No. 63 NAI DFA 226/31
Geneva, 27 October 1939
I have received your telegram as follows (27/10/39):-
'23 Your telegram 19 Please report by wire what Assembly agenda is likely to be. In our view it should be confined to administrative and routine work necessary to keep League in being. Political initiatives would be embarrassing to us and probably other neutrals as well. Can you say what views Scandinavian and other neutrals are taking re holding of Assembly session.'
In reply I sent the following telegram (27/10/39):-
'20 Your telegram 23 Agenda, Budget, Report of Committee on Economic, Social, Affairs, Council elections, Court elections, Technical Cooperation with China. Court elections probably postponed. There will be probably no general debate. Your view as expressed fully shared by Secretariat and by all members neutral and belligerent with which Secretariat is in touch. All energies being directed to avoid political initiatives and Secretariat confident this is general desire and that it will be attained. League acting as neutral organisation in all its activities. Scandinavian and neutrals generally in favour of session. Mr. Colijn1 mentioned as possible President.'
On receipt of your wire, I saw Mr. Lester and discussed the matter with him. He confirmed what was the general understanding here, that the session of the Assembly in December would be confined to administrative and routine matters, that is, to non-political matters, and that in fact the agenda, even as regards these questions, would be restricted to a very few items. I indicated the principal items in my minute of the 11th October,2 but that has not yet reached you. Mr. Lester assured me that he is satisfied from all the contacts which he and the Secretary-General have been making that it is the general desire that no political matter should be raised at the Assembly. Everybody desires that the League machinery should be kept going on technical work and studies during the period of the war, although it is realised that some different sort of institution may be established at the end of the war.
From my discussions with Mr. Lester and with some of my colleagues here, it is clear that many Governments are anxious that nothing should arise at the Assembly which would be of embarrassment to neutral countries, and especially to the Swiss Government, and that therefore everything possible should be done in order to avoid any political initiatives. I learn from a colleague that the Swiss Government were particularly anxious that no political issues should be raised. It is therefore altogether in the interest of the League that there should be no trouble. I am told that the British and French are in complete agreement with this and are doing all they can to co-operate, and their attitude is expected to be effective if, for example, Poland desires to raise the Polish question. No one here thinks it at all likely that the representative of Poland – if indeed Poland sends a delegation, which is, I understand, doubtful – would be prepared to act against the advice of the British and French Governments in this matter. Any attempted intervention would be wholly ineffective, and there is the further consideration that it would be regarded as nothing but ironical that Poland should now seek the aid of the League, after, when it was the case of other aggressed States, declaring openly that she would in future take no part in political discussions in the Council or the Assembly, and refusing only last year to pose her candidature for the Council on the same grounds. She further withdrew her permanent delegation from Geneva because she had decided to confine her League activities to purely technical questions. And I need hardly recall also, in this connection, Poland's own settlement of the Teschen question by force and her appeal, by force, to a peaceful settlement of certain difficulties with Lithuania. For these reasons, but especially because of the attitude of the British and French Governments, it is regarded here as extremely unlikely that, if Poland sends a delegation, her representative will endeavour to raise in the Assembly any political issue. This is the opinion here notwithstanding the communications from the Polish Government on the subject of the partition of Poland (document C.349.M.264.1939.VII). No action by the League is requested in these communications.
There is one point about Poland to which I should draw attention, namely, the question of the recognition of the credentials of a Polish delegation. I have discussed this point with Mr. Lester, and with a colleague to whom it had also occurred, and who had mentioned it to the Secretary-General. The view taken, which I share, is that it is highly improbable that anyone, even Russia, will raise objection. The Polish Government is still recognised by other Governments, and is in a totally different position from that of, for example, Czecho-Slovakia, whose Government – including M. Beneš – had resigned and had not been constitutionally replaced. If it happened that the Czechs desired representation at the Assembly, it is fairly certain that they could not and would not be accepted. But it is thought that they have no such intention, and I understand that the influence of Britain and France would be thrown against any such idea. I presume that in the unlikely event of any serious question arising regarding Polish credentials, the Irish Delegation should support the maintenance of the status quo which I feel satisfied would be the wish of the majority even from the point of view of neutrality. It is hardly conceivable however that the question would be brought to a vote of the Assembly. The rule (Par.4, Rule 5, Rules of Procedure of the Assembly) is as follows:-
'Any representatives to whose admission objection has been made shall sit provisionally with the same rights as other representatives, unless the Assembly decides otherwise'.
The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.
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