CHAPTER XLI
MEDITERRANEAN AND RHINELAND

While the Committee of Co-ordination under Eden's leadership was emasculating sanctions, Laval and Hoare were wrangling about what might happen in both the Mediterranean and the Rhineland.

Laval replied to Hoare's note of September 26 (see above, p. 309) on October.5. France was ready to take her stand with Great Britain in the event of unprovoked attack in the Mediterranean. But the obligation of assistance must be mutual, whether the attack occurred by sea or air (cases that concerned England) or on land (a case that concerned France). Moreover, assistance must be granted equally, "whether the aggressor State was or was not a member of the League of Nations" (member-state= Italy; non-member State= Germany). In addition, a joint investigation should be conducted into the circumstances of the case before any undertaking could be entered upon, and this investigation should take place as soon as a state of political tension arose. In short, Laval's reply merely reflected all the evasions which had appeared in Hoare's note.

That same day Laval had his answer communicated to the Italian ambassador in Paris. He denied having been pressed by the British Government into taking unduly drastic measures. In fact he had opposed Eden when the latter had insisted on the complete suspension of all trade with Italy, and he would consent to sanctions only if all attempts at conciliation failed. Eden had rejected the idea of a mandate, but would not oppose the idea of adding Tigré, Ogaden, and the other peripheral territories to Italy's colonies "providing Haile Selassie agreed to it". Laval, on his part, stressed the need of ensuring an outlet to the sea for Ethiopia (that is to say, not to strip her of Harrar, through which ran the French-owned Djibuti-Addis Ababa railway). It was imperative for Mussolini to give some slight evidence of his readiness to accept.1

Mussolini was still in a position to play Laval off against Hoare, and Hoare against Laval. Now that he had once again been reassured that joint Franco-British naval action was not to be expected, he instructed Grandi to become more arrogant. In a talk with Vansittart, Grandi protested against what was being published in the British Press on Franco-British negotiations for joint naval action. Vansittart explained that the British initiative (see above, p. 309) had been badly interpreted in the Press. According to Villari,

____________________
1
Villari, op. cit., pp. 188-9.

-346-

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