35. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Call by Ambassador Alphand—January 3, 1961


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. J.V. Imhof, WE
  • Ambassador Alphand, French Embassy
  • M. Claude Lebel, Minister, French Embassy

[Here follows discussion of other matters.]

Algeria. The Secretary asked whether Ambassador Alphand had any recent information as to how the Algerian problem was developing. Ambassador Alphand said that in his talks with Prime Minister Debre and Minister Joxe both had been much more optimistic than on past occasions and had expressed the view that they felt reasonably certain for the first time that the other side really wanted to reach an agreement. He said he understood that in preliminary negotiations agreement had been reached on a number of crucial problems such as the Sahara, the stationing of French troops, the maintenance of bases and of communications with Black Africa and the rights of the European minority although this latter point still presented certain difficulties. He said he considered it likely that formal negotiations would begin within the next few weeks. He warned however that difficulties could appear at the last moment. With Arabs, one could never be certain whether agreements that had been reached would not again become negotiable. Also, the Egyptians and the Soviets were exercising pressure on the GPRA against a negotiated settlement. Lastly, there was the threat from the OAS. In the Metropole, the OAS has been noisy but without any real influence. The vast majority of the people in metropolitan France would welcome a negotiated settlement of the Algerian conflict. In Algeria, however, the OAS was influential and could cause trouble. Ambassador Alphand was confident [Page 45] however that the Government would be able to deal with these troubles.

Ambassador Alphand said that in view of the fact that the outlook was favorable and that a negotiated settlement appeared to be at hand it was important to do nothing that might disturb this situation. He referred to the understanding which he had had for several years that FLN leaders would not be received in the Department.1 He said that a meeting with FLN leaders in the Department at this time (he cited as an illustration a meeting between Governor Williams and Chanderli) would have a disturbing influence on the negotiations. He said that General De Gaulle has also expressed concern about this.

The Secretary said that we did not intend to do anything that might upset negotiations. Our vote in the UN on the Algerian issue had been determined by this consideration.2 However, it was neither in the interest of France nor of the West that the Soviets would meanwhile strengthen their contacts and their influence with the GPRA. Ambassador Alphand said that the Soviets had not recognized the GPRA. He said he knew that we were concerned about Soviet influence on the GPRA but was convinced that a balancing act on our part would do no good. It would be far better to wait until negotiations had led to the establishment of a Provisional Algerian Government. For the moment it was of the utmost importance not to do anything that might hinder negotiations and premature official contacts between U.S. officials and GPRA leaders could have an unsettling influence. The Secretary said that he would discuss this matter with his colleagues.

French-Arab relations. The Secretary said the constructive Algerian settlement would improve French relations with the Arab world. He also remarked on the current happy state of relations between France and Morocco. Ambassador Alphand said that there was a curious seesaw relationship in North Africa: when French-Tunisian relations were bad, French-Moroccan relations improved and vice versa. He agreed that an Algerian settlement would have a salutary effect on French-Arab relations but said that Egypt was an exception. He said the French had disturbing reports from Egypt on the treatment inflicted upon the arrested French officials who had been subjected to all kinds of torture.

[Here follows discussion of another subject.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51/1-362. Secret. Drafted by Imhof (WE) and approved in S on January 9. Ambassador Herve Alphand had requested an appointment with Secretary of State Christian A. Herter to discuss the general situation.
  2. For previous documentation on this issue, see Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. XIII, pp. 629630, 651, 691692, and 718719.
  3. Reference is to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 1573 (XV), adopted December 19, 1960, with the United States abstaining. For text of the resolution, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1960, pp. 520-521. For a record of the U.N. proceedings, see U.N. Doc. A/PV.956.