297. Telegram From the Delegation to the Foreign Ministers Meeting to the Department of State0

Secto 23. Paris pass USRO. Second Session Foreign Ministers Conference began 3:30 p.m. May 12 with Gromyko in chair, and devoted entirely to question Polish and Czech participation.1

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Gromyko raised question, referring Soviet position as already stated in diplomatic notes, legitimate interests of Poland and Czechoslovakia on questions relating to Germany, including Berlin and preparation peace treaty, already recognized by all of us, though decision on participation deferred to Conference itself. Gromyko maintained not merely point of procedure involved but one of considerable political importance.

Question of importance for success of Conference and also elementary justice to governments concerned. Admittedly other governments also have legitimate interests, as recognized by Soviet position re participation peace conference. But precisely Poland and Czechoslovakia most entitled participate at present stage discussions. Gromyko dismissed suggestion that they participate merely as observers by pointing out that their people had hardly been just observers in struggle against Hitler aggression and occupation. Poles and Czechs have won right to participate and nobody else can represent their interests in discussions re Germany. Since war’s end they have repeatedly had occasion to state their view on German problems and have also extended a hand of peace, which, however, had been grasped only by one part of Germany—DDR. Gromyko rejected view it would be fair to deny their participation on grounds that authorized balance of Conference might thereby be changed, pointing out that Conference decisions would not be achieved in any case by merely counting votes.

Secretary then gave US position (full text transmitted Secto 202). Couve presented French view as follows:3 question involved more general than mere participation of Poland and Czechoslovakia, and others than “we four” certainly involved especially as regards German peace treaty. This is not new issue and already raised in connection post-war “satellite” peace treaties with Italy, etc. Solution then was to seek views of others concerned for Foreign Ministers deputies to consider, and certain powers then additionally invited to appear before Conference to present views, as Yugoslavia in case of Italian Treaty. And after four powers had formulated their drafts, peace Conference held with others present. Admittedly Polish and Czech question now arises in somewhat different light, fourteen years after war and not just question of peace treaty involved. But in French viewpoint not yet reached where we will be drawing up peace treaty and therefore calling on powers for their views.

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At present stage main responsibility lies on four powers involved in administration Germany. This particularly true for Berlin where we four bear special responsibilities. Berlin and German unification are questions involving squarely responsibility of four powers. This not new point and at 1955 Geneva Summit4 we all recognized our fundamental responsibilities. Certainly Poland and Czechoslovakia and particularly Poland have legitimate interests in peace treaty. But others are also concerned, as Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, and are entitled be consulted in due course, Italy also. But at outset and at this stage only we four should be involved. This both best procedure and also appropriate since problems before US include some which are exclusive and primary responsibility of ours. Therefore, best to postpone further consideration this question.

Lloyd said he would be brief5 since UK views already largely expressed by US and France. He hoped Soviet would not persist with matter which premature now. Conference issues would not be decided by counting of heads, as Gromyko himself had admitted, and there are practical considerations, including consideration that smaller the conference more likely we are to achieve results, and question of principle also involved since others also have legitimate interests, including certainly Italy.

Thus, if we should accept either of two Soviet criteria (geographic proximity or victim of Hitler aggression) where could we stop? Therefore, better to postpone problem and get on with practical work of Conference.

Gromyko restated Soviet position,6 admitting that while others besides Poland and Czechoslovakia suffered from Nazi aggression, some nations suffered more than others, and especially Poland and Czechoslovakia. Claimed no convincing arguments had been put forth to justify postponement this issue, adding that if Poland and Czechoslovakia had right to raise question, what right did we have to postpone decision. Thirdly, Gromyko rejected US suggestion that better to proceed with matters of substance, claiming that Conference would be “acting lightly” if it treated question as procedural one. Soviets, Poland, Czechoslovakia and many other governments “attached great importance to matter”.

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Gromyko invited further comments by others but all three indicated no desire speak further. Gromyko then declared that matter could not be left here and could not regard discussion this point as closed, suggesting adjournment until tomorrow. All agreed and meeting adjourned about 5:00 p.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/5–1259. Official Use Only. Also sent to USUN and repeated to Bonn, London, Moscow, and Paris. The U.S. Delegation verbatim record of the session US/VR/2 (Corrected), and the summary of the verbatim record, US/VRS/2, May 12, are ibid., Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1345 and 1349.
  2. For text of Gromyko’s statement, circulated as RM/DOC/1, May 13, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 18–21.
  3. Dated May 12. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/5–1259) For text of Herter’s statement, which stated that the conference should be limited to the four powers at its outset, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 21–23.
  4. For text of Couve de Murville’s statement, circulated as RM/DOC/35, June 10, see ibid., pp. 23–27.
  5. For documentation on the Geneva Summit Conference, July 18–23, 1955, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. V, pp. 119 ff.
  6. For text of Lloyd’s statement, as taken from the U.S. Delegation verbatim record, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 27–28.
  7. For text of Gromyko’s statement, as taken from the U.S. Delegation record, see ibid., p. 28.