Secretary’s memoranda of conversation, lot 64 D 199

United States Minutes of a Tripartite Foreign Ministers Meeting1



Reply to Latest Soviet Note on Geneva

M. Bidault opened the meeting by stating that there was no fixed agenda and as the host he would make the first statement. Referring initially to the tripartite reply to the Soviet Note regarding the inviting powers for the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference, M. Bidault read a U.S.-French draft of a reply (See Tab A).2 He stressed the need to reply clearly to the false Soviet allegations regarding [Page 128] composition of the Geneva Conference. He stressed that it had always been understood that special responsibility devolved on the four Berlin powers, and that in any event we should not open the Geneva Conference by violating the basis of the understanding on which the meeting was set up.

Mr. Eden suggested that the last sentence of the draft be put in the positive rather than the negative sense and that it should stress the fact that the Geneva Conference must be held on the basis under which it was established at Berlin. M. Bidault and the Secretary agreed with this thought.

[Here follows the portion of the document dealing with participation in the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference and other matters concerning Southeast Asia, printed on page 544.]

Seating Arrangements

Mr. Eden said that unfortunately there were certain procedural arrangements which must be settled today, especially the question of seating, since it was his understanding that otherwise the wiring of the hall at Geneva would not be ready on April 26th. He said he was willing to accept any arrangements that his colleagues wanted, but felt that a decision must be reached.

The Secretary said that it was his understanding, from talking with Geneva by telephone and from a telegram we had received,3 that substantial agreement had been reached with the Soviets accepting the U.S.–U.K. proposal. He noted that the Soviets had proposed certain changes, including daily rotation of seats. The Secretary said we were opposed to this and favored a fixed seating plan, but would not break up the Conference on this point and would accept the Soviet position if they insisted. The Secretary said that the Soviets wished four seats in the front row and four seats behind for each delegation—an arrangement which required too many seats since the hall only seated a total of eighty-four and there were nineteen delegations.

In conclusion the Secretary said he believed that there was general agreement on seating arrangements, and he believed the outstanding problems were easily soluble. He said we understand M. Bidault’s desire to have a microphone before the Chairman of each delegation in order to avoid having every speaker proceed to a rostrum. He said that while the installations might not be everything that we wanted when the Conference opened, they would be ready in a few days. Mr. Eden said that he was gratified to see that we were all in agreement and said that our representatives at Geneva should be informed accordingly.

[Page 129]


Mr. Eden said that he thought we should take a preliminary look at the chairmanship problem, especially if we want help from the outside. He said he favored rotation among the Big Four but realized this was impractical because the Soviets would propose rotation among the Five, including Communist China which was unacceptable. Therefore, he said we must see if there was some other rotation scheme, or if there was one man who could be selected as chairman. With regard to the suggestion that the Secretary-General of the UN be chairman, Mr. Eden stated that he considered this undesirable since the UN had taken a position opposing the aggressor in Korea, and accordingly could hardly be considered an impartial judge in hearing the Korean case.

The Secretary said that we had one other suggestion. He said he agreed with Mr. Eden’s analysis of the problem, including the undesirability of having the UN Secretary-General as permanent chairman, but thought we might find a Swiss personality who could serve as chairman. The Secretary stressed that he would not be representing his Government. M. Bidault agreed that we should explore this possibility. The Secretary listed the names of four people who had been suggested by our Ambassador in Switzerland. M. Bidault agreed that three of the four would be worth examining but that Mr. Stucki, who was one of the candidates, would not be desirable from the French viewpoint because of a book which he had written regarding the Vichy regime. The Secretary and Mr. Eden agreed that Rappart, who was one of the suggested candidates, was probably too old, and too professorial a personality. It was agreed that we would examine carefully the other two candidates, Burckhart and de Salis, both of whom it was thought would be excellent candidates, though it was far from certain whether either would accept.

Other Topics

M. Bidault said that he feared we would have to meet again on Indochina before Geneva since we were faced with many procedural difficulties and still had not settled the participation question.

Mr. Eden said that Mr. Pearson and Mr. Casey had raised with him in London the problem of how to maintain contact with the delegations of the other anti-Communist countries at Geneva. He said he was willing to repeat the formula which had been worked out at Berlin where all of the free-world delegations met together to exchange views at the expert’s level every morning. He said he also thought one meeting of all the Foreign Ministers on our side should be held before the Geneva meeting opened, Sunday afternoon or Monday morning.4

[Page 130]

M. Bidault stated that France had made certain concessions on arrangements regarding seating, while the U.S. had made a concession regarding the elimination of a rostrum. He said we would, of course, begin with the conference on Korea which we were ready to start talking, but would have to hold parallel talks outside on Indochina on which phase, even though it is a more urgent problem, we were not ready. He concluded saying he did not believe there would be any activity on any item for two or three days after April 26, though we should, of course, get on as fast as possible.

[Here follow three paragraphs which dealt with a brief discussion of a reply to the Soviet note of March 31 concerning a European security pact; for text, see volume V.]

In concluding the meeting, M. Bidault stated that at least we had today agreed to the reply to the Soviet note rejecting the five-power concept for Geneva and had, he hoped, laid to rest that Soviet scheme. It was agreed that the press would be informed only that we had held a preliminary review of preparations for Geneva. It was also agreed that the three Foreign Ministers would meet again on Saturday, April 24 at 4:00 p.m. to continue their talks, and that the press would be so informed.5

[Annex—Tab A]

U.S.–French Draft Reply to Soviet Note of April 21 (As revised on April 22—and delivered on April 23)

“U.S. Government refers to note of Soviet Government of April 21 concerning forthcoming conference at Geneva.

“U.S. Government rejects contention of Soviet Government that ‘Chinese People’s Republic’ should enjoy any special position with respect to conference at Geneva. This issue was fully debated at Berlin, and agreement reached between Four Powers represented at Berlin with reference to Geneva Conference clearly excludes any special position for ‘Chinese People’s Republic’. It follows that it will be special responsibility of four sponsoring governments to reach agreement as to States to which invitations will be issued for Indo-China discussions.

“Government of U.S. expects that Berlin agreement will be scrupulously observed and [is not willing] that Geneva Conference [should be predicated upon a violation of the basic agreement upon which Geneva Conference rests]6 shall take place under conditions laid down by that agreement.”7

  1. Dulles was in Paris at this time for a NATO Ministerial meeting prior to the opening of the Geneva Conference on Apr. 26. The list of participants on the source text indicates that Dulles was assisted by 9 American advisers, Eden by 5 British advisers, and Bidault by 11 French advisers.
  2. See the annex to this document, below.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Apr. 25–26.
  5. For a report on the meeting, see telegram Secto 14, Apr. 24, from Paris, p. 139.
  6. Brackets in the source text.
  7. For further documentation relating to invitations and procedural matters, concerning the Indochina phase of the Geneva Conference, see pp. 727 ff.