HC Deb 02 May 1927 vol 205 cc1271-4
44 and 58. Mr. DALTON

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether His Majesty's Government has made any representations to the Yugoslav Government to dissuade them from bringing the matters in dispute between themselves and Italy before the Council of the League of Nations; and, if so, when, and with what results;

(2) whether His Majesty's Government has addressed any communication to the Italian Government regarding the unwillingness of the latter to allow the Council of the League of Nations to intervene in the dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia?

56 and 61. Mr. PONSONBY

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether the good offices of His Majesty's Government have been sought in the dispute between the Italian Government and the Government of Yugoslavia; and whether he has any information to give to this House on the subject;

(2) whether the provisions of the Treaty of Tirana between Italy and Albania, or an outline of its provisions, were communicated to His Majesty's Government by any of the governments concerned before the signing of the treaty; and, if so, whether His Majesty's Government expressed any opinion about them?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government is still bound by the declaration which was signed at Paris on 9th November, 1921, by the British, French, Italian, and Japanese Governments, agreeing to entrust Italy with the duty of intervention in case the independence of Albania was threatened?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Government of Yugoslavia informed His Majesty's Government that it was willing to submit to the Council of the League the matters in dispute arising out of the Italian Government's allegation that Yugoslavia was taking measures which threatened the independence of Albania; and, if so, what advice, if any, was given by His Majesty's Government to the Government of Yugoslavia?


There are so many questions addressed to me, both to-day and on Wednesday, regarding Italo-Yugoslav relations on the subject of Albania, that I think it will be for the convenience of the House, if the House will allow me the time, that I should make a general statement covering all of them. This will include Numbers 44, 56, 58, 59, 61 and 62 on to-day's Paper. I hope hon. Members who have questions down for Wednesday will be good enough to look at them again, and see whether there is a necessity for any further reply.

The terms of the Treaty of Tirana, which was signed on the 27th November, were not communicated to me before it was published, but Signor Mussolini caused me to be informed on the 1st December, the day before publication, that he had signed a treaty of non-aggression and arbitration with Albania comprising a guarantee of her independence, which would be registered with the League of Nations in due course. To such a treaty I had naturally no criticsim to offer. The text of the treaty has now been published and registered with the League of Nations and is public property. The treaty was concluded between two sovereign States, both members of the League, and His Majesty's Government had nothing to do with its inception, its negotiation, or its terms.

The conclusion of the treaty caused considerable excitement in Yugo-Slavia, which had its reaction in Italy and produced a state of some tension between the two Governments. His Majesty's Government have no direct interest in the question, but they have done their best, being in friendly relations with both Governments, to allay suspicion and to facilitate direct conversations between the parties with a view to settling all outstanding difficulties.

We believe that it is by such direct conversations that a friendly settlement will be most easily reached, and I certainly should not advise in this or any other case that recourse should be had to League intervention before the parties have met and discussed their differences.

As a result of the communication made by the Italian Government to the British, French, German and as I have subsequently learned, to other Governments, on the 19th March, in which our attention was called to certain military preparations stated to be proceeding in Yugoslavia, it has been agreed among the Powers concerned that it is unnecessary, and would, indeed, be useless at this date, to conduct an inquiry into the past, but that, should fresh occasion arise while the conversations are in progress, representatives of Great Britain, France and Germany will be available to carry out an immediate inquiry.

I need not say that throughout I have acted in agreement with the French and German, as well as with the Italian and Serb-Croat-Slovene Governments, and my sole aim, which I am confident is recognised both by the Italian and Yugoslav Governments, has been to remove possible causes of friction and to permit of full and frank discussions between Rome and Belgrade. His Majesty's Government have no other interest in the question than the preservation of peace, and they have no intention of taking sides in the controversy.

I do not think that the publication of papers would add anything material to this full statement, and I fear that it might prejudice the success of conversations between the two Governments by reviving controversies which I hope are past.

Finally, as regards the Resolution of the Ambassadors' Conference of the 9th November, 1921, there seems to be some misunderstanding. The Resolution is binding on His Majesty's Government, but it does not affect the rights of Albania as a member of the League of Nations, and contains nothing inconsistent with the general obligations of the signatories as members of the Council. The signatory Powers merely undertook thereby that, in the event of the Council of the League having to intervene to restore the independence and integrity of Albania, their representatives on the Council would recommend that the Italian Government should be entrusted with the restoration of her independence. The contingency contemplated in the Resolution has not yet arisen, and I trust never will arise.


Are negotiations actually in progress between the Italian and Yugoslav Governments at the present moment?


The Yugoslav representative was received, I think by Signor Mussolini in Rome before the Easter Recess, and before an absence from Rome which Signor Mussolini then undertook. I am not sure whether conversations have resumed since.


We may take it that the right hon. Gentleman has no knowledge of any refusal by the Italian Government to discuss the question of the Treaty of Tirana with the Yugoslav Government?


I have given a very full answer, and I think no public interest would be served by my answering supplementary questions which require some consideration before reply.


May I ask whether, in view of the fact that the Treaty is practically a treaty of amalgamation between Italy and Albania—


I cannot allow such allegations to be put in the form of a supplementary question.


It is true, anyway.