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317 Cabinet Submission by Mr W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs

15 November 1938


1. It will be recalled that a memorandum dated 25th October [1],
was submitted to Cabinet concerning the proposed implementation of
the Anglo-Italian Agreement by the United Kingdom Government. It
was pointed out in the memorandum that the implementation of the
Agreement would involve the de jure recognition by the United
Kingdom of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia, and that,
presumably, it would then be necessary for the Commonwealth
Government to indicate its own attitude in regard to de jure
recognition. Annex 'B' [2] to the memorandum (copy of which is
attached) dealt with the question whether on constitutional
grounds the Commonwealth Government should take separate action
from the United Kingdom Government in according de jure

2. On 26th October, the Prime Minister despatched the following
telegram to the United Kingdom Government:-

'Commonwealth Government strongly of opinion that, is a
contribution to peace, Anglo-Italian agreement should be brought
into operation forthwith and de jure recognition accorded to
Italian Empire in Abyssinia. Italian withdrawal of 10,000 troops
from Spain seems a real contribution and in present condition of
world, a peaceful and friendly Mediterranean is in our opinion
essential. To refuse de jure recognition seems to us to ignore the
facts and to risk danger for a matter which is now immaterial.'

A reply dated 27th October, was received from the British Prime
Minister in the following terms:-

'I am very grateful for your message. You will have seen from
telegram Circular B.396 of October 26th [4] that the United
Kingdom Government are entirely in accord with the views of the
Commonwealth Government and that we have decided to take immediate
steps with a view to bringing the agreement into force. The
question will be brought before Parliament when it reassembles.


3. A motion welcoming the intention of the United Kingdom
Government to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into force was
agreed to by the British Parliament on 4th November.

4. The following telegram has now been received from the United
Kingdom Government:-

'My Circular B.399 of 26th Octobers: It has now been arranged that
His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome will at 11 a.m. on the 16th
November communicate to Count Ciano [7] new letters of credence
accrediting him to the King of Italy, Emperor of Ethiopia. A
declaration recording the entry into force of the Anglo-Italian
Agreement of 16th April last will be signed by Lord Perth and
Count Ciano the same cvcning.' [8]

5. So far as it is known the attitude of the other parts of the
British Commonwealth of Nations to de jure recognition of the
Italian conquest may be summarised as follows:-

Eire: On 14th December, 1937, the Prime Minister, Mr de Valera,
announced that it was intended to appoint a Minister to Italy who
would have his credentials addressed to the 'King of Italy and
Emperor of Ethiopia.' When asked whether the use of this title
involved the recognition of the annexation of Abyssinia, Mr de
Valera said, 'No. It simply recognises the name taken by the
Sovereign by which he is to be recognised according to the general
courtesy and comity of nations.' Subsequently Mr de Valera said,
'Whatever may be the decision in regard to the de facto side of
the question, there is no question here of a de jure recognition.'
South Africa: A press report of the 11th November, stated that the
South African Minister to Rome, Dr G. M. A. Heymans, had informed
the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, that the Union of South
Africa was now recognising the Italian conquest of Abyssinia.

New Zealand: No definite information has been received as to the
present attitude of the New Zealand Government to de jure
recognition, but it would appear from the strong attitude taken up
by the New Zealand delegate at the sittings of the-League Council
last May that New Zealand will not be prepared for the time being
to accord de jure recognition.

6. As appears from copy of Annex 'B' (which is attached), when the
question of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia was considered by
the League Council in May, no formal resolution was adopted but,
after lengthy discussion, the President of the Council [9]
observed that a large majority of the Members of the Council were
clearly in favour of each individual State deciding for itself in
the light of its own situation the question of recognition of the
Italian conquest of Abyssinia.

7. If it is considered that the Commonwealth Government should
take positive steps to accord de jure recognition, the subjoined
draft telegram for despatch to the Secretary of State for the
Dominions requesting that separate action be taken on behalf of
the Commonwealth Government to accord de jure recognition is
submitted for consideration:

'Reference your telegram No. 109. [10] His Majesty's Government in
the Commonwealth of Australia desires that instructions be issued
to the British Ambassador at Rome requesting him to inform the
Italian Government that His Majesty's Government in the
Commonwealth of Australia accords de jure recognition of the
incorporation of Abyssinia into the Royal Italian Empire.' [11]


1 Document 306.

2 Document 306, attachment I.

3 Document 307.

4 Not printed.

5 Document 308.

6 Not printed.

7 Italian Foreign Minister.

8 Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to Commonwealth
Government, cablegram B408, 12 November 1938 (see AA : A981, Italy
30, ii).

9 Vilhelms Munters, Latvian Minister for Foreign Affairs 1936-40.

10 Document NS.

11 The submission was minuted 'Approved. J. A. Lyons. 15.11.38'.

The telegram cited in the last paragraph was sent to the Dominions
Secretary as No. 122 of 16 November. The Australian decision was
conveyed in the letter from the British Ambassador in Rome, Lord
Perth, to the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Ciano,
on 23 November. The letter was acknowledged on 27 November by
Count Ciano, who asked that the Fascist Government's appreciation
be conveyed to the Australian Government (See AA : A981, Abyssinia
20). See also Document 330.

[AA : A981, ABYSSINIA 20]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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