281. Telegram From the Delegation to the Western Foreign Ministers Meeting to the Department of State 0

Secto 13. Department pass Defense. Western Foreign Ministers Meeting—afternoon session April 29.

First subject for discussion was section of Working Group Report on draft principles of German peace settlement. Re paragraph II of this section, Brentano said FedRep did not favor deletion whole paragraph. He preferred principle set forth in US proposal (Proposal A) but had some difficulties with wording. It was agreed that paragraph II [Page 667] would be based on US proposal, but that legal experts would consider revised wording to make acceptable to FedRep. (See Secto 10)1
Couve questioned reference to “self-determination” in paragraph III and wondered what it meant. Brentano said it was intended to emphasize right of all-German state to choose its own internal system and its external relations; also, it would guard against Soviet desire to intervene in event social structures in East Germany are changed. Couve agreed, but went on to say that French objected to all of paragraph IV after word “settlement”. It was agreed to drop language after “settlement”, and to reverse order of present paragraphs III and IV. Legal experts would check language of both paragraphs in view of revised order.
It was agreed to drop second sentence of paragraph VIII re prohibition on Anschluss, and to add Austrian State Treaty at end of first sentence this paragraph.
French questioned necessity of including paragraph X re agreements FedRep and “DDR”, saying that it was obvious reunified Germany would be new state and that all agreements of both parts of Germany should be reviewed. Brentano said question was practical one and that it would be desirable to keep as many agreements on both parts of Germany as possible. Obviously, it would be most difficult to renegotiate all agreements made by both Germanies. He confirmed FedRep’s support of proposal A under paragraph X. It was finally agreed that this whole paragraph pertained to question of law and that it would be referred to legal experts for further review and recommendation.
Discussion then turned to section of Working Group Report on Berlin. First question was what, if anything, should go into overall, phased plan concerning Berlin. Secretary stated US believed phased plan should contain positive proposal on Berlin. Of two alternatives proposals under paragraph II of Working Group Report, US favored first alternative, since this proposed something which went beyond status quo. Secretary noted Soviets brought about present crisis, although we had been fairly satisfied with existing situation in Berlin. If we now say nothing and in effect accept status quo, we will really be going backwards. We should take step forward and make Soviets go on defensive.
Lloyd agreed with Secretary’s point and said it was important for presentational reasons that phased plan should have proposal in it concerning Berlin. Couve agreed, although he said French have reserves concerning points in first alternative re plebiscite on foreign troops and removal of DDR capital from East Berlin (sub-paragraphs (II) and (III) [Page 668] under alternative A in recommendations portion of Working Group paper on Berlin). Couve thought proposal for plebiscite weakened our position, since it seemed to indicate we were not sure of Berlin opinion regarding troops; also, it weakened our legal position. On paragraph (III), he thought it might be going too far to suggest removal of DDR capital.
Brentano said he shared Couve’s objections on these two points. He thought it would be better to delete (II) and (III). Secretary said that, if Foreign Ministers agreed to accept alternative A for inclusion in phased plan, then (II) and (III) could be dropped. This suggestion was adopted and Working Group will prepare new language. Foreign Ministers agreed that proposal along these lines for Berlin solution would be included in stage I of phased plan. Elections in whole of Berlin might take place in stage II.
Lloyd suggested that alternative B (status quo proposal) for Berlin solution might be used as fallback position on Berlin in discussion with Soviets of overall phased plan. Alternative B would not be included in plan at outset, but could be brought out in discussion. Secretary thought this would be feasible if Soviets agree to discuss Berlin in context of phased plan.
Foreign Ministers then discussed interim Berlin solution in isolation, if Soviets reject phased plan. Secretary emphasized dangers of having public receive impression through leaks that FonMins had agreed on fallback solution for Berlin separate from overall, phased plan. He thought, therefore, that it might be better for FonMins to reserve discussion of interim solution for Geneva in light of situation as it develops there. In meantime, FonMins would have problem in mind and there could be direct contact between FonMins. Secretary felt group was agreed on major part of proposed solution and that further discussion at this time would be unwise.
Other FonMins concurred with Secretary’s views and it was agreed that discussion of fallback plan for Berlin in isolation would be removed from Western paper. However, it was agreed that initial Western proposal outside of package framework would be Western proposal contained in phased plan.
Lloyd opened discussion tactics section by asking what sort of meeting envisaged. Would it consist of plenary sessions every day with large delegations and much publicity, or would there be sufficient intervals between plenaries for private meetings, say Foreign Ministers with one advisor each, where real negotiations could take place. Thought latter arrangement by far the better and believed Soviets would adhere to such arrangements if they so agreed. Noted this point covered by paragraph 9 Working Group paper on tactics.
Couve agreed small meetings better, but this was difficult question to determine in advance. Past history showed large meetings with much publicity accomplished little whereas private meetings had shown some results as in 1954.2 Soviets would want to make a show with their proposals to impress world, and this will probably take several days, not to mention ironing out question of participation Czechs and Poles and status of Germans at conference.
Secretary wondered if West could control problem but agreed small meeting best. There were indications Soviets will wish discuss peace treaty proposals paragraph by paragraph for effect on East Germans. There is also the question whether or not West should table proposals at outset. Furthermore, should we publish proposals beforehand in full or in summary and if so, how long before Geneva meeting opens. The question of public posture was tied in with report of Ministerial Meetings to NATO.
Couve thought proposals should not be published in advance. West should keep something for the conference. Soviets would publicize their proposals. We should keep our proposals as answers and counter-proposals to Soviets. Also wondered about security in connection with report to NATO.
Secretary replied that West had insisted Berlin be considered in context of German problem as a whole. If West tables plan, it takes initiative and puts burden on Soviets to reject. US position on this point not frozen but believe it important.
Lloyd did not see advantages of prior announcement. If there is prior announcement of Western position, loyal opposition in UK would immediately start picking holes in it, thereby helping Soviets. Brentano agreed with Lloyd since there was same difficulty with opposition in Germany. Suggested, however, summary of Western proposals be published when they are tabled. Lloyd added that he thought nothing should be published until Geneva meeting got down to business which would probably not happen until after initial period of procedural wrangling. Couve agreed and Lloyd noted that something might of course happen between now and May 11 to cause change in thinking and suggested summary be prepared. To Secretary’s remark that plan would probably come up bit by bit anyhow, French replied this would not be same as formal announcement of entire plan. Secretary then said US willing to agree with others on this point in view internal political difficulties in UK and Germany.
It was agreed that NAC should be given an oral report by Couve, as chairman, at end Ministerial talks.
Lloyd then suggested Ministers should run over questions posed by Working Group in first part of their report under paragraph 3 “tactics”. It was agreed (a), (b), (d) have been covered and that the summary mentioned in (c) should be prepared. Concerning (e), Brentano thought principles could be discussed since they would have been stated. Furthermore, we had told Soviets in our notes we would consider Soviet proposals. Secretary remarked that if we begin by discussing principles, we’ll never get beyond first one.
Lloyd thought it better not to try obtain agreement on formal agenda and should avoid wrangle on procedure. Should insist on discussion of our principles if Soviets wanted to table their treaty. Concluded by saying, “if they want to talk about a treaty, we should let them have it”. The others agreed.
On participation of Czechs and Poles, Couve summed up present agreement that West preferred to confine talks to four powers. Would try to avoid admission Czechs and Poles, but if they had to agree, would insist on participation of Italy. Lloyd suggested that Soviets might not be averse to excluding Czechs and Poles but would wish find way to save face. Why not then propose at outset of conference that question of participation be postponed, perhaps for week?
On German participation, after Secretary had quoted agreed formula in Western notes3 which Soviets apparently had accepted, Couve wondered if soundings might be taken as to Soviet attitude by having Western delegation secretaries at their meeting next week casually raise problem of seating for Germans. Brentano said that while he would plan to be present in Geneva, he would not attend meetings. FedRep advisors would be led by Ambassador Grewe and would not expect to sit at table with Western delegations. It would not matter to him whether Bolz (East German Foreign Minister) chose to attend conference.
Ministers then recapitulated program of work of sub-groups as follows:
Working Group would finish redrafting reunification, security and Berlin sections.
Legal advisors would work on peace treaty section and coordinate with Working Group.
There should be amendment to tactics section of Working Group report to take into account preceding discussion.
Meeting ended with short discussion of how to handle press questions, with UK stressing need to give no indication Berlin fall-back positions left for later discussion at Geneva. Next meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. April 30 to review reports of Working Group and legal experts.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/4–2959. Secret; Limit Distribution. Transmitted in three sections and repeated to London, Bonn, Moscow, and Berlin.
  2. Secto 10, April 29, transmitted the text agreed by the legal advisers on the bracketed sections of the principles of a German peace settlement. (Ibid.)
  3. Presumably Couve de Murville is referring to the Geneva Conference on Indochina, May 8–July 21, 1954; for documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume XVI.
  4. See Document 176.