116. Memorandum of a Conversation, Addis Ababa, March 12, 19571


  • Visit of Vice President Richard M. Nixon


  • Ethiopian:
    • H.E. Ato Aklilou Abte Wolde, Foreign Minister of Ethiopia
    • H.E. Lidj Endalkatchew Makonnen, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • American:
    • The Honorable Richard M. Nixon, Vice President of the United States
    • Mr. Joseph Palmer 2nd, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • Mr. Joseph Simonson, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia

After welcoming the Vice President, Ato Aklilou said that he was familiar with the presentation which the Emperor had made.2 There were certain points which he wished to elaborate.

Aklilou said that he wished first of all to emphasize the growing importance of Africa. A number of new states had recently emerged3 and additional ones were in course of evolution toward self-government or independence. This is a development which Ethiopia has welcomed and to which it has lent its support. He spoke of Ethiopia as being both a Middle Eastern and African nation, which enhances its importance to the United States. It is, he said, the only non-NATO state in the Middle East which gave active support to the UN action in Korea. It had, moreover, given valuable support to the United States and the free world on many matters within and without the UN. In taking this position, it had often been criticized by other members of the Afro-Asian bloc as being too pro-Western. It has been willing to incur this criticism because of the considerations of principle which bind it to the United States, but it cannot ignore the fact that this position has increased its vulnerability to retaliation by the Afro-Asian bloc.

This brought Ato Aklilou to the second major point which he wished to make and which related to the problem of Greater Somaliland. He traced the history of this question, pointing out that it had originally been sponsored by the British and that even now [Page 347] influential colonial circles in the U.K. are pressing for a union of the Somalilands which would result in a detachment of a large portion of Ethiopian territory. He said that Ethiopia had been both surprised and disappointed at the position which the United States had taken this year at the General Assembly on the Somali border problem, where we had taken a position opposed to that of Ethiopia during the first few days of the debate, had failed to speak up in support of Ethiopia’s position during the course of the debate, and had only supported Ethiopia when it came down to the final vote. He contrasted this with the position of the Afro-Asian and Soviet blocs, which had given effective support to Ethiopia.

On the future of the border negotiations, Aklilou expressed his conviction that the matter could easily be settled once Somalia has its independence. Ethiopia would be happy to federate with Somalia as with Eritrea if that were the wishes of the Somalis, but is equally prepared to accept Somali independence. However they could not accept a foreign-dominated Somalia.

Ato Aklilou then went on to express Ethiopia’s concern at the activities of Egypt in attempting to stir up Ethiopia’s Moslem population and bring about a dismemberment of the Empire. This also appeared to be the aim of British policy in the area. He said that at the time of Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker’s4 visit here last year, the British had been quite frank in asking Ethiopia to give up parts of its territory to enhance the viability of a united Somaliland. Ethiopia had flatly refused to consider such a proposal.

Ato Aklilou said that he raised these matters in order to indicate that whereas Ethiopia wished to cooperate with the United States, it must nevertheless take effective steps to secure its own interests. It has looked to the United States for assistance in doing this, but the American response has been disappointing.

The Vice President expressed his appreciation for the frankness with which Ato Aklilou had set forth his concern. He repeated what he had told the Emperor, i.e., that he would report the Ethiopian views to the President and to the Secretary of State with a view toward seeing what action could be taken by the two countries to correct the misunderstandings which had arisen. He asked Mr. Palmer if he would like to comment on the questions which had been raised in connection with the Greater Somaliland problem.

Mr. Palmer said that he would like to make clear that United States has never lent its support to any project for a Greater Somaliland which would result in the detachment of Ethiopian territory. He added that, in the spirit of Ato Aklilou’s conversations [Page 348] last year in London with Mr. Dulles, that he (Mr. Palmer) had about two months ago talked to the Foreign Office in London when he was there for conversations on other subjects. He said that the Foreign Office had assured him at that time that although in 1946 it had been British policy to seek a Greater Somaliland which would include the Ogaden Province of Ethiopia, this is no longer official British policy. He had been informed at that time that the British would probably have no objection to a union of Somalia and British Somaliland if that were the desire of the inhabitants, but that the British Government would not support any move to detach Ethiopian territory. Mr. Palmer suggested that it might be useful if he had a further conversation with Ato Aklilou when he had more time in order to explain the United States position on the Somaliland border problem, since the United States had certainly never envisaged taking a position which was contrary to Ethiopia’s best interests.

In closing, the Vice President reiterated the importance which the United States attaches to its relationship with Ethiopia, his intention to report to the President and his conviction that any current misunderstandings could be ironed out in the continued interest of both countries.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, North Africa (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, NSC 5614, 5614/1). Secret. No drafting information is given on the source text. Attached as Tab D, No. 3 to Document 19.
  2. See Document 114.
  3. The Sudan and Ghana.
  4. Dodds-Parker was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the British Foreign Office.