165. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France0

387. Following guidance has been given by Department spokesman:

“It would be particularly regrettable if attempts were made to settle these differences by any means other than negotiation at this particularly important time in the evolution of French and North African affairs.”1

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For Tunis: You should inform Mokkadem we consider timing of Tunisian moves against Bizerte most unfortunate and destined to be disruptive of progress towards settlement of Algerian question, which to be taken up again at Evian tomorrow. They are also unfortunate in light of world situation generally, i.e., Berlin. Impact of dramatic and contrived Arab pressure against European presence Bizerte can scarcely be reassuring to French who are faced with problem of reassuring French public opinion about security of European minority Algeria.

For Paris: You should seek explanation from Foreign Office about reinforcements destined Bizerte, particularly in light of assurances (Paris Tel 207),2 that any such orders could emanate only from Paris.

You may say we have taken strong line Tunisians this matter, deploring their timing in the light of Algerian situation and world situation generally. You may say, however, that we believe Bourguiba’s performance undoubtedly caused in large measure by his very real difficulties with Algerians and that we would hope that nothing would be done by France which would complicate his ability to back down. We would welcome French views as to what moves France might envisage to facilitate this. Would further emphasis on willingness to negotiate once duress removed be helpful?

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 772.56351/7-1461. Secret. Drafted by McClintic, cleared by Valdes, and approved by Witman. Also sent to Tunis and repeated to Rabat, Algiers, and USUN.
  2. On July 17, President Bourguiba announced that the French naval base at Bizerte in Tunisia would be blockaded as of July 19 and that he would send Tunisian forces into the disputed territory. The French sent reinforcements to the base and fighting broke out between French and Tunisian forces on July 19.
  3. Dated July 19. (Ibid., 772.56351/7-1461)