46. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of European Affairs0


The Lugrin talks between the Algerian rebels (PAG) and the French were broken off, at PAG request, on July 27.1 The PAG announced that this was not a rupture but a suspension, that they hoped negotiations would be resumed, and that they were leaving contacts in Switzerland to facilitate resumption. They insist that the suspension resulted entirely from the French refusal to concede Algerian sovereignty over the two Saharan departments. They cannot, they maintain, negotiate a settlement on only one fifth of their territory.

The French also have expressed a desire the talks be resumed. They have maintained that the Sahara was only a pretext on the part of the PAG. They have offered numerous other explanations for the breakoff—inability of the PAG to negotiate with the French during the Bizerte crisis, dissension within the PAG and loss of influence by the moderates, the technical inability of the PAG delegation to negotiate, etc.

We believe that the PAG meant what they said, and that the question of sovereignty over the Sahara did in fact cause the suspension of the talks. They are simply not prepared to negotiate the future of Algeria [Page 63] until the Algeria under discussion is defined. The Bizerte crisis did provide an awkward accompaniment to the talks, but the PAG nevertheless felt itself able to begin the second series of talks in the midst of the fighting at Bizerte. There are clearly various tendencies within the PAG, and this might affect the bargaining position the PAG delegation might take on any given issue, but there is no indication that any group opposing negotiations per se has achieved a position of decisive influence within the PAG. As for the negotiating ability of the PAG delegation, this has not yet been tested, since the negotiations did not progress as far as a discussion of technical details.

With the suspension of the talks, what happens now? De Gaulle has made clear his determination to liquidate the Algerian problem by the end of the year. He has conceived of two ways of doing this—by negotiation with the PAG to arrive at an agreed solution of an independent Algeria associated with France, or by regroupment of the Algerian populations.

There is speculation that De Gaulle will now proceed with regroupment. This, as De Gaulle would seem to envisage, involves bringing all Europeans and those Moslems who wish to remain with France together in enclaves, which have not been delineated but will apparently consist of the areas around Oran and Algiers. The east of Algeria and at least some portions of the center and west would then be abandoned to the PAG. Once the enclaves were established, De Gaulle would propose to organize the emigration, to France, of those who wished, and would then attempt to negotiate some sort of arrangement between the two Algerias.

The French have made clear that this solution would be undertaken only as a last resort. They realize that it would not end the war, in that the PAG would continue fighting until it obtained all of Algeria. They probably also realize that the French negotiating position in attempting to bring the two resulting Algerias together would almost inevitably be worse than their present negotiating position. Most importantly, to attempt regroupment would be extremely risky for De Gaulle. He has considered himself to be limited in the manner in which he could negotiate with the PAG by the danger of an army-led coup. This danger would increase enormously with an attempt at regroupment, for it is difficult to see how the army would view such an attempt as anything but sheer abandonment.

We believe, therefore, that De Gaulle will make further attempts to negotiate an agreement. To be successful, this will involve a French concession on Saharan sovereignty (in return for which the PAG can be expected to make economic concessions concerning the Sahara, and it is here, rather than with sovereignty, that France’s interests are really involved). This concession could best be made by indicating a change in position to the PAG through the Swiss intermediaries with whom the [Page 64] PAG is still in contact. This, however, would not correspond to De Gaulle’s manner of operation. He would be more apt to make a unilateral concession on the Sahara, possibly as a passing reference in some speech delivered in a provincial town during one of his tours. This procedure has in the past resulted in a number of concessions that went beyond what would otherwise have been necessary, and it has led to a gradual erosion of the French position, but De Gaulle is not apt to change his style of operation.

On August 1 Minister for Algerian Affairs Joxe stated in a radio address that, with regard to the Sahara, “in France’s view the problem of sovereignty is not the essential thing.” This statement would seem to be a preliminary to a De Gaulle concession of Algerian sovereignty.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/8-561. Confidential. Sent to the White House under cover of a brief memorandum from Battle (S/S) to Bundy (NSC) indicating that the paper had been written in response to an oral request from the National Security Council. A copy of this memorandum is in Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Algeria.
  2. Talks between French representatives and the PAG were held at Evian-les-Bains May 20-June 13, and at the Chateau of Lugrin July 20-27.