299. Telegram From the Delegation at the NATO Heads of Government Meeting to the Department of State1

Secto 11. Following is summary yesterday’s meeting President and Gaillard. Secretary, Pineau and Ambassador Houghton present. Full report being pouched.2

Meeting was devoted almost exclusively to North Africa. Gaillard referred to his letter to President in which he had predicted French public reaction to delivery arms to Tunisia would be very bad. He noted reaction had been even worse than expected and continues to be strongly felt. French public links differences over North Africa to part France plays in NATO. Algerian question so sensitive French opinion subordinates all other questions to it.

On Algeria he expressed appreciation for United States help in United Nations. He hopes for quick solution in Algeria because of success of pacification and because loi-cadre, which passed Assembly with substantial majority, provides political solution. Loi-cadre is inspired by similar law for black Africa which has worked well. In view increasing pacification GOF intends implement loi-cadre wherever possible.

Algerian problem, Gaillard declared, cannot be isolated from those of Morocco and Tunisia. France enjoys good relations with former as evidenced by Moroccan efforts and attitude in United Nations debate. Sultan has urged FLN to move toward cease-fire.

Outlook in Tunisia is less hopeful and government less stable. Algerian rebels have invaded Tunisia and established base from which they attack Algeria. Bourguiba is in awkward situation which he probably deplores. However even with Tunisia GOF hopes to negotiate all differences but must have our help. Best way for us to help is not to give Bourguiba impression differences exist between us. Otherwise Bourguiba will keep these differences alive. Gaillard hoped we would work out procedures to avoid differences.

In reply President said we can view question like this only in broad framework our relationship with whole Arab world. He said we recognize position of France in North Africa arising from history, trade and economic relations, but our establishment diplomatic relations with Tunisia and Morocco means that we must treat them as equal and sovereign. He hopes France will maintain ties with North Africa. France and North Africa need each other.

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President added he wished to say with great emphasis he was shocked to hear from Secretary that French opinion might believe United States business interests influencing United States policy in direction supplanting French influence in North Africa. President said that is just not so. Discord in area is as harmful to United States as to French and North African interests. We hope France will play its part in maintaining stability. Specifically we hope French will help supply Tunisia. United States wishes to be of assistance but can do so much more effectively if France’s relations with Tunisia and Morocco are better. If situation like that involving shipment of arms to Tunisia arises again, we will of course be ready to consult. President suggested Gaillard talk personally with Bourguiba about possible points of difficulty.

Pineau said there is no French disposition to ask United States to regard Tunisia and Morocco as other than sovereign states but he hopes we will not yield to blackmail. President pointed out we had refused arms to Egypt and Syria and they had turned to Soviets. If this were repeated in Tunisia Russians would have foothold in area. However we will find ways to be helpful in meeting this problem. In response inquiry from Gaillard, President reiterated that, if case similar to Tunisian arms should arise, we would consult and he hopes in plenty of time.

Gaillard thanked President for his understanding and added that, if President could only say publicly one-quarter of what he had just said on this subject, atmosphere would be much improved. President replied he would have no objection to making statement at some appropriate time that France should play important part in development of North Africa. Reverting to Tunisia, Gaillard said GOF intends to reopen negotiations within few days and it would be helpful if United States could say something publicly in support these negotiations. Secretary remarked President or himself might find occasion to do so in Washington. President said important for large countries to make gestures to small countries and hoped France would do so in Tunisia.

Meeting ended in atmosphere of great cordiality.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/12–1657. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Algiers, Rabat, and Tunis.
  2. Not printed.