87 Glasheen to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 22, SALONIKA[1], 21 February 1948, 2.15 p.m.


Observation Groups.

Telegram 13[2] already reported apprehensions felt by certain delegations at evolution of Observer Groups.

2. Groups were set up at the outset of Committee's work as a result of strong United States lead when most delegates either had merely general instructions or were without instructions and were not very familiar with problems to be tackled. Resolution of November 27th (Committee document 5) establishing groups was itself hurriedly drafted and appears to have the effect of making the establishment of groups even on this side of the frontier conditional on the co-operation of northern neighbours. If that is so, groups have not been legally constituted. Would appreciate your views on this point.

3. Since then these Frankenstein offspring functioning with typical American drive have tended to reach beyond control of Sub-Committee [1][3], to which they are immediately responsible. Recent example was 'intelligence' briefing at which the groups w[ere] instructed to transmit in addition to reports to the special committee, private and confidential reports on guerrilla movements. Fortunately these instructions were brought to the attention of some delegates and were immediately cancelled. Another group having got wind of Albania complaints decided on their own initiative to examine them without instructions from the Committee.

4. At present there are five groups in the field consisting predominantly of United States, United Kingdom and French elements. In addition to field personnel of over forty there is an elaborate headquarters executive staff. China has sent one observer but Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands and Pakistan in addition to Australia are not represented. Some Mexican observers are in [Salonika], but the Mexican delegate has refused to allow them to take the field as they are not insured by the Mexican Government and special committee budget does not allow their insurance by [the United Nations].

5. Since 2nd interim report from the Special Committee, observer group reports have been received some of which incorporate evidence based on leading questions and all of which contain conclusions not substantiated by evidence attached. When these are sent before the Committee, Australia will move their suppression.

6. On the credit side is the contact made last week by Alexandroupolis group with the Bulgarian Frontier authorities, who, however declined to discuss certain frontier incidents until they had received instructions and suggested meeting this week 'to present Bulgarian case'.

This group which luckily includes Chinese observer and Swiss secretary has been directed to preserve complete impartiality and conciliatory attitude in following up opening.

7. Latest development has been snap decision by Special Committee 'to appoint ad hoc committee to examine Salonika shelling incident'. Letter from Greek Liaison had described this incident as 'close link to aid given to bandits by Northern neighbours' without evidence in support of allegation. [Netherlands] supported by Australia moved that letter be received and that no action be taken. United States moved resolution as quoted except that original proposed used word 'investigate'. Netherlands unaccountably switched to support United States proposal which was carried with Australia and Brazil recording their dissent and Pakistan abstaining. After meeting to save face of committee, records were amended to add to [resolution] words 'insofar as it relates to the work [of] Special Committee'.

8. Misgivings at these trends found first expression in Brazilian proposal directing sub-committee [1] to revise instructions of groups in light of para 5(1) of Assembly resolution (our 7). After considerable stalling by sub-committee 1, revised instructions were approved on February 17th.

9. The Australian delegation had been in a dilemma because of its original approval of observer groups and because of complaints of frontier incidents recently received from Albania and Bulgaria to which it is felt as much attention should be given as has already been given to Greek complaints. The line adopted has been to accept existence of groups but sublimate their enthusiasm by directing them to observe and assist compliance of frontier conventions or customary frontier practice [giving them] positive functions regarding refugees and minorities and eliminating from instructions as far as possible concept of investigation. Revised instructions incorporate these views and expressly state that duties of groups in no way resemble those of special committee's fact finding predecessors. Australia nevertheless abstained from revised instructions as a whole, feeling that under them groups can and may be used to build up a case rather than for positive observation.

10. Albanian and Bulgarian complaints were forwarded on by Secretary-General to whom they were addressed. In desire to be impartial the committee on January 29th asked Albanian Government what facilities it would provide for their assistance in verification of incidents and stated that the committee in any event intended to examine them even without Albania co-operating. This approach may well be construed as provocation and Australia may urge more conciliatory line.

11. Three delegates are leaving this week to receive fresh instructions, Mexican and Pakistan to their capitals and Brazilian to his post Madrid.

[1] Sent via London.

[2] Document 85.

[3] Words in square brackets corrected from the copy on file aa : a6530, 49/10/8.

[AA : A1838, 852/20/1, II]