84. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 14, 19571


  • United States Position on Algerian Dispute


  • Hervé Alphand, French Ambassador
  • M. Charles Lucet, Minister of French Embassy
  • Mr. Murphy—G
  • Mr. Gerald SmithS/AE
  • Mr. J. J. JovaWE

The French Ambassador called on Mr. Murphy at his request, saying that it was some time since they had spoken and he wished to review several new developments, particularly in light of the fact that France now had a new Government. The Ambassador reviewed the Bourges-Maunoury investiture speech and in regard to Algeria, he emphasized that the offer of free elections stands, but unfortunately the FLN does not appear to want them. Mr. Murphy asked if there was no indication at all of interest on the part of the FLN and M. Alphand said that unfortunately there was not. In Algeria, he said, the situation was different than in Morocco and Tunisia in that there is no one to negotiate or deal with. Mr. Murphy asked about Ben Bella and his four Algerian colleagues now in a French jail and the Ambassador changed the subject. He went on to say, however, that Bourges-Maunoury’s speech introduced one new element in that Bourges-Maunoury proposed to hold local elections as soon as feasible and also to create, by decree, several new provinces with great local autonomy.

The Ambassador said that one of the principal purposes of his visit was to obtain an assurance that the U.S. does not intend to change its position that Algeria is purely a French problem. Mr. Murphy replied that this was, in fact, the principle on which we have been operating. Ambassador Alphand then referred to the growing anxiety which he sensed in Washington in regard to the coming UNGA session and asked whether the U.S. had determined its position on Algeria for the General Assembly. Mr. Murphy replied in the negative; pointing out that we desire to be helpful, but we don’t know what to do. He agreed with the Ambassador that it was indeed a very serious problem for the U.S. The Ambassador said that the U.S. helped France greatly at the last UNGA session, particularly in the corridors and backstage. He asked if we would do [Page 265] the same this year. Mr. Murphy replied that it depends in part on developments. It would be very difficult if we could point to nothing constructive. For this reason, the question of our tactical position has been held open in the hope that such developments might occur; more recently, however, the situation seemed to have worsened.

Ambassador Alphand inquired as to what importance the U.S. attached to Bourguiba’s mediation efforts, indicating that the French were unable to take his influence seriously. Mr. Murphy replied that while it might well be that Bourguiba’s influence was only local and that while he might be rather difficult on some issues, we could not forget that he was under many pressures. Algeria is Tunisia’s number-one problem and he could assure M. Alphand that in previous conversations with Bourguiba, the latter had repeatedly reaffirmed his love for France and Tunisia’s need for cooperation with France. The Ambassador said that this might be so but nevertheless Bourguiba welcomes and protects Algerian rebels and his public speeches are unfriendly to France.

The Ambassador said that he wished at this time to assure Mr. Murphy that regardless of French declarations to the contrary, French aid to Tunisia had never actually been cut off. In fact, every effort was made to avoid cutting off such aid as it was realized that this would present a difficult problem for the U.S. which had engaged itself to supplement rather than supplant French aid. Mr. Murphy observed that the Tunisian economy was certainly inadequate and relied heavily on French aid and that in spite of Bourguiba’s recent difficult speeches, it must be acknowledged that he has resisted Soviet pressures and enticements. Undoubtedly some Tunisians would be quite prepared to throw him out and to turn to the Soviets. The Ambassador said that it was precisely for this reason that the French had not cut off their aid. He took the opportunity to point out that aid to North Africa, nevertheless, was a drain on French resources. France, he maintained, was actually doing more than even the U.S. in aid to under-developed countries. Mr. Murphy said he recognized the important role played by French capital in developing North Africa and observed that up until very recently the best investment a middle-class Frenchman could make was to buy an olive grove in Tunisia.

The Ambassador mentioned that French relations with Morocco were a bright spot in comparison with the rest of North Africa. Various agreements in regard to cultural, judicial, consular and administrative and technical matters were being satisfactorily concluded. These were particularly important as there were 40,000 French civil servants still in Morocco.

[Page 266]

The Ambassador said that, in summary, it was his understanding from this conversation that he could tell his Government that U.S. policy on Algeria was still the same in regard to support for France, but that the U.S. wanted a plan or constructive step toward a solution. Mr. Murphy said that this was correct; that we would like something to be able to point to as an advance over last year’s situation. He inquired whether the French had prepared their UN tactics. Ambassador Alphand said not yet, but that now that France has a new Government, it would be able to proceed on this planning and he could assure Mr. Murphy that the French wished to establish the closest liaison with the U.S. on this matter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/6–1457. Confidential. Drafted by Jova.