172. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State 0

Secto 48. Eyes only for Acting Secretary. No progress whatever with De Gaulle on Bizerte. Subject brought up by me at end of hour’s conversation1 and it was quite clear he considers it a French affair, none of our business, and anything he consented to say was matter of information out of courtesy to a friend. To illustrate this point he said that if we were involved with Cuba or some such problem elsewhere he hoped we would provide him information. He promptly broke off conversation that point by wishing me good journey and expressed warm regard to President. On way out Couve tried to pick up pieces by suggesting he and I talk further before my departure.2 Gavin or I will do so just to find [Page 260] out whether anything constructive has been done on French side despite De Gaulle’s attitude. Nothing I have learned in Paris leads me to believe we are justified in giving any further encouragement to Tunisians about possibilities useful talks unless they can discover such possibilities through direct contacts with French. Reported here that Admiral Amman expected Paris tomorrow for consultations.

Will bring complete memcon back with me and will cable anything of interest Couve has to say tomorrow. Sorry mission aborted on this one but Bizerte is the least of our problems with France as we look into the months ahead.3

No distribution to field desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 772.56351/8-861. Secret.
  2. A memorandum of this conversation is ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.
  3. On August 7, Secretary Rusk told Couve de Murville that he was under instructions from President Kennedy to see President De Gaulle and emphasize the importance to the Western Alliance that Franco-Tunisian discussions on Bizerte replace U.N. General Assembly action. Rusk had said that an instruction to the French Consul General in Bizerte to begin talks was the minimum contribution that France ought now to make. Couve promised to discuss this matter with De Gaulle. Rusk asked the Department of State to pass his report of this conversation to the President, adding that they should not underestimate the “precariousness of De Gaulle’s position” (Secto 35, August 7; ibid., Central Files, 772.56351/8-761)
  4. On August 8, Ball told Stevenson that what had impressed the President the most in the Secretary’s report was the reference to the “precariousness of De Gaulle’s position” and that Kennedy was “very anxious not to be in a position of hurting De Gaulle.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation, August 8, 4:20 p.m.; Kennedy Library, Ball Papers, Telephone Conversations, Tunisia)