298. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • Mr. Soldatov
    • Ambassador Thompson
  • U.S.S.R.
    • Mr. Merchant
    • unknown Russian


  • Seating of Iron Curtain Country Delegations

Mr. Soldatov said that Mr. Gromyko wished to avoid any procedural wrangle in today’s meeting and, therefore, wished to reach an understanding on what would happen at the meeting today. Yesterday Mr. Gromyko had made a brief reply to the remarks of the Western Ministers on the question of Polish and Czech participation but these were preliminary remarks and he wished to make a considered reply at the meeting today.

Mr. Merchant said that Mr. Herter had a general statement he wished to make but he would open the meeting by asking if any other Minister wished to speak and would, of course, recognize Mr. Gromyko if he so desired. Mr. Soldatov then remarked that Mr. Gromyko should be inscribed on the list of speakers.

[Page 695]

Mr. Soldatov then said he wished to discuss the question of Polish and Czech participation. We had mentioned that this matter could be taken up later but it was not clear what we meant by the word later. Was it one or two days?

Mr. Merchant said that our position was that this would depend upon developments at the Conference. Our position was that we wished a serious discussion which we thought could best be handled by a meeting of the four powers. We would put forward proposals which included questions in which other powers did not have responsibilities. If the discussion went well, it was conceivable that in 10 days or two weeks it might be appropriate for Mr. Gromyko to raise the matter again. If, for example, we had reached agreement on reunification of Germany and the formation of an all-German Government, it might be appropriate to enlarge the Conference considerably.

Mr. Soldatov said we had mentioned the possibility of adding other countries but a number of countries had been named and he wondered if we had any specific thought in mind. Ambassador Thompson pointed out the difficulty of shutting the door once it had been opened at all as had been pointed out by Mr. Selwyn Lloyd yesterday. Mr. Merchant indicated that we had no specific suggestions to put forward at this time.

Mr. Soldatov then raised the question of the seating of the German Delegations and said that while they did not wish to raise it to the level of Ministers, Mr. Gromyko had asked them to take up the question. They had been annoyed at the way the Secretariat had handled this problem. There had been agreement between the Ministers that the Germans would have ten chairs at the table but the Secretariat had placed only six. Mr. Merchant pointed out that he had been present1 but there had been no agreement on the number of chairs for the German Delegations. Mr. Soldatov said Mr. Gromyko was very emphatic that there had been such an agreement. Mr. Merchant mentioned there had been some discussion of passes and Mr. Soldatov said that this had been satisfactorily agreed. Mr. Merchant said there appeared to be a misunderstanding, which should be cleared up, and he undertook to consult Mr. Herter about the matter. Ambassador Thompson pointed out that neither the British nor French Delegations had understood that any agreement had been reached by the Ministers on the number of German chairs. Mr. Merchant made clear that in attempting to resolve the misunderstanding, [Page 696] he did not mean to indicate that more chairs could be added. He said he thought the Soviets had come out very well on this matter as he had been reading the Soviet press of yesterday. Mr. Soldatov said he had not read these accounts. The matter was left that Mr. Merchant would consult Mr. Herter and then speak to Mr. Soldatov privately.2

After speaking to the Secretary, Mr. Merchant tried unsuccessfully to call Mr. Soldatov before lunch and finally reached him at 2:45 p.m. Mr. Merchant said that further to the discussion this morning he had spoken to the Secretary as he had said he would. Mr. Merchant said that Mr. Herter’s recollection was clear that there had been no agreement nor even discussion on the question of number of chairs for the German advisers during the course of the meeting at Mr. Lloyd’s house Monday. He said that the Secretary would not consider changing the existing arrangements and hoped that Mr. Gromyko would not feel it necessary to raise this matter. He concluded by saying that he had also spoken to a member of the British Delegation who was present at the meeting in question and that his recollection was identical with ours.

Mr. Soldatov replied coldly that he would report this to Mr. Gromyko and the conversation closed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1338. Confidential. Drafted by Merchant and Thompson.
  2. Presumably this was the meeting described by Herter in his message to the President on May 11, (see Document 292), but no record has been found concerning the number of chairs to be placed at the table.
  3. At the Western Deputies coordinating meeting held at 10:30 a.m. Rumbold reported that a similar approach had been made to him by Malik at 10 that morning. (Memorandum of conversation, US/MC/9; Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1338)