47. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 0

1197. First subject raised in my tour d’horizon with De Gaulle this morning was Algerian situation.

I told him that I had followed this situation closely and had discussed it with Joxe Tuesday. I explained that US is aware of France’s point of view and sympathetic to her endeavors to deal with this very complex problem and that we are aware of his desire to see Algeria become independent although linked to France.

De Gaulle then began familiar exposition of the necessity for France to rid itself of the heavy burden of Algeria. He added that it is no longer important to France whether the future Algeria is friendly toward her, and that France will let Algeria go regardless of the form and attitude of its Government. As in 1958 France had offered independence and the opportunity for continuing ties to her African colonies, she will now offer Algeria the same choice after forming a “national” Government and withdrawing the European population into enclaves such centers as Oran. Should chaos follow, that will be a problem for the Algerians with which GOF will not concern itself.

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I then asked whether he was not concerned about the Sahara in view of French investment and continued interest in its exploitation, since I could not see how a solution to the Sahara issue satisfactory to the GOF could be reconciled with his projected solution to the Algerian problem. De Gaulle replied that nobody had shown interest in the Sahara until the French developed its possibilities. Now he recognizes that it will in the nature of things ultimately be part of Algeria. He realizes, however, that Morocco and Tunisia want part of it—indeed principal motive of Tunisian precipitation of Bizerte crisis was to stake a claim in the Sahara that will later be expanded. Naturally he does not know the final outcome of the Saharan problem. Perhaps the riparian countries will solve it without fighting. As for France she will continue to hold on to the Sahara until the negative value of this position becomes overriding, that is when the cost of maintaining her position there surpasses the return she realizes from being there. There is an abundance of petroleum in the world, so it is not essential that France stay in the Sahara at great cost.

I should add early in the discussion I said to De Gaulle that in the past we had been approached by representatives of the FLN, that France has always been informed of these contacts, and that they may occur in the future. If this were to happen it might be possible for us to fill a helpful role and I wondered if he had any thought in this matter. He ignored the question, intentionally I believe, and his answer in terms of what was going to happen Algeria was also the answer to what role we might play vis-à-vis the FLN. I don’t think he cares particularly, perhaps he does not think that what we can do would be significant and, in any event, he is going to go ahead with his own solution.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751S.00/9-261. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution. Repeated to Algiers, USUN, and Tunis.