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56 Australian Delegation, Paris Peace Conference, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram PC11 PARIS, 6 August 946, 11.50 p.m.


Report No. 8.

1. The Commission on Procedures held three meetings yesterday but failed to conclude discussion on voting procedures. By the commencement of the morning meeting Brazil had filed an amendment to the rule proposed by the Council of Foreign Ministers making the same proposal as South Africa. [1] The Netherlands also had filed an amendment suggesting both recommendations by the Commission and Conference should be made by simple majority vote and in addition the United Kingdom had suggested that recommendations of the Conference should be of two types, firstly those adopted by 2/3rds majority vote and secondly those which obtained majority of more than half but less than 2/3rds of members of conference, both of which types should be submitted to the Council of Foreign Ministers for consideration.

2. Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium and New Zealand opened proceedings by supporting the South African amendment. Jordan, New Zealand delegate, made an effective statement emphasising that it was proposed that the Peace Conference of Nations which had fought to save democracy should act not by democratic practice of simple majority vote but by qualifying vote and with the use of 2/3rds majority. The rule meant that negative vote on a motion was twice as powerful as affirmative one. It also meant that 66% of the Conference could be overruled by a minority of 33%.

3. Poland, Czechoslovakia and the United Kingdom opposed the amendment, the latter pointing out that their amendment was preferable as it contained the substance of the rule of the Council of Foreign Ministers and yet answered the merits of arguments advanced by proponents of the South African proposal.

4. The United States supported the rule of the Council of Foreign Ministers as amended by the United Kingdom proposal, stating that the principle of 2/3rds. majority was a common practice in international conferences and moreover had been adopted in the United Nations Assembly. It was true that as the Great Powers had agreed not to deviate from decisions of the Council it would be difficult to obtain a 2/3rds. majority on any amendments opposed to those decisions. However, it would be possible to obtain a 2/3rds. majority on 26 subjects on which the Council had not been able to agree and also upon any new subjects raised. If decisions of Conference did obtain 2/3rds. majority the United States even when it had voted against the proposal at the Conference would abide by the decision of the majority and support the Conference's recommendation in Council. Also the decision of Conference adopted by simple majority would be considered by the United States in Council but would not carry as much weight as decision by 2/3rds.

majority. Canada had suggested that the Council might meet during the Conference and the United States hoped this would be possible.

5. China and Norway also supported the United Kingdom amendment.

Molotov in a long speech repeated the arguments that the 2/3rds.

majority was written into the United Nations Charter and had been used at San Francisco with good results. He opposed the United Kingdom amendment as deliberately calculated to upset decision of the Council and stated he hoped that amendments which had been moved were not intended to create discord among the Great Powers.

He criticised Byrnes' view that procedural decisions of the Council were not binding on the United States but expressed appreciation of Byrnes' readiness to have the Council meet during the Conference which he said had originally been suggested by the Soviet but rejected by the United States. in view of arguments advanced in discussion he suggested that the Council's rule be amplified to provide that if a proposal failed to gain 2/3rds.

majority States which supported it might refer it to the Council which would consider it. [2] After France had supported the United Kingdom proposal the Minister in a lucid statement clarified the issue before the Commission and refuted the arguments of the Opposition. He emphasised the importance of the issue as affecting the whole efficacy of the Conference. He stated that the decisions of the Moscow Conference provided that after the Peace Conference the Council of Foreign Ministers would prepare final drafts of treaties after considering the Conference's recommendations and the United States had told France that these recommendations would be given fullest consideration. But under the Council's rule it was necessary for a proposal to be supported by a 2/3rds. majority before it became recommendation and could be considered by the Council. This was a restriction which could not be justified. The argument had been advanced that a recommendation of eleven members would not carry the same weight as that of fourteen members. This argument was based on the fallacy that States favouring a simple majority vote were trying to write the Peace Treaties. In fact they were only requesting the right to have voice of Conference reach into the recesses of the council. The Great Powers had gone beyond the original Potsdam Agreement which had provided that the Council should be merely a drafting body and had taken it upon themselves to give Council jurisdiction to finally determine treaties. Other powers had now been compelled to accept this position but the Great Powers should now be satisfied without asking for further power or privileges.

7. The Minister then showed that Molotov's comparison of the Conference with San Francisco was inappropriate as San Francisco had actually drawn up final binding documents. He criticised the Soviet's accusation that the amendments proposed were designed to disrupt the unanimity of the Great Powers referring to the Soviet's position in the Security Council where they had defied the will of the majority of nine members. He also said that overwhelming practical argument against the Council's rule was that judging from the result of votes already taken, a 2/3rd.

majority could not be obtained on a proposal opposed by the Soviet.

8. The Minister concluded by stating that Australia would support the proposal for a simple majority vote but if that were lost she would then support the United Kingdom proposal which recognized the principle of simple majority vote. However, there was a gap in the United Kingdom proposal which did not deal with proposals in Commissions. He hoped that the United Kingdom would agree to extend their amendment to Commissions as well as to Conference.

Finally, he was opposed to the Soviet's amendment which meant that a proposal which only obtained simple majority was not forwarded to the Council with the endorsement of the Conference.

9. The United Kingdom assured the Commission that they would give due consideration to responsible criticism from other seventeen powers in the final draft of treaties and refuted the Soviet's charge of infidelity to Council decisions by referring to Bevin's specific reservation of the right to amend rules. They agreed with the Minister's argument that San Francisco could not be compared with the Conference and stated that they would be prepared to extend their amendment to the Commissions as asked by Australia.

10. After India had reiterated the Minister's arguments the Commission was adjourned until this morning. At this morning's meeting, the United States strongly replied to Molotov's statement yesterday, pointing out that no member of the Conference had impugned Soviet motives as the Soviet had done both with regard to the United Kingdom and United States and smaller powers. Molotov had never asked for a meeting of the Council during the Conference to consider the recommendations as they were adopted, although he had twice requested Council meetings since the Conference opened first to decide who should preside over Commission on procedures and second to select chairmanships of other Commissions. The United States had refused these requests as attempts to dictate decisions which the Conference should itself make. These requests were in accordance with general Soviet attitude towards peacemaking of restricting it to the smallest possible number of States. Byrnes then repeated that the United States had agreed to abide by substantive decisions of the Council but not by procedural decisions. He concluded by saying that Molotov's charges yesterday would have been published in the United States, which had free press, and he challenged Molotov to publish his answers to these charges in the Soviet Union. He had complete confidence in the reaction of Soviet peoples whom the American people admired and who would not permit their admiration to be lessened by any attacks by Molotov.

11. Molotov replied to Byrnes' statement with another long speech most of which was occupied with criticism of the press in the United Kingdom and United States. He admitted that the Soviet had requested meetings of the Council during Conference for the purpose mentioned by Byrnes but said that the Soviet now desired the Council should meet to discuss proceedings at Conference.

1 South Africa had argued for conference decisions by simple majority rather than two-thirds majority.

2 Presumably the rest of this paragraph should have been transmitted as paragraph 6.

[AA:A1067, E46/38/14]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013

Category: International relations

Topic: History