51 Bruce to Curtin

Cablegram 26A LONDON, 17 February 1944, 5.55 p.m.

IMMEDIATE MOST SECRET PERSONAL

For the Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin.

Post War Civil Aviation A most extraordinary and embarrassing situation has developed owing to the Americans, after, as you have been advised [1], showing the greatest reluctance to start the unofficial conversations with Beaverbrook which were contemplated to follow the Empire discussions in October last, having suddenly approached the United Kingdom and Canada with suggestion that tripartite discussions should start in the near future.

The inclusion of Canada in the invitation was quite unexpected here and has caused a considerable flutter. Unfortunately Canada without consulting the United Kingdom or any of the other parties to the October informal Empire conversations, promptly accepted and have already sent to the Americans a statement of their views as a basis for discussion.

In presenting this statement, I understand the Canadian Embassy in Washington enquired whether the United States Government would be in a position to furnish a similar statement setting out their views in the near future and in any event in advance of the contemplated meeting.

Informal private discussions between the United Kingdom and America are one thing but a Tripartite Conference to which a certain measure of publicity would attach-I understand that the State Department in Washington have already informed Press correspondents that exploratory talks about Civil Aviation with the United Kingdom and Canada are in contemplation-is quite another matter.

The situation I gather is further complicated by the fact that the President who apparently was not in on the first decision has now made it clear that he thinks the Russians should have an opportunity of taking part in the talks.

I understand the Dominions Office are cabling you today with regard to this matter [2] and until you receive their telegram I would ask you to treat the above information as most confidential.

BRUCE

1 See circular cablegrams D88 and D89 of 18 January, on file AA:

A989, 43/735/832/1, i.

2 Document 51.

[AA:A989, 44/735/832/8]