or to countries which became members thereof, unless Congress, upon Presidential recommendation, provided otherwise. For text of the Richards Amendment, agreed to July 11, 1953, see vol. v, Part 1, p. 796.
  2. Regarding the Montesi affair, see footnote 3, Document 175.