100. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, December 20, 19571


  • Algeria and the NATO Meeting


  • Mr. Mongi Slim, Ambassador of Tunisia
  • Mr. M’hamed Essafi, Secretary of Embassy of Tunisia
  • Mr. Joseph Palmer 2nd, Deputy Assistant Secretary, AF
  • Mr. John A. Bovey, Jr., Deputy Director, AFN

Mr. Slim opened with a post-mortem on the Algerian debate at the UN and expressed his regret that he had not been able toward the end to work in entire harmony with the United States Delegation with regard to the amendments to the resolution.

[Page 301]

Mr. Palmer said we understood the Tunisian viewpoint and that we of course shared the Ambassador’s regrets. While the resolution2 may have fallen short of the desires of both France and the Arabs, still we felt that a unanimous decision, in which the Moroccan and Tunisian initiative was recognized and the concern of the entire Assembly was made clear, was a considerable accomplishment. The fact that France had been brought to acquiesce in it was also a big step forward.

Mr. Slim said the sequel was more important than the language of the resolution and that if France follows it up we may move little by little toward meaningful contacts with Morocco and Tunisia and toward a solution. There were still many difficulties, and the next step was to start the conversations and to overcome the hesitations in France which was wavering between those who opposed the offer of good offices and those who really want to make use of it.

Mr. Palmer said that the edifice of a solution must be carefully built brick by brick and not flung up in haste. The matter was fraught with many inter-related complexities; for example, the success or failure of the forthcoming Franco-Tunisian conversations might well, in his opinion, leave a most significant effect on France’s utilization of the good offices of Morocco and Tunisia.

Mr. Slim agreed and cited the question of French troops in Tunisia as another example of the complex inter-relation between the Algerian question and other North African problems. He then said he wished to close the Algerian parenthesis and reopen certain dossiers of United States-Tunisian interest. First of all, he wanted to express Tunisian gratification over the fact that the President had made no statements during the NATO meeting which recognized any privileged situation or sphere of influence of France in North Africa. He said that the Tunisian Government knew of the heavy pressures which had been brought to bear on the United States in Paris and which had caused the Tunisians to convey their apprehensions to us in Washington and Tunis.

Mr. Palmer said we were aware of Tunisian apprehensions and that there had indeed been requests for statements acknowledging French special interests. At no moment, however, had the United States ever contemplated taking any position inconsistent with Tunisian sovereignty. Mr. Palmer added that he thought the French had understood this and were really thinking of something which would be helpful to the preservation of their interests in the area rather than making a conscious effort to diminish Tunisia’s status as an independent nation.

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Mr. Palmer then showed Mr. Slim the personal message which the Secretary had sent from Paris to Mr. Bourguiba.3 Mr. Slim read it and expressed great gratification at this reassurance, which only confirmed what he had thought our position would be. He requested a copy, which Mr. Palmer made available on an informal basis.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/12–2057. Secret. Drafted by Bovey.
  2. Resolution 1184 (XII), adopted by the General Assembly on December 10.
  3. See Document 300.