Memorandum of Conversation, by Edwin Plitt, United States Delegation to the United Nations



  • Secretary Acheson’s Conversations with Foreign Ministers of the NEA Area During the Seventh General Assembly of the United Nations2


  • Ato Abete-Wold Aklilou, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. John Spencer, Minister Aklilou’s Principal Adviser
  • Mr. Edwin Plitt, US Delegation

The Secretary’s talk with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Ato Abete-Wold Aklilou, who was received at the Secretary’s office at USUN headquarters this afternoon, lasted nearly an hour. The exchange of views took place in French.

Mr. Aklilou, after the usual exchange of courtesies and references to the President and the Emperor, in response to a question from the Secretary about the situation in Ethiopia, spoke of the recent federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia. The Secretary expressed his pleasure at the good relations existing between the United States and Ethiopia and mentioned the strong support the United States gave to the UN resolution providing for the federation.

After some further remarks by the Minister on the subject, he said that he was gratified at the opportunity he was given once again to speak with the Secretary and if the latter permitted and had the time, he would like to discuss a subject which had been giving him a certain measure of concern. The Minister recalled the events leading up to the oral agreement made in regard to the radio Marina installation in Asmara and which, he said, had been scrupulously observed by Ethiopia, including permission for American forces stationed there to wear their military uniforms. Other privileges had since been accorded such as customs courtesies and the question of existing base [Page 429] rights in Eritrea given consideration. He compared the political implications of the granting of base rights in Eritrea with the granting of base rights throughout Ethiopia. If an agreement be confined to Eritrea, so soon after its federation with Ethiopia, it seemed to him quite possible that his government might be adversely criticized for disposing of rights in Eritrea shortly after its coming under the Ethiopian Crown. He added that inclusion of base rights in an over-all agreement with Ethiopia also presents certain difficulties, but might in the end prove an easier solution of the problem.

He then led up to the signing in 1951 of our Treaty of Amenity [Amity] and Economic Relations with Ethiopia.3 Before this treaty was signed, the Minister said, his government had been urged to enter into the agreement in a rather precipitate manner. In fact, such pressure had been exerted on his office at the time in this respect that he had been obliged to disregard official holidays and even had to convene the Cabinet on Ethiopia’s national holiday to meet the American dead-line. The Minister explained that he mentioned this especially because of its bearing on the impending American Bases Agreement with Ethiopia. In speaking of the latter, he said further that he had been faced once more with similar pressure to conclude the agreement and unfortunately at a time when his government was fully concerned and occupied with the preparation for the Emperor’s visit to Eritrea for the federation ceremony. He added that whereas there had been upward of a year to undertake negotiations, they were begun only four days before the federation and that he was again obliged, by the tone of urgency contained in the request, to hasten with an exchange of letters on the subject. He expressed himself rather frankly to the Secretary about his unhappiness over this turn of events and the necessity of again having to prevail on the Cabinet to speed up its decision. It is difficult for the Ethiopians to understand the pressure with which he was again importuned. His colleagues reminded him of the fact that the Treaty of Amenity [Amity] and Economic Relations signed in 1951—also concluded under pressure as he had previously pointed out—still awaits ratification by the United States Senate! Mr. Aklilou in his further comments on this recounted that he had at one moment met the Ambassador’s insistence to hasten the negotiations with the remark that “I am not Mr. Acheson who can do such things in four days.” The Secretary expressed surprise at the Minister’s criticism and implied that he had been unaware of the circumstances he described.

As to the agreement itself, Mr. Aklilou pointed out that it is customary for a bilateral agreement to be so framed that all of the granting [Page 430] and giving is not reserved to one of the parties. He assured the Secretary that Ethiopia is ready to meet our wishes but that there must of necessity be a suitable quid pro quo, otherwise, Ethiopia can foresee trouble with other powers who will insist upon similar one-sided concessions. He emphasized that difficulties will unescapably ensue for Ethiopia if this factor is not taken into careful consideration, “and many European bees will want an equal right to sip the Ethiopian honey.” In this connection he mentioned Ethiopia’s desire to procure arms and the assignment of a military mission for training purposes from the United States.

The Secretary, in response to this specific request, explained to Mr. Aklilou that it is under consideration by the Department of Defense whose decision on it is awaited.

In conclusion Mr. Aklilou repeated that he was ready to meet the Secretary’s representatives to conclude the Bases Agreement and that when ready, he would be prepared to sign it.

Although the entire conversation was carried on in a spirit of friendliness and understanding, Mr. Aklilou did lead the talk into an unexpected channel of critical comment of US procedure.

  1. This memorandum of conversation was typed on Oct. 25.
  2. The Secretary of State was in New York as Chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the Seventh Session of the UN General Assembly, which opened on Oct. 14, 1952.
  3. The Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations had been signed on Sept. 7, 1951, but did not enter into force for the United States until Oct. 8, 1953. The text of the treaty is in TIAS No. 2864; 4 UST 2134.