279. Memorandum of Conversation0



Paris, April 29–May 2, 1959


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Ambassador Houghton
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Lyon
  • France
    • Foreign Minister Couve de Murville
    • Monsieur Joxe
    • Monsieur Lucet


  • Western Position in Geneva Meetings

The Secretary met with Foreign Minister Couve de Murville this morning at 10 o’clock for half an hour prior to the first formal meeting of the Foreign Ministers.

The Secretary indicated that he felt strongly that before the Foreign Ministers left Paris the various loose strings on matters which the Working Party had not been able to reach agreement should be disposed of and the four Allies should be in a solid position. The Secretary indicated [Page 659] he felt that we all would be in a very bad position vis-à-vis the press and world opinion, if this were not the case. He said he hoped that the Foreign Minister would permit him to speak on this point at the opening when he intended to emphasize strongly the necessity for us to concentrate on the forest of our main objectives and not be confused by the trees of detail and disagreement.

In this connection, the Foreign Minister raised the matter of informing NATO next week and the Secretary explained that as he had so recently taken office he felt he would have to return to Washington next week where he had work to do and he hoped that Monsieur Couve de Murville would undertake the task of informing the NATO Council on behalf of the others of the results of this Paris meeting.

Presence of Secretaries-General of UN and NATO at Geneva

The question of Mr. Hammarskjold being at Geneva was discussed and Monsieur Couve de Murville said that the French agreed that he should be present to receive the Delegates and make an opening speech “but not on substance.”

The Secretary raised Mr. Hammarskjold’s suggestion of leaving at Geneva after his own departure an assistant to be available throughout the Conference.

The French Foreign Minister had reservations on this point since he felt that if this was agreed to before the Conference it would give the appearance of committing us to some UN participation in the solution.

The Secretary indicated that this was a point on which the United States did not feel as strongly as the French. Monsieur Couve de Murville laughingly remarked that this was a point on which the French were perhaps more in agreement with the Soviets.

The Secretary said that Mr. Spaak had discussed in the United States the possibility of his being at Geneva.1

On this point also, the French Foreign Minister had reservations, saying “everyone seems to want to be at Geneva.”

Military Representation at Geneva

The Secretary inquired whether the French proposed having military men in their Delegation. The question arose with us as to whether the Secretary of Defense should be a member of our Delegation. The Secretary indicated that in his opinion there might be some psychological [Page 660] advantage in the Secretary of Defense being a delegate as it would indicate that we were in earnest.

Monsieur Couve de Murville said that the French would have with them a French colonel who had participated in the Working Group, but that he would act not as a member of the Delegation but rather in the capacity of an adviser.

The matter of military participation at the Summit Meeting was also raised and it was pointed out that in 1955 at Geneva Marshal Zhukov had been present.

Monsieur Joxe pointed out, however, that the Marshal was there not so much as a member of the Delegation as a former companion in arms of President Eisenhower, a card which the Russians were then playing but which had not worked out successfully.

German Position

In reply to the Foreign Minister’s inquiry as to the German position, the Secretary explained that he had seen von Brentano this morning2 and that the Germans appeared to be prepared to go along on everything except the Security Zone. They considered that any security zone should cover areas rather than countries. Also, they were against permitting any inspection in Germany since they felt that this would a) permit the Soviets to carry on espionage, and b) they were not prepared to grant the Soviets the right to monitor nuclear matters, which they have given us.

The Germans were willing to press forward on the matter of unification in the three proposed phases.

Security and Disarmament

Monsieur Couve de Murville said the whole matter of security and disarmament was very difficult and he wondered if a slightly different presentation would not be preferable, separating unification, security and disarmament. By this he meant something less precise on the matter of disarmament, but linked in the field of control with the matter of general European disarmament. The Foreign Minister said they favored this approach so as not to put the Germans in too difficult a position vis-à-vis Soviet control.

The Secretary indicated that we would be quite prepared to discuss these French views with them and suggested that the experts work out details on this matter. However, he emphasized our belief that the whole package concept was essential.

The Foreign Minister explained that the setting forth of exact numerical limitation of forces presented difficulty for France because of [Page 661] Algeria. He also felt that no mention of nuclear disarmament from the general disarmament point of view was not good. He felt, moreover, that, at this juncture, the Soviets were sufficiently strong in nuclear weapons to be disturbing.

The Secretary indicated that for the present he believed we were stronger. The Secretary reiterated our belief that the package solution was attractive to the world, but if we diluted it it might be whittled away as were our 1955 proposals.

Both the Secretary and the Foreign Minister agreed that our present proposals were more attractive than those of 1955.

Some discussion ensued about participation of Poland and Czechoslovakia and it was agreed that our policy should be to resist the seating of Poland and Czechoslovakia as long as possible, but that if this proved impossible we were in accord that Italy should participate.

The Foreign Minister said he foresaw a difficulty as he believed that the Soviets were determined to seat the East German, Bolz, at the Council table.

There was discussion of the possibility of Rumanian, Dutch, or Yugoslav participation, and both the Secretary and the Foreign Minister agreed that every attempt should be made to limit the participation, particularly as a precedent for Geneva since a four-nation meeting might be manageable, but a 20-nation would be impossible.

The Foreign Minister asked whether the inclusion of a German representative at the Foreign Ministers meeting constituted a precedent for the Summit.

The Secretary said this was a matter which would have to be worked out at the Foreign Ministers meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1275. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Lyon and approved by Herter. The meeting was held at the Quai d’Orsay.
  2. A brief summary of Spaak’s conversation with the President, Herter, and Merchant on April 24, during which he suggested, and the President and Secretary of State approved, the idea of Spaak being present at Geneva in an informal capacity, was transmitted in Topol 3548 to Paris, April 24. (Ibid., Central Files, 396.1–GE/4–2359)
  3. See Document 278.