76. Memorandum of a Conversation, French Embassy, Washington, November 16, 19561


  • Conversation with French Foreign Minister Pineau


  • Mr. Christian Pineau, French Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Hervé Alphand, French Ambassador
  • Mr. J. Daridan, Director of Political Affairs, Quai d’Orsay
  • Mr. William R. Tyler, WE

After a small dinner at the French Embassy, on the occasion of Mr. Pineau’s unofficial visit to Washington, Daridan took me aside, and talked to me about Algeria. We were then joined by Pineau and Alphand.

1. Algeria: In the first part of the conversation, before we were joined by Pineau, Daridan said that “everyone” in Paris realized that the Government’s program for Algeria would not succeed. The chances of achieving pacification were no better now than before. In fact, the arrest of the five FLN leaders had been an act of folly, which had involved Morocco more deeply in the issue. Daridan said France’s long-term relations with Tunisia and Morocco could not be settled until the Algerian matter was disposed of; and yet no one in France who knew anything about the problem was optimistic that the new statute for Algeria which the Government had prepared would do the trick. Daridan said he thought the only hope lay in [Page 249] U.S. initiative for a broad settlement of major issues in the Near East, of which Algeria was one. He said that unless we took this initiative, he feared the Algerian situation would deteriorate further, and that Morocco might eventually intervene openly with resulting chaos.

I said to Daridan that his idea that the U.S. should take the initiative on Algeria was unexpected, coming from a Frenchman. I reminded him that we had leaned over backward, in deference to French requests and sensitivities, in order to give France time to work out a solution herself, and by herself. I thought it would be far preferable for France herself to announce whatever measures she thought must be taken in order to bring peace to Algeria, and to form a permanent basis for friendly relations between Metropolitan France and that part of the world. I thought we would gladly support such measures if they seemed to us realistic and statesmanlike. However, I said, I personally doubted whether it was a very tempting proposition for us to take the initiative and thereby expose ourselves to renewed charges of selling out France, and of trying to take over Algeria in France’s place. Daridan repeated that he thought the situation would shortly require the leadership of the United States if catastrophe was to be averted in North Africa.

After Mr. Pineau had joined us, I asked him what he felt about the prospects for the Government’s program for Algeria. He sounded very discouraged and said he thought the next stage must be to hold elections. When I asked whether he thought this could happen in the present climate of terrorism, he said nothing, but slowly raised his arms to an angle of about 30° from his body, and then let them fall again.

Pineau said he thought it important that a three-power conference be held before the Algerian question is debated in the General Assembly. I asked him when he thought that would be, and he said he thought some time in the first half of January. He did not mention any date in the immediate future for a conference.

Comment: From my conversation, I got the impression that (a) at least Pineau and the Foreign Office are very pessimistic about the situation in Algeria, and that they fear the worst for the future prospects of the West in Tunisia and Morocco, and (b) that the Government may now be coming around to a radical reappraisal of French national policy and goals in North Africa, which may involve us directly and at short notice.

[Here follows discussion of Egypt and Syria.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/11–1656. Secret. Drafted by Tyler. Enclosure to a memorandum from Tyler to Elbrick, November 26, indicating that because of the nature of the comments on Algeria the memorandum would not be given wide distribution and would be held for discussion with Ambassador Dillon.