81. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, January 11, 1957, 3–4 p.m.1


  • Algeria


  • U.S. Side
    • The Secretary of State
    • Assistant Secretary, C. McCardle
    • Assistant Secretary, Francis Wilcox
    • Acting Assistant Secretary, C. Burke Elbrick
    • Mr. Fraser Wilkins
    • Mr. William R. Tyler
  • French Side
    • Mr. C. Pineau, French Foreign Minister
    • Mr. H. Alphand, French Ambassador
    • Mr. C. Lucet, French Minister
    • Mr. F. de Laboulaye, Counselor of French Embassy
    • Mr. J. Beliard, Press Officer, French Foreign Office

Mr. Pineau opened the conversation by producing a special file which he had brought with him to give to the Secretary, and which he said contained evidence of the nature and the extent of Communist intervention in Algeria.

The Secretary asked Mr. Pineau whether the documentation which had been seized in the plane together with the five Algerian nationalist leaders had contained any important material. Mr. Pineau answered that it had provided the French government with much [Page 259] information on the organization of the revolutionary movement, including networks and methods of operation.

Mr. Pineau then handed the Secretary an English translation of Mr. Mollet’s statement on Algeria of January 9th.2 He said he wished to draw the Secretary’s attention to two major errors of interpretation in the public press:

It had been stated that Mr. Mollet had called for an unconditional surrender by the Algerian Front of National Liberation. This was incorrect, as the French government was calling solely for a cessation of hostilities and had made no prior condition whatsoever. It was not calling for a surrender, and had stated that there would be no reprisals or any action against those who had engaged in the fighting while it lasted.
It had also been stated that once elections had been held, and the thirty deputies to the French National Assembly had been elected, the French government proposed to negotiate only with a group selected by it among these thirty deputies. This was untrue, said Mr. Pineau, because the French government intended to negotiate with all thirty deputies, whatever their affiliation—even if all thirty belonged to the F.L.N.

Mr. Pineau, turning to the question of procedure in the forthcoming debate on Algeria in the UN General Assembly, and stressing its importance, said that the French tactics had not yet been definitely settled. He said France felt it could count on the support of several countries, among them Iran, Brazil, and Colombia, and it planned to make a long presentation of the French case in the First Committee. France would participate in the general discussion, and answer attacks and criticisms of its policy. At the same time, it proposed to stress that it does not recognize the competence of the U.N. on Algeria, and it would not participate in the drafting of any resolution or in the voting. The French government, said Mr. Pineau, hoped that there would be no resolution on Algeria.

The Secretary said it would probably be very difficult to avoid some kind of resolution. He said that he had personally always advocated the view that it should be possible to discuss certain matters in the U.N. under Article 10 of the Charter without a resolution having in fact to be taken, and that debate should end with some such formula as that the discussion had been heard and [Page 260] noted, and that one could then pass on to the next item of business on the agenda.

Mr. Pineau said that a motion of this kind would be acceptable in the First Committee, after which it would be necessary to find a formula for a resolution after the debate in the General Assembly, on which France would abstain.

The Secretary said he thought we should instruct Ambassador Lodge to talk to the chief French Delegate and work out with him some sort of mutually acceptable resolution.

The Secretary asked Mr. Pineau whether the program for Algeria which France was going to propose at the U.N. would be the same as that set forth in the Mollet declaration. Mr. Pineau said it would, only it would be presented in greater detail, and that he expected the presentation of the French case would last about three hours, in two parts, so as not to tire unduly the members of the First Committee.

The Secretary asked Mr. Pineau again whether he thought it would be helpful if we instructed Ambassador Lodge to confer with the chief French Delegate in order to try to work out the text of a resolution together. Mr. Pineau answered in the affirmative. He said that the French government had purposely left somewhat vague the indication of its thinking on the character of a new Statute for Algeria, because this was a matter which would have to be negotiated with the elected representatives of Algeria, so that the French government could not at this stage say what the new Statute should be. Mr. Pineau said that his government hoped that the solution would be along the general lines of a Federation, comparable with the relationship of the U.S. Federal government to the states, or with the Swiss Cantons, with separation of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary powers.

The Secretary asked Mr. Pineau whether the French government felt it could hope for a cease-fire in Algeria on the basis of the proposals. Mr. Pineau said his government felt that it was “not impossible” that the offer of a cease-fire would be accepted. He said that many of those fighting had been waiting, before committing themselves, for the debate in the U.N. to take place, and that the French government hoped that afterwards they would again be prepared to take up the cease-fire offer.

The Secretary asked Pineau whether the French planned early implementation of their proposals.

Mr. Pineau said that one major difficulty arose from the fact that the French population in Algeria would never accept a solution negotiated directly with the rebels, but that it would undoubtedly accept a solution negotiated with the elected Algerian representatives, even though the two solutions might be similar in the end.

[Page 261]

With regard to the French willingness to invite observers from democratic countries to witness the election, Mr. Pineau said he hoped to have one observer from North America, one from South America, one from Europe and one from Asia. He said that Pakistan had already expressed its interest in sending an observer.

The Secretary said he had noted in Mr. Mollet’s statement fairly detailed indications of the nature of the regime France had in mind for Algeria, and was curious to know whether the negotiations with the elected Algerian representatives would be limited to the ways in which what had been proposed should be implemented, or whether the Algerian Deputies would be free to make other proposals.

Mr. Pineau said that the French proposals set forth were only a point of departure. The Deputies might wish to propose something different, in which case the negotiations would seek to achieve a reconciliation of the two proposals.

The Secretary observed that this point was very important.

Mr. Pineau went on to say that his government was not attempting to work out an Algerian solution which it expected to last for a hundred years; it did not have in mind a solution for all time. It would perhaps be necessary later on to confer more powers on the Algerian regime. It was an evolutionary process, Mr. Pineau said, which must advance by stages. Mr. Pineau said that he could of course not say all this in public discussion, and he gave as a reason the precedent of which had happened in the case of Morocco: he said that as soon as France had declared her willingness that Morocco should be independent, the course of events was so precipitated as to have unfavorable political and economic repercussions.

The Secretary commented on his own feeling that the appetite for independence had sometimes become excessive, but this was a factor which had to be reckoned with.

Mr. Pineau concluded by saying that Algeria was not now in a position to govern itself. It did not have the required institutions and experienced personnel for this.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/1–1157. Secret. Drafted by Tyler.
  2. Among other things, Mollet’s plan called for a cease-fire followed after 90 days by a general election on the basis of universal suffrage and involving a single electoral college. Promising full equality, he declared his intention to discuss the future of Algeria with the chosen representatives of the people. Dulles conferred with President Eisenhower earlier in the day and stated that the French were seeking a blank check from the United States in support of their plan before providing any details. The President commented that this was not possible because the French might be encouraged to “whittle down” the proposal once they were confident of U.S. backing. (Eisenhower library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President)