775.5 MSP/7–754

Memorandum of Conversation, by John Root, Office of African Affairs



  • Ethiopian Proposals for Further Discussions with the United States Government


  • Ato Aklilou, Ethiopian Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Byroade, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Yilma Deressa, Ethiopian Ambassador
  • John Spencer, Senior Adviser to Ethiopian Foreign Minister
  • Ato Menassie Lemma, Ethiopian Vice Minister of Finance
  • AF—Messrs. Utter, Cyr, Root
  • ED—Mr. Ross
  • S/MSA—Mr. Frechtling
  • Treasury—Mr. Bean
  • FOA—Messrs. Paul and Moran
  • Army—Colonel Thomas Hannah

Mr. Byroade expressed his appreciation for the Foreign Minister’s change of plans, which had provided a worthwhile additional period to work on the problems with which these conversations were concerned. He hoped the Foreign Minister now understood a little bit better the complicated nature of the US Government. Nothing would have given greater pleasure to Mr. Byroade, to the Secretary of State, to the President himself, to be in a position to satisfy the Ethiopian needs. We had no doubts about the potentialities of a program of aid to the Ethiopian Government. Unfortunately, not even the President himself can act without legislative authority. What we have suggested is in the opinion of all interested American officials the best we can do. The US has many commitments throughout the world and Congress is imposing increasingly stringent conditions and procedures with regard to foreign assistance. When we refer to the possibility of help from lending agencies—governmental, private, international—it is simply because they are the only means for help available. We have given the best response possible and where there is any prospect of help we are continuing to study the case.

Mr. Byroade wished to express the great appreciation of the US Government for the Ethiopian offer of additional military facilities. This offer had been made known at the highest levels and, while at this particular time we had no additional needs, we were certainly gratified to be able to keep such an offer in mind.

With respect to most of the other items under discussion, we had prepared a written memorandum of our replies. Mr. Byroade would [Page 473]touch only lightly on these answers for the details were there for the Foreign Minister to read.

(Mr. Byroade then reviewed the memorandum item by item.1 Such significant discussion as developed is recorded below.)

Mr. Paul said it would be helpful to know as soon as possible whether the Ethiopian Government wished to adhere to the Investment Guarantee Program. Ato Aklilou said the matter had been considered and he was prepared to reply immediately in the affirmative. The preliminaries of an agreement could be discussed in Washington with the Ethiopian Ambassador and final steps taken by the Foreign Ministry in Addis Ababa.

Mr. Byroade expressed regret for the misunderstanding which had arisen over the question of port development. He hoped that the Foreign Minister’s conversation with the Secretary of State had cleared up this misunderstanding. Mr. Byroade wanted to be very certain that the Emperor clearly understood the American position. We very well appreciated Ethiopia’s desire to develop its ports. It was a legitimate desire. Ethiopia could put out of its mind any fear that our relations with another country would be a factor preventing the US from being of assistance. Naturally, at this stage in world affairs, we are not looking for any further problems with our allies. But at the same time we are fully aware of the Ethiopian position and will not let the political relations with a third country* interfere with our own decision on the matter. There are no grant funds now available and the only type of assistance we can see would be on a loan basis. However, loans must be justified economically and the economic case for a loan had not yet been made. While the economic potential in port development may not be the primary consideration in Ethiopia’s mind, loans are not made on any other basis. It is for this reason that the US has suggested, as a necessary first step, an economic analysis of the port problem. Mr. Stassen has indicated FOA’s willingness to help in providing the engineer or experts necessary for this purpose. Once the analysis is made, we are quite willing to support Ethiopia’s application for loans on the basis of the analysis. The political problem will not be a factor in our attitude. The Ethiopians can put out of their minds the fear of any political inhibitions on our part. Mr. Byroade wanted to be quite sure the Emperor had no misunderstanding on this score.

In discussing the highway problem, Mr. Byroade said that a longterm loan from the US Government for this purpose was an impossibility. The Export-Import Bank was simply not designed to be of help in this particular respect. He could not speak, of course, for the International Bank but it had indicated its willingness to extend its [Page 474]present program in Ethiopia. It might even be in a position to help with some of the local currency costs. The US of course is willing to help as it can but since the road program has already been started in cooperation with the IBRD it seemed only logical to us that the relationship should continue.

In the field of aviation we understood Ethiopia’s desire to remain competitive in its part of the world. The Export-Import Bank was ready in principle to help with further loans and the Ethiopian Government’s approach should therefore be to the Export-Import Bank.

Mr. Byroade said that he hoped our offer of assistance in the field of education would be as gratifying to the Foreign Minister as it was to him. Mr. Stassen was impressed, as were we all, by the Emperor’s interest in this particular phase and had been able to take unprecedented action in responding to the Ethiopian request. Through the FOA, 50 four-year scholarships for Ethiopian students prepared for college entrance and 100 one-year scholarships for specialized or “on the job” training would be made available to Ethiopian students. In addition, there was a possibility of other assistance as outlined in the memorandum.

Mr. Byroade explained to the Foreign Minister that the question of military assistance—which comprised the matters of matériel for the Ethiopian Army, coast guard patrol facilities and aircraft training—had received exhaustive consideration and Mr. Byroade himself had hoped up to the last minute that the prolonging of the conversations would enable us to give a definitive answer. But Mr. Byroade was now thoroughly convinced that it was truly legally impossible to make a specific commitment. Unspent funds in the fiscal year ending June 30 last had lapsed and would not be available until reappropriated by Congress. Nor would any funds for the new fiscal year be available until Congress had acted on pending legislation. No specific commitments—either to Ethiopia or to any other nation—could be made at this moment.

But it was possible to inform the Foreign Minister that it is our firm intention to provide further military assistance to Ethiopia. This desire and firm intention is subject only to the action of Congress, but that was true for any prospective assistance to anyone at this time. It is certainly likely that we can in fact be of assistance to Ethiopia in the military field. We would like to meet at least part of the requirements Ethiopia has submitted for its Army. We want our Military Assistance Advisory Group to continue to be an effective instrumentality. Our Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement is certainly not for one year only, without any follow-through on the program under way. We cannot say specifically what will follow but we can emphasize our firm intention to follow through.

Mr. Byroade said we were also sympathetic to Ethiopian needs for [Page 475]coast guard patrol facilities. This again depends in the same way as Army matériel on funds yet to be appropriated. We cannot make a specific commitment but both the Army and naval sides of the Ethiopian requirements are under active and sympathetic consideration. We will act as soon as it is legally possible to do so. We cannot tell just when Congress will finish its work. Some further time is then required for administrative adjustments by the Executive Branch of the United States Government. Here the question involved is what other program to reduce, since there is no specific provision in the budget for Ethiopia. But these are technical details and Mr. Byroade felt he could be quite encouraging about the outcome.

With regard to aircraft training, Mr. Byroade stated that he could not be quite so optimistic. Nevertheless, this matter too is under active consideration.

Mr. Byroade concluded by saying that of course it must be understood that all assistance in the future depended on action by Congress. He had mentioned that point specifically in connection with military assistance only because of our desire to give a specific commitment, and our inability to do so because of the legal impediment.

The Ethiopian Foreign Minister then embarked on a long extemporaneous statement in reply to Mr. Byrcade’s presentation. He first emphasized his sincere gratitude for the offer in the field of education. This was a matter very close to the Emperor’s heart and he knew that His Imperial Majesty would be pleased to learn of the United States offer. The remainder of the US memorandum, said the Foreign Minister, would require detailed study and he would only attempt now to make certain preliminary observations. He could not fail to conceal his disappointment with our reply to all other questions. It would have been better for the US to have said at the outset that it could not help. It would be hard now to explain the US position to the Emperor, who had been led to believe by the President’s response and the attention we had given in several meetings to the Ethiopian requests that the US was interested in Ethiopia’s economic development. It seemed to the Foreign Minister, however, that our reply was in essence the reply of “fin de non recevoir” (a flat refusal to proceed further with the matter). We had talked about the need for further study. What further study, asked the Foreign Minister? For the ports, military assistance, etc., it seemed to him that ample information was available.

The military question, continued the Foreign Minister, was different from the other questions since the basis for such assistance had already been established. The two agreements, which the US and Ethiopia had signed last year, one on base rights and the other on mutual defense assistance (MSA), were in Ethiopia’s mind interdependent. The military agreement provided for a continuing relationship and Ethiopia has assumed the same [to be] true of the Mutual Defense Assistance [Page 476]Agreement. Was Ethiopia now to find out that the latter agreement was good for only one year? We had said there were no funds but when he looked at the available figures on Congressional appropriations it seemed to him that there were ample sources from which these relatively small sums required for Ethiopia could be drawn. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff now seemed to be deciding, however, that Ethiopia was not in a strategic area and was not important to American security. This seemed contrary to the basis on which the base and aid agreements of last year had been formulated.

With regard to ports our references to Djibouti had caused great consternation on the Ethiopian side. The explanations given by the Secretary and Mr. Byroade would help to alleviate the unfortunate impression which these references had made. Nevertheless, we were still saying that the justification of port development depended upon further study, whereas we had supported the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia in the United Nations to a large extent because we recognized Ethiopia’s legitimate need for access to the Red Sea.

We had asked the Foreign Minister to try to understand the system of the American Government. He thought he and the Emperor had considerable experience in the way this system worked. For example, the Ethiopian Government had complied quickly on our urging in concluding such matters as the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations and granting us an interim base agreement. In the latter instance Ethiopia had signed even though we had failed to supply important information on details. However, in the present circumstances, where plenty of information was available on matters of detail, we were saying that we could not even reach a decision in principle.

The Foreign Minister concluded his fulminations by opining that the logical consequence of the US failure to respond more positively to the Ethiopian requests could only be that Ethiopia must ask itself again, just what place does Ethiopia actually hold in the eyes of the US? (The implication clearly was that perhaps Ethiopia had attached too much importance to its relations with the US.)

Mr. Byroade said that the Foreign Minister’s reaction to the American response could only be due to a failure on the part of the Foreign Minister and Mr. Byroade to understand each other. If after reading the memorandum, the Foreign Minister still felt that our answer was one of “fin de non recevoir”, then Mr. Byroade would be extremely disappointed. Mr. Byroade then brought out item by item the positive nature of our replies. He said it was not true that either Ethiopia or the US had all the facts on the port situation. Neither of us knows to what extent port development is possible on a bankable basis. Mr. Byroade said he knew no other way to proceed than to get the answers to the questions that potential lenders would certainly ask. Mr. Byroade emphasized that in no sense did he consider our [Page 477]memorandum a negative response to the Ethiopian approach. Quite the contrary. He hoped the Foreign Minister would agree after reading it.

At this point Mr. Byroade revealed the contents of a note he had just received stating that $500,000 of current military aid funds had been allocated to Ethiopia, although this expenditure had not previously been budgeted for. The decision on this grant, Mr. Byroade took pains to emphasize, had been made before receipt of the Ethiopian memorandum being discussed at these conversations and served as a good illustration of our intention to assist wherever possible.

Mr. Byroade concluded by mentioning his pleasure at having this opportunity for talks with the Foreign Minister. He hoped that some day there would be time to explain at greater length what the United States was trying to do to bolster the security of the general area of the Middle East and the reasons behind our assignment of priorities to our expenditures in this area, particularly along the “northern tier”. He felt the Foreign Minister would be reassured by viewing our efforts in the context of the area as a whole, for Ethiopia too benefitted by these efforts.

  1. The memorandum is not printed.
  2. Mr. Byroade later mentioned France specifically by name. [Footnote in the source text.]