396.1 GE/7–1854: Telegram

SmithEdenMendès-France Meeting, Geneva, July 17, Afternoon: The United States Delegation to the Department of State


Secto 638. From the Under Secretary. Limit distribution. I met with Eden and Mendes-France at the latter’s residence yesterday afternoon. Previous to Eden‘s arrival I had a few minutes with Mendes-France alone and gave him full background regarding my role here and regarding impossibility that US should sign any conference document with Communist powers. I read him extracts from my letter of instructions. I made clear that these applied also to current French draft of declaration to be issued by conference. I also emphasized extreme importance of evacuating military equipment in order that it should not fall into Communist hands. I said that if there were any difficulties of local evacuation from advanced posts, heavy [Page 1406] equipment should rather be destroyed on spot than abandoned to enemy. He said instructions to this effect already issued, and all equipment would be needed in south. However he would send urgent message emphasizing this. He understood my own role here and was grateful for your personal message, which I had made a little florid.

When Eden arrived, the three of us began with extensive discussion of status of international control. Minor issue of number of commissions (one or three) and coordinating mechanism if three commissions appears on way to solution with Viet Minh acceptance of three commission principle.

So far as voting is concerned, it appeared to us all that we would have to accept majority voting on minor or routine questions and unanimity for major matters. We speculated as to possibility of securing acceptance of majority vote to detemine which are minor and which major matters. There was general agreement that built-in veto, in view probable composition of commission (see below) might work more to our advantage if solid “neutral” on our side was included in commission.

Chauvel stated that two French working papers on controls (Sectos 5751 and 6052) had been circulated to other members of conference but that no counter-proposals had yet been received from Communists. Molotov had indicated to Eden that he saw no particular problem with French papers on this subject. Those papers, however, do not cover matter of composition.

On composition we agreed that Communists would not drop demand that at least one Communist power be included. We tentatively therefore agreed that best position might be Colombo powers plus one Communist power plus one Western neutral (Belgium or Canada were mentioned, although it was recognized Canada would probably be unacceptable because of Commonwealth ties).

On question of freedom of movement for international commission it was general view that commission would not in fact receive necessary facilities for thorough timely inspections throughout Viet Minh zones and that therefore to insist on theoretical freedom of movement would probably favor other side more than ourselves.

I then made clear that US could not agree any proposal requiring all conference members consult on reports supervisory commissions. I added that we did not wish in any way to perpetuate conference. I suggested, however, we would have no objection if, in armistice document rather than in conference declaration, statement were made that [Page 1407] the international commission would report on its work and particularly on difficulties encountered to members of conference. Mendes-France and Chauvel both stated they feared this would result in a control commission having no “top” although they recognize futility of a guarantee system in which Communists participate. Chauvel pursued subject of trying to get something into conference declaration on this subject of which all members could “take note” and which would bind none to consultations.

Turning to subject of demarcation line Eden expressed hunch that final settlement would be near eighteenth parallel. He wondered whether it might not be possible to trade some nonessential area between seventeenth and eighteenth parallels for position on elections which we could all accept. French have three successive positions on lines between seventeenth and eighteenth parallels which they intend present as necessary in negotiations. Mendes-France stated that our interests require delay of at least two years before elections. Soviet thinking on election date seems to be any time in 1955. Mendes-France stated that on this point therefore French and Soviets are only about six months apart, since French could accept date mid-1956.

  1. Dated July 8, p. 1305.
  2. Dated July 14, p. 1369.