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

2566. Tunis tel 608 info Paris 284.1Dept concerned by Emb Tunis reports Bourguiba’s growing impatience and frustration with absence indication French readiness negotiate calendar Bizerte evacuation. We recall this was Bourguiba’s main preoccupation when Williams saw him Oct 17 (Tunis tel 262).2 His concern even then appeared tantamount to obsession; he seemed very depressed. Internal political pressures on Bourguiba could force him on irrational course, damaging to Western interests, to recoup prestige or again draw world attention to Bizerte. GOF should be apprised our concern and effort should be made ascertain what steps, if any, GOF contemplates taking to break present impasse.

Embassy Paris should at appropriate level Quai:

Emphasize Bourguiba’s concern as revealed to us, explaining he appears to feel essential begin negotiations based on principle eventual evacuation;
We remain keenly interested in evolution of problem and have been gratified at progress made toward normalizing Franco-Tunisian relations in certain spheres. We particularly pleased at foresighted GOF decision resume technical and educational assistance.
In spite these encouraging developments Bizerte problem itself remains unresolved and no major break appears imminent. In our view internal political pressures generated by festering dispute could have serious effects on stability and attitudes Bourguiba regime and ultimately on entire North African region in which West has such deep interest. We would be interested GOF’s views on direction it believes evolution Bizerte problem will take.

We would hope at this time when world attention is focused away from Bizerte and when Tunisian political and propaganda pressures for [Page 271] resolution problem their terms are at minimum that GOF could make gesture opening way to rapid liquidation of dispute.3

For Tunis. You may inform Fon Off, on receipt info Paris has taken action, that we have again expressed our interest to French in seeing early settlement problem.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 772.56351/10-2861. Confidential. Drafted by Stackhouse, cleared by Imhof, and approved by Witman. Repeated to Tunis.
  2. In telegram 608 from Tunis, October 28, Walmsley reported that Bourguiba was “in great agitation” in reaction to the latest French note which restricted negotiation to the status of the base during the current period of international tensions and was totally silent on a date for evacuation. He noted that Bourguiba could “no longer, in his own judgment, talk about any interim measures with the French without a prior indication by French of a ‘date’,” adding that he needed this “to vindicate decisions and tragedy of summer of 1961.” (Ibid.)
  3. Reference is presumably to telegram 563 from Tunis, October 17, in which Walmsley reported that during his meeting with Williams, Bourguiba had expressed his concern that no progress was being made toward negotiation of a calendar for evacuation of Bizerte. (Ibid., 772.56351/10-1761)
  4. On November 7, Gavin reported that an Embassy officer discussed Bourguiba’s insistence on the importance of fixing an evacuation timetable with an official from the Morocco-Tunisia section of the French Foreign Ministry, who had said that France was not yet ready to fix a calendar for evacuation with Tunisia. He had pointed out that the French Government also had political problems and said that if the Tunisians would show patience and willingness to start discussing matters without threats, ultimately the matter of Bizerte would be settled to their satisfaction. (Telegram 2469 from Paris, November 7; ibid., 772.56351/11-761)