THE CURTAIN FALLS
The time had come for the Assembly of the League to declare that the Co-ordination Committee established in October 1935 could serve no further purpose. When the Assembly was convened (June 30), it found itself confronted with a declaration by Haile Selassie's delegate to the effect that the Ethiopian Government still existed, with Haile Selassie as its head, and that the Negus demanded application of the Covenant. On the other hand, the Italian Government presented a note which described the future happiness of the people of Ethiopia under the benevolent rule of the Italian Government. Italy, it ran, had undertaken "a sacred mission of civilization in accordance with the principles of the Covenant of the League": "equitable treatment to native populations by promoting their moral and material well-being and their social progress"; "religious beliefs fully respected"; "the free use of their original language guaranteed"; "slavery and forced labour suppressed"; "taxes used exclusively to meet local requirements". The German and Yugoslav racial minorities in South Tirol and Istria could give evidence of the worth of such promises. The only promises that mattered, at least to a certain extent, were those stating Italy's willingness "to accept the principle that natives should not be compelled to other military duties than local policing and territorial defence", and its readiness to enact measures "to guarantee freedom of transit and communications and fair treatment for the trade of all countries". On this sea of milk and honey there floated the hope that the League would "appraise the situation now existing in Ethiopia in a spirit of fair understanding", and the declaration that the Italian Government was "ready to give once more (!) its willing and practical co-operation to the League of Nations in order to achieve a settlement of the grave problems upon which rested the future of Europe and of the world". The League in its turn had to realize "the abnormal situation in which Italy had been placed and the necessity for the immediate removal of such obstacles as have been and were in the way of international co-operation".
Unfortunately for international co-operation, Ethiopia's demise had not yet been officially certified by the Assembly. Consequently the League was still obliged to suppose that Ethiopia was alive and therefore a member of the League. Moreover, Haile Selassie had come to Geneva for the express purpose of addressing the Assembly in person.
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Publication information: Book title: Prelude to World War II. Contributors: Gaetano Salvemini - Author. Publisher: Gollancz. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1953. Page number: 465.
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