§ Mr. Bevin
I am indebted to the right hon. Member for giving me the opportunity of informing the House on the subject. The House will remember that the question of Persia was discussed at Potsdam, and that an arrangement was made for the immediate withdrawal of Allied forces from Tehran. The British withdrawal under this arrangement has now been almost completed, and M. Molotov has assured me that the decision regarding the withdrawal of troops from Tehran has been put into effect from the Soviet side. It was also agreed at Potsdam that the question of further stages in the withdrawal of Allied troops from Persia should be discussed at the first meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Since Potsdam, of course, the position has been changed by the ending of the Japanese war, which automatically brings into effect the provision of the Anglo-Soviet-Persian treaty that British and Soviet troops will complete their withdrawal from Persia within six months of the end of hostilities.
But since the question was on the agenda of the Council I thought it as well to make His Majesty's Government's views on the matter quite clear, and I 246W therefore wrote the following letter to M. Molotov:Since it was decided at Potsdam that the question of further stages in the withdrawal of Allied troops from Persia should be placed on the agenda of the Council of Foreign Ministers the situation has been changed by the ending of the Japanese war. Our two Governments will now be completing the withdrawal of their forces from Persia by 2nd March, 1946, six months after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and, as far as the end of our withdrawal is concerned, all that we need do is to ask the Council to take note of the 2nd March, 1946, as the date fixed.It seems to me, however, that since our respective forces in Persia have completed the war-time tasks for which they were sent to Persia, our Governments might well see if they could not do something to satisfy the Persian Government's natural desire to see as much of its territory as possible freed as soon as possible from the presence of foreign forces.I therefore propose to suggest, when the question comes up at the Council of Foreign Ministers, that our two Governments shall agree that by the middle of December, 1945, their respective forces shall be withdrawn from the whole of Persia except that British forces may remain until the 2nd March, 1946, in the sourthern oil area to the south of, and including, Andimishk, and that Soviet forces may remain until the 2nd March, 1946, in Azarbaijan. I should propose excepting from this arrangement the minimum administrative staffs necessary for disposing of military installations; these staffs could remain where there are such installations until they had arranged for their disposal; they would, of course, be withdrawn like our other forces by the 2nd March, 1946. I have thought it well to let you know in advance of my intention to put forward this proposal, when the matter comes up at the Council of Foreign Ministers.To this M. Molotov replied in the following letter:Thank you for informing me in your letter of 19th September of the British Government's attitude on the question of the withdrawal of British and Soviet troops from Iran. I must in turn inform you that the decision of the Berlin Three Power Conference regarding the withdrawal of troops from Teheran has already been put into effect from the Soviet side. As regards the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Iran, the Soviet Government, as you are aware, take the view that this withdrawal of troops should be effected within the period laid down in the Anglo-Soviet-Iranian Treaty. If necessary, the plan for the final withdrawal of Soviet and British troops from Iran could be discussed between us towards the end of the said period. The Soviet Government, accordingly, see no need for this question to be discussed in the Council of Foreign Ministers.As a result of this exchange of letters which underlined the intention of both British and Soviet Governments to stand by their treaty obligations to Persia, when 247W the question came up before the Council on 22nd September M. Molotov and I informed the Council that the exchange of letters had taken place. The Council took note of the fact that letters on this matter had been exchanged between us and agreed that in view of this there was no necessity for the question of the withdrawal of troops from Iran to be discussed, and that the item should therefore be removed from the Agenda of the Conference.
In a further letter I wrote to M. Molotov as follows:
I am glad that we have reached so cordial understanding on the question of the withdrawal of Allied troops from Persia, about which I wrote to you on September 19th and you replied on September 20th. I am sorry that, owing to a doubt in the translation, there was some misunderstanding about the intention of your letter. The difference in language certainly creates problems for us.*My colleagues were pleased to learn from me of the complete agreement between us as to the date by which Allied troops should be withdrawn, that is, by March 2nd, 1946, six months after the signing of the Japanese surrender on September 2nd, 1945. His Majesty's Government are issuing a direction to the British military authorities accordingly.M. Molotov then replied:I am glad that the letter which I sent you on 20th September has given you satisfaction. I would like to tell you once again that in the case of the Soviet Government the question of withdrawing troops from Iran did not in general constitute a special problem, inasmuch as there is a treaty which makes provision for it. I would ask you to bear in mind that the Soviet Government attach exceptional importance to the strict fulfilment of obligations undertaken.*There was a misunderstanding owing to the Russian text of M. Molotov's first letter being translated to read "on the expiry," whereas the correct translation was "towards the end.