13. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State’s Special Assistant (Villard) to the Under Secretary of State (Herter)1


  • Palestine Refugee Problem

I called on Secretary-General Hammarskjold in New York on March 3 to discuss the present status of the Palestine refugee problem. Mr. Hammarskjold invited Sir Humphrey Trevelyan, UN Deputy Under Secretary, who is working on the Middle East development plans, to participate in this discussion. On March 4 I had separate talks with Trevelyan and with Mr. de Kemoularia, the Secretary-General’s representative, who recently returned from a European tour to raise funds for UNRWA. I called on Mr. Hammarskjold again at his request on March 5 for another look at the refugee question.

The results of these conversations are embodied in USUN telegrams numbers 967 (Tab A), 969 (Tab B), and 970 (Tab C),2 attached for your convenience.

At the March 5 meeting I summarized the Department’s current thinking in regard to the refugees as follows:

Recent developments in the Middle East, particularly the new alignments among the Arab nations, have made it inadvisable to inject the refugee problem as such into the situation now or at any time in the immediate future.
We appreciate the long-range possibilities of contributing indirectly to a solution of the refugee problem through improved economic conditions in the countries concerned, and will be interested in examining the plans for the proposed Middle East development fund when they are ready.
It is necessary to start some thinking soon in regard to the expiration date of UNRWA in 1960. We believe the most constructive action we can take on the refugees at present is to study the problem of what is to happen after UNRWA’s termination, and especially what is to take place when the subject is raised for debate in the forthcoming 1958 General Assembly.

Mr. Hammarskjold expressed complete agreement with these views, which he termed the only practical and realistic approach. He had no other course of action to propose, although he recognized the pressure which existed for progress toward a solution. He stressed particularly his feeling that no mention should be made of the refugees in connection with the Middle East development fund, as this would be the surest way of killing any hope for a refugee settlement.

I gained the impression that both Hammarskjold and Trevelyan were intent on proceeding full steam ahead on blueprints for the development fund and that they were resolutely optimistic it would receive support from both the Egyptians and the Iraqis. In any case, we may expect Trevelyan to make a persuasive presentation when he comes here to discuss the scheme. The Department will then have an opportunity to make the observations or suggestions which Trevelyan expects and which might have an influence on the course of his current thinking.

Mr. Hammarskjold asked that we keep in close touch with him in respect to the refugee problem. He suggested that I return to New York for further talk after his own trip to the area in the next few weeks.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 320.511/3–658. Secret. Drafted by Villard and initialed by Herter.
  2. No tabs are attached to the source text; copies of telegrams 967 and 969 are ibid., 320.511/3–558; telegram 970 is ibid., 684A.85322/3–558.