77. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State1

2508. Reference: Embassy telegram 2450, November 16, repeated Algiers 91, Rabat 172, Tunis 156.2 We consider French Government’s current attitude toward Algerian question, as reported by Mollet’s Cabinet, reflects short-sightedness and lack of realism. Attitude is quite understandable, however, since articulate French opinion, and particularly opinion leading figures of most political parties, is so strongly and emotionally opposed to significant concessions on Algeria that any French Government finds it much easier to postpone than to act. Indeed, especially after serious setback in Egypt, bold and forward-looking proposals on Algeria at this time could arouse so much opposition in Assembly as to cause government’s overthrow.

Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid conclusion that, if French do not come up with new proposals, situation is likely to be worse rather than better after UNGA debate. Tempers on both sides will be further frayed, intransigent positions will have been reiterated, and French Government is likely to feel it cannot “surrender” to public demands of Arab States or to hostile UN resolution. Hence conciliatory action after debate may appear to French even more untimely than it does now.

Yet restoration of close and friendly relations with Tunis and Morocco apparently depend on an acceptable Algerian settlement. If French do not move forward promptly on Algerian question, their whole position in North Africa may become untenable. Result would probably be US would have to fill vacuum, which would be extremely expensive and also most damaging to our relations with France. This problem has already arisen in connection with economic aid. We do not know whether settlement, short of independence but generous in autonomy, acceptable both to France and to Algeria’s neighbors, can be devised. However, it is obvious serious attempt along these lines should be made.

If Cabinet re-examination Algerian question this week ends in usual blind alley, we should like to discuss problem frankly and sympathetically with high French officials, preferably Mollet himself. This would be difficult and delicate démarche but we think it is [Page 251] probably unavoidable in any case since we must certainly explain to French in advance line we propose to take in UNGA debate. They expect us to support them unequivocally on this matter which they consider at the moment their most vital interest. Our failure to do so would be considered as further, and perhaps fatal, shock to French confidence in Atlantic alliance and NATO. Yet difficulties vis-à-vis Arab States in supporting unequivocally present frozen French position are all too obvious. It seems in every way desirable, therefore, that US formulate its own attitude on this issue promptly and communicate our views to French in time for them to be considered and take effect.

We suggest for Department’s and USUN’s consideration démarche to be made in Paris along following lines:

We reiterate our desire to be helpful in UN debate on Algeria;
We agree Algerian item be postponed to latter half GA session if possible;
We fear that, in absence any further and more explicit French proposals, debate will be very rough, Morocco and Tunis will be in opposition, US and other friends of France will be seriously handicapped by lack of knowledge French intentions, and outcome will probably be adoption condemnatory resolution which will make solution much more difficult;
If, however, French Government should find it possible to put forward before or during debate proposals sufficiently liberal to have broad appeal in GA, we would be prepared to give strongest possible support to these proposals and exert our influence in same sense on other delegations.

We should appreciate being informed whether Department would authorize approach to French along these lines.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/11–2156. Confidential. Repeated to Rabat, Algiers, and Tunis.
  2. This telegram reported that the French were disposed to await the completion of the U.N. debate before deciding what reforms to offer. Dillon did not believe that this tendency augured well for the future. (Ibid., 751S.00/11–1656)