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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 10, 1954

FROM THE JOURNAL OF MOLOTOV: SECRET MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION AT DINNER IN HONOR OF MENDES-FRANCE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER AND FOREIGN MINISTER

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    Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov and French Prime Minister Mendes-France discuss the upcoming Geneva Convention at a dinner in honor of Mendes-France. The two then discuss Vietnam and Mendes-France’s planned meeting with Vietnamese (DRV) foreign minister Pham Van Dong, as well as a possible redefining of the demarcation line between North and South Vietnam.
    "From the Journal of Molotov: Secret Memorandum of Conversation at Dinner in Honor of Mendes-France, French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister," July 10, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, AVPRF f. 06, op. 13a, d. 25, II. 8. Obtained by Paul Wingrove and translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg. Published by Bulletin #16 https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112965
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Molotov asks the opinion of Prime Minister Mendes-France about the organization of the renewal of the work of the Conference of Ministers. Molotov notes that, being one of the chairmen of the Geneva Conference, it would be desirable for him to know the opinion of the other representatives about a day acceptable to everyone to convene the Conference of Ministers and also to find out the wishes of the ministers with respect to the method for the further work of the Conference. Molotov adds that it is possible that private conversations might turn out to be useful at this stage of the conference. Molotov asks what day would be convenient for the Prime Minister.

Mendes-France replies that the chairmen set the nearest date for the Conference of Ministers, and that he is ready for the opening of the conference on any following day. Mendes-France says that, in his opinion, at the present stage of the talks unofficial conversations and personal contact between the representatives might be of greater use than the official plenary meetings. In this connection he, Mendes-France, completely shares Molotov's point of view about the effectiveness of unofficial conversations.

Molotov says that the Geneva Conference has already gone through a period of speech-making. Several decisions have been prepared by now, both during closed meetings as well as in unofficial conversations. Now the stage of the Conference has come when it would be more advisable to move from a general discussion of the issues to a specific discussion of them and, accordingly, to prepare the necessary specific decisions. Molotov asks what wishes the Prime Minister has in order to impart the proper direction to the conference to achieve peace in Indochina.

Mendes-France says that tomorrow he is to meet with DRV representative [and foreign minister] Pham Van Dong and begin a discussion with him of more specific issues. Mendes-France thinks that an opportunity will be presented during this conversation to identify common ground and differences. Mendes-France adds that all the participants of the Geneva Conference are undoubtedly interested in establishing peace in Indochina. However, France and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam are the directly-interested countries. Mendes-France says that it is necessary to find a basis for agreement on many issues during the conversation with Pham Van Dong. That is why, concludes Mendes-France, he considers it his first business to meet with Pham Van Dong.

Molotov says that the idea of direct talks between the Prime Minister and Pham Van Dong is completely warranted and that, as it seems, all the participants of the Geneva Conference are interested in both directly-interested parties finding a common language and coming to an agreement acceptable to both sides. Molotov adds that the other delegations, including the Soviet delegation, ought to be interested in offering the necessary assistance to the directly interested parties. To be true, at the same time it cannot be excluded that there are also such delegations which possibly desire to prevent the achievement of an agreement.

Molotov then says that he has formed the impression that the conference has made certain progress in recent weeks, which is a definite plus. Consequently, at the present time all the conditions have been created to move on to a discussion of more specific issues and obtain specific decisions. Molotov notes that, according to information he has, the conference has recently dealt more with issues affecting only the north and south of Vietnam. However, they paid no attention at all to the central part of Vietnam. With regard to the issues of Laos and Cambodia, says Molotov, apparently no special difficulty in solving them is foreseen. Then Molotov asks Mendes-France whether his information about the difficulties which have arisen about the central part of Vietnam is correct.

Mendes-France says that certain difficulties actually have been identified regarding the issues of the central part of Vietnam. At first the French delegation assumed that there would be no special difficulty about this issue since initially, as the French delegation thought, the DRV was interested only in the north of Indochina, that is, the Tonkin region.

The French delegation has assumed and [still] assumes that the line of demarcation, which corresponds to natural and historical requirements, ought to pass along the Annamese Gates [sic, Annamskie vorota]. This line is narrow and it is easy to monitor. However, the French delegation was deeply disappointed when the French delegation found out that this line cannot satisfy the Vietnamese delegation and when the latter presented new demands. The French delegation, as before, holds to the opinion that the most reasonable border ought to pass somewhere along the 18th parallel. Mendes-France adds that, in his opinion, it was not be advisable to create such enclaves inside each zone. The creation of such enclaves would cause political and military complications. Mendes-France says that, in his opinion, it is most important to create homogeneous zones.

Molotov says that obviously these issues still have not been discussed in all the details by the military representatives. Molotov adds that he knows that the DRV delegation initially proposed to locate the line of demarcation between the 13th and 14th parallels since this corresponds to natural requirements and, moreover, this refers to a number of regions located along these parallels which have been under the influence of a particular side for more than 10 years. According to available information, says Molotov, an attempt was made by the DRV delegation to be accommodating and a proposal was made yesterday or the day before, according to which the line was to pass to the north. As regards the other side he, Molotov, did not know whether a similar attempt had been made.

Mendes-France says that it seems difficult for the French delegation to change [its] position with regard to the line of demarcation. The DRV military representatives are actually submitting new proposals according to which the line of demarcation is to move back about 40 kilometers to the north. However this proposal does not significantly change the situation. Mendes-France notes that this cannot be about trade but about the need to find objective solutions.

Mendes-France says that he agrees with the accurate comment by Molotov about there being regions in the south of Vietnam which have been under DRV influence for a long time. However, says the prime minister, there are also regions in the north which are controlled by French authorities at the present time. Mendes-France adds that at the beginning of the discussion of these issues at the meeting of the representatives of nine countries Pham Van Dong advanced certain principles according to which regrouping zones were to be determined. The French delegation listened with interest and subscribed to specific principles, and if the determination of the line is to be based on these principles then the 18th parallel is the most reasonable line of demarcation. Mendes-France adds that it would be desirable at the same time to create homogeneous zones.

Molotov notes that the prime minister's idea about the creation of homogenous zones is undoubtedly the correct idea and it is shared by many conference participants. Molotov adds that up to now the military representatives had dealt more with general issues and less with specific issues, in particular issues relating to the central part of Vietnam. Molotov says that he has found out that French military representatives are attaching special importance to Route 9, which connects Laos with Vietnam. Molotov says that it is not completely clear to him why such great importance is attached to this road. But if it plays an important role then it is possible to talk about its use separately. Molotov adds that the arrival of the prime minister in Geneva will provide an opportunity to discuss these issues more specifically.

Mendes-France says that at the beginning of the talks the discussion was not about Route 9 since according to French proposals this road ought to be in the southern zone, that is, in the zone of the French authorities. This road passes somewhere along the 16th parallel. But if the DRV delegation expresses a desire to use this road in the future then the French delegation does not object to talking about this in particular and coming to an agreement about granting the DRV the opportunity to use this road. Mendes-France repeats that the French delegation holds to its position about the 18th parallel.

Molotov says that the prime minister obviously knows well that Pham Van Dong, the head of the DRV delegation, has already expressed his ideas about a line of demarcation between the 14th and 16th parallels and that the DRV delegation is steadfastly maintaining this position. Thus the question right now is one of discussing the specific issues connected with the determination of the line of demarcation. These are issues of both a technical and political nature. As everyone knows, Molotov continues, much attention has been devoted to military issues recently. But political issues have almost not been discussed [at all] although these issues also have great importance. They ought to be discussed, and solutions for them ought to be found.

Mendes-France says that the political problems undoubtedly exist in connection with the fact that the French delegation is trying to prepare a general statement about political issues which ought to be acceptable to all the participants of the Geneva Conference.

Molotov says that obviously the time has now come when it is necessary to prepare specific decisions which will be acceptable both to the two directly-interested parties as well as to all the participants of the Geneva Conference.

Molotov further adds that, taking advantage of MendesFrance's presence in Geneva, he would like to exchange opinions with him not only about the problems affecting Asia, but Europe, too.

Mendes-France says that this would please him very much. However, as Mendes-France says, at the same time it needs to be borne in mind that he is, so to speak, a novice in French
foreign affairs and that he is not familiar with all the problems. However, he, Mendes-France, will be extremely happy to hear out Mr. Molotov and he will report this to his government. Mendes-France says that such a conversation would be useful.

Molotov says that with respect to the Geneva Conference the Soviet delegation understands its task to be the promotion of the adoption of equitable solutions which are in accord with the vital interests of the peoples of Indochina and the achievement of honorable and fair conditions from the French point of view. The participation of the Soviet delegation will be in accord with the achievement of such solutions. Molotov adds that the Soviet delegation will act in the direction of establishing cooperation with the French delegation in the matter of achieving favorable results.

Molotov stresses that the position of Mendes-France, the prime minister of France, impresses the Soviet delegation. This position, which is directed at establishing peace in Indochina, will facilitate the strengthening of peace in the entire world.

Mendes-France thanks Molotov and says that the French delegation will act in this same spirit.

Molotov asks at what time Mendes-France will meet with Pham Van Dong.

Mendes-France replies that the meeting will be held tomorrow, but [that] the time has not yet been set. Mendes-France adds that a short time remains to reach an agreement.

Molotov notes that time ought to be valued.

In conclusion Mendes-France thanks Molotov for the cordial reception and asks Molotov's permission to display initiative in organizing another meeting with him.

Molotov says that he is ready to meet with Mendes-France at any time.

Present from the Soviet delegation were V. V. Kuznetsov and S. A. Vinogradov; from the French delegation, [Jean] Chauvel and [de la Tournelle].

Recorded by /signature/ K. Starikov†

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