HC Deb 27 May 1935 vol 302 cc764-8

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the recent League Council resolutions regarding the dispute between Italy and Ethiopia?


My right hon. Friend has asked me to reply. Before the Council meeting His Majesty's Government were engaged in active discussions on this matter with the other Governments chiefly concerned, and during last week these discussions continued, both between the Governments and between their representatives at Geneva. In the early hours of the 25th May the League Council adopted two resolutions dealing with the halo-Ethiopian dispute, which were accepted by the representatives of the two parties. The texts of these resolutions will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They contain specific reference to Article 5 of the halo-Ethiopian Treaty of Friendship of 1928, the terms of which the President recalled to the Council. The English translation of the relevant portion of this article is as follows: The two Governments undertake to submit to a procedure of conciliation or of arbitration the questions which may arise between them, and which they may not be able to decide by the normal procedure of diplomacy, without having recourse to force of arms. The resolutions also define, within specific time limits, the application of the conciliation and arbitration procedure mentioned by the treaty. Resolution No. 1 records the agreement of both parties that this procedure must be completed by 25th August next. Resolution No. 2 confirms this understanding by declaring that, in the event of the four arbitrators forming the Conciliation Commission being unable by 25th July either to agree on the appointment of the fifth arbitrator or upon an extension of time in which to continue negotiations on this point, the Council shall meet. In any event the Council will meet on 25th August if by that date the dispute has not been settled by conciliation and arbitration. It will therefore be clear that the Council will remain in close contact with the situation, and will meet again to deal with the matter should circumstances render this necessary.

The proceedings before the Council indicated that the liberty of the arbitrators would not be limited. They may consider all the circumstances bearing upon the differences between the two parties. It is understood that the actual delimitation of the frontier on the ground will not be part of the arbitrators' duties. This task, which will no doubt take time, will be carried out in due course by a special Italo-Ethiopian boundary commission. It is, however, satisfactory that both parties have renewed their assurances to proceed to an agreed demarcation of the frontier as soon as their present differences have been peacefully settled. Without suggesting that the Council's resolutions finally dispose of the tension which has unfortunately arisen between Italy and Ethiopia as a result of the Walwal and other incidents, I am confident that they represent an important advance towards a friendly solution. Both parties have accepted the co-operation of the League in seeking a settlement. By so doing the Governments concerned have made a contribution which it is earnestly hoped will lead to the early restoration of mutually satisfactory relations between them. But for the spirit of conciliation displayed by the Italian Government and its representative at Geneva (Baron Aloisi), together with the invaluable co-operation of the French Foreign Minister (Monsieur Laval), the progress which we are now able to record could not have been realised.


It would not be proper for me to try to attempt to discuss the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I hope that I may be allowed, I think in the name of the whole House, to congratulate the League Council, and certainly our representative, the Lord Privy Seal, upon the results of the conferences and negotiations, and to say also that everyone in the House will hope that this is the first and most important step towards an equitable and permanent settlement of the dispute which has arisen.

Following are the texts of the two resolutions adopted by the Council:.

Resolution No. 1.—(1) Whereas at the meeting of the Council in January, 1935, the Italian Government and the Ethiopian Government agreed to settle the dispute which has arisen between them as the result of the incident at Walwal on 5th December, 1934, in conformity with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 2nd August, 1928.

(2) Whereas direct negotiations through diplomatic channels having been exhausted, the two parties have nominated their arbitrators as provided for in Article 5 in the above-mentioned treaty;

(3) Whereas since 5th December, 1934, other incidents have taken place on the Italo-Ethiopian frontier and the two Governments are in agreement in entrusting the settlement of these incidents to the same arbitrators in accordance with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty;

(4) Whereas the Italian Government in view of the request which has been made to it, makes no objection regarding the nationality of the arbitrators nominated by the Ethiopian Government;

(5) Whereas the two Governments agree to fix 25th August next as the date on which the procedure of conciliation and arbitration shall be concluded;

The Council;

Requests the Secretary General of the League of Nations to communicate in the meantime to the members of the Council all information which may reach him from the two parties in particular regarding the development of the arbitrators' work.

Resolution No. 2.

The Council;

Leaving to the two parties full liberty to settle the dispute in question in accordance with Article 5 of the Italo-Ethiopian treaty of 2nd August, 1928;

Decides to meet if, in default of agreement between the four arbitrators for the settlement of the dispute, an understanding shall not have been reached by 25th July between these arbitrators as to the selection of the fifth arbitrator (unless the four arbitrators agree to the extension of this period); the Council also decides to meet to examine the situation if on 25th August a settlement by means of conciliation and arbitration should not have taken place.

Lieut.-Colonel CHARLES KERR

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make with regard to the situation on the frontier between Abyssinia and the territory under British control?


I presume that my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind a series of statements recently published in Rome according to which His Majesty's Government have been concentrating troops on both the White and Blue Niles and the Sobat and near Lake Rudolph; have enrolled African natives; have built strategic railways towards the Abyssinian frontier; have constructed camouflaged landing grounds under the guise of playing fields; and have concentrated aeroplanes at various frontier centres and especially at Khartoum. I am glad to have the opportunity of stating publicly that the whole of these statements are destitute of any foundation whatever. I may add that the Abyssinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs has informed Press correspondents that the Abyssinian Government place no credence in such reports.