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Historical documents

310 Burton to Kimber

Letter, CANBERRA, 5 September 1949

I refer by direction to circular telegram No. Q.9 concerning the Berlin dispute, addressed to you from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, a copy of which you were kind enough to forward to me on 29th August, 1949.

The original complaint lodged with the Secretary-General of the United Nations by the representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, related to the 'serious situation which has arisen as the result of the unilateral imposition by the Government of the U.S.S.R. of restrictions on transport and communications between the western zones of occupation in Germany and Berlin'.

Following unsuccessful efforts of the Security Council to resolve this issue, because of the Soviet veto, the four Governments themselves finally reached agreement through direct negotiations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was notified of this agreement in a letter dated 4th May, 1949, addressed to him by the Representatives at the United Nations of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This letter stated that the three Governments in question had concluded an agreement with the Government of the U.S.S.R. 'providing for the lifting of the restrictions which have been imposed on communications, transportation, and trade with Berlin'. This letter clearly indicates that the original complaint lodged with the Secretary-General had been satisfactorily settled, and it would only be logical in the light of this letter to have the matter withdrawn from the Security Council Agenda.

It is noted from the telegram under reference that the United Kingdom Government believes that it is the intention of the Soviet Union to oust the Western Allies from Berlin and that the way is always open to the Soviet Union to impose fresh restrictions on the three Governments in Berlin. The removal of the present item from the Agenda of the Security Council would in no way affect the right of the three powers to refer any fresh restriction to the United Nations for its consideration. It is the Australian view that the imposition of fresh restrictions would raise new questions which should form the subject of a separate complaint to the United Nations.

Furthermore it is the Australian view that the continued retention of this matter on the Security Council Agenda in no way affords any protection to the legitimate interests of the Western Powers in Berlin, but in fact constitutes an unnecessary irritant between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union, which must adversely affect the work of the United Nations. Its removal at this stage or just prior to the opening of the Fourth Annual Session of the Assembly would, it is believed, considerably improve the atmosphere in which the Assembly would meet. In point of fact, greater protection is afforded by this course as the matter can then be freely dealt with by the Assembly if the need should arise.

For these reasons I have been directed to state that the Australian Government considers that the United Kingdom Government should support the United States proposal to remove the item from the Council's Agenda.

I should be pleased if you would convey the above mentioned views to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations.[1]

[1] G. Kimber, Official Secretary, Office of UK High Commissioner in Australia, replied on 22 September 1949 that the UK government had considered the Australian views but had yet to reach a conclusion. It felt that withdrawing the item from the agenda would have an adverse effect on the morale of the residents of the western sectors of Berlin. With the removal of the capital from Berlin to Bonn, residents feared that the Western powers were losing interest and that Soviet activity would increase.

[AA : A1838, 854/10/21, I]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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