711.56371/5–953: Airgram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in France1


A–2237. Reference Embassy’s telegram 5875 of May 9, 19532 regarding French desire for US statement on non-interference in political affairs of North Africa.

The Department’s position on this matter was set forth in a position paper prepared for the Secretary’s use during the bipartite talks with the French in Paris last month.3 It will be recalled, however, that this subject was not discussed during these talks. The substance of the Department’s position as contained in this paper is set forth hereunder for the information of the Embassy:

Probable French Position

“French want to exchange letters with us calling for non-interference in political affairs of North Africa. Recent Washington talks left matter for further staff study. French may expect report from us.

U.S. Position

“1. As a matter of principle we do not consider agreement to such an exchange of letters desirable. We should be glad, however, to consider any possible alternatives the French might care to suggest.

“2. We unequivocally support continuation of French presence, but

“3. Most difficult to agree not to be interested in North African political affairs because of

“4. UN interest, particularly in Arab-Asian bloc

“5. Moreover we cannot give French blind support this matter because

“6. French policy heretofore has contributed little to solution nationalist problem.

Caveat “7. Unless French have made real progress instituting agreed reforms in Morocco and Tunisia before 8th UNGA, it will not be possible to avoid full discussion in Assembly and we are not sanguine this year’s moderation can again prevail.”

It will be recalled that the French first raised this matter in September of 1951 ostensibly because of their concern for the large number of Americans stationed in North Africa under military agreements. At that time in a bipartite meeting with the French we agreed that the United States and France had common strategic interests in North Africa; that Tunisia and Morocco were not ready for independence; and we informed the French that we did not wish to undermine their position in North Africa. We also stated that we believed that nationalist [Page 149] forces in Africa merited careful consideration. Subsequently we agreed to consider an exchange of letters embodying the foregoing.

Within a few weeks the French submitted a draft letter which this Government found to be unacceptable, among other reasons, because some of the language therein could be interpreted as a commitment by the United States to underwrite French policies in North Africa in the future.

The draft letters mentioned in Embtel 5875 prepared by the French and left with Mr. Byroade both contain the statement that the United States “has no intention of interfering in the relations between the French Government and the Sherifian authorities.” This statement appears to embody the objective which the French hope to achieve by the proposed exchange of letters. For this Government to commit itself to such a statement would be tantamount to a blanket endorsement of present and future French policy in North Africa which as a matter of principle this Government cannot do. For example, US acceptance of a statement of this kind would presumably render improper any US expression of views on Moroccan political problems, such as a deposition of the Sultan.

It follows from the foregoing that the Department is not willing in principle to make a statement along the lines the French desire either through an exchange of letters or by unilateral declaration. Furthermore it is believed such a statement, concurred in by us, might imply that we admitted to previous interference in North African political affairs. This is of course not the case. Rabat telegram No. 129, May 13,4 brings out this point.

We fully appreciate the importance the French attach to this subject, as re-evidenced by your telegram 6105, May 26.5 However, we tend to believe that any attempt to arrive at any mutually satisfactory draft would be fruitless unless French would be willing to drop statement quoted above in any form or guise. As discussions on issue of drafting of such a statement therefore do not appear to us to provide means for moving negotiations for base rights forward with reasonable speed, but rather to provide pitfall of getting engaged in lengthy and nonproductive discussions which would indeterminably delay base rights negotiations, we would prefer your pursuing following tactic: Advise French of problems which we have with their statement. Refer to Article 2 of proposed Status of Forces Agreement for Morocco, state that we consider this Article should provide every assurance which French public could expect its government to obtain concerning stationing [Page 150] of further forces there and see if French cannot be persuaded that problems should be pursued within framework of that article. We can envisage no situation which French Government could not explain to its people by means of that article, and request you advise French that we consider that article to be in effect our counter-proposal to document left with Byroade.6

  1. This airgram was drafted by McBride (WE), Richey (AF), and Wolf (RA) and was repeated to Rabat and Tangier.
  2. Not printed; but see footnote 2, supra.
  3. See the editorial note, p. 146. A copy of the position paper, entitled “Exchange of Letters re North Africa,” is in the French North Africa files, lot 58 D 786, “Bipartite Talks”.
  4. Supra.
  5. Not printed; it reported the Foreign Ministry had again asked when the Embassy might be able to discuss the noninterference statement. The Embassy, while saying it did not minimize the importance of the reservations expressed in Rabat’s telegram 129, believed it would be desirable to get together with the French to see if a mutually acceptable statement could be drafted. (711.56371/5–2653)
  6. Despatch 2814 from Paris, June 10, 1953, informed the Department of State that the Embassy had discussed this airgram with the Foreign Ministry. When told that the United States could not give blanket approval in advance of French actions in North Africa, the Foreign Ministry said what was really needed was a U.S. statement to discourage the Sultan of Morocco and the Bey of Tunis from believing the United States would assist them in achieving independence. The Embassy suggested that it might be possible for the United States to make its position clear to those rulers privately and directly. The Embassy also made some other suggestions for a written statement. Airgram 2438 to Paris, June 25, authorized the Embassy to carry on discussions along the lines suggested in despatch 2814. Documentation on this topic is in Department of State file 711.56371.

    Airgram 520, Oct. 9, 1953, to the Embassy in Paris, informed the Embassy that events in Morocco had caused the Department of State to reconsider its instructions to continue negotiations on the noninterference statement. It said U.S. public statements at the United Nations should be more satisfactory to the French than any carefully worded private statement. In addition, the Department preferred to avoid making a statement because of the implication that the United States had previously been guilty of interference. (320/9–1653)