86. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy)1


  • French Invitation to Visit Melouza


NEA does not feel that in the framework in which the French invitation to visit the scene of the Melouza massacre has been put, representatives of either the Embassy or the Consulate General at Algiers should accept. The terms of the French note make clear that the visit is being organized as a French “guided tour” in Algeria. However understandable the French plans may be, I feel that U.S. participation at this time would open us to charges of partiality, particularly since we would have little freedom to criticize or comment on the results of the tour.

Moreover, the eleven Arab states on May 24th2 and again on June 11th3 (following the Melouza massacre) requested U.S. support for an impartial international commission of inquiry to investigate not only Melouza but also all other atrocities in Algeria. This idea, which has been discussed publicly by the Syrian Ambassador in Washington and reported in the foreign press, will almost certainly encounter French opposition, particularly in view of its sponsorship, and I believe we should do everything we can to avoid getting [Page 269] entangled with it and to keep the initiative on it with the Arab states.

If we accept the present French invitation and refuse to support the Arab proposal, we would certainly open ourselves to charges of partiality, and our actions would cause grave doubts in the minds of the Moroccans and Tunisians, not to mention the other Arab states, as to the sincerity of our stated desire to encourage a peaceful solution in Algeria which would respect the legitimate interests of all concerned.

If it is decided to resist efforts of the Arab states to enlist our support for an international commission of inquiry, I believe we should explain our predicament to the French and tell them that our ability to be helpful regarding the Arab initiative would be seriously affected by our participating in the present exercise.

If, on the other hand, we decide to accept the French invitation, I believe we shall have to give serious consideration to any invitation of the Arab states to participate likewise in an international investigating commission.

EUR’s position in this matter differs from that of NEA, and has been set forth in a separate memorandum.4 The views of the respective Bureaus should, of course, be taken into account in deciding the Department’s policy in the matter.


That you approve the attached telegram to Paris, Algiers and London.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/6–1457. Confidential.
  2. The Ambassadors of Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya and the Chargés of Yemen, Sudan, and Jordan met with the Secretary on May 24, with Dr. Farid Zeineddine of Syria as their spokesman. Dulles, acknowledging that atrocities had occurred, maintained that all elements had been tainted by such acts which unfortunately were the inevitable consequence of the war. (Memorandum of conversation by Tyler and Palmer, May 24; ibid.)
  3. On this occasion, the Syrian, Moroccan, and Tunisian Ambassadors met with Rountree and Palmer to ask the United States to cooperate in an impartial international investigation of atrocities in Algeria. Rountree answered that the matter was being studied by the Department and thus he could make no final reply at that time. While repeating the Department’s condemnation of atrocities, he emphasized the difficulty of apportioning blame and doubted that France would be receptive to the Arab proposal. (Memorandum of conversation by Palmer and Bovey, June 11; ibid., 751S.00/6–1157) Acting Secretary Herter sent a note on June 28 to a number of concerned Embassies in the Middle East and Europe containing background material for discussions with host government and press representatives in regard to the Algerian question and two other problems. With respect to atrocities, it essentially repeated the preliminary statements of Dulles (May 24) and Rountree (June 11). (CA–11120; ibid., 751S.00/6–2857)
  4. Supra.
  5. Not printed. On June 17, the Embassy officially declined the French invitation to visit the site of the Melouza massacre. The French were informed orally that the press description of the first contingent of visitors as an international commission precluded any U.S. participation. (Telegram 6454 from Paris, June 17; Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/6–1757)