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Security Council Meeting

Volume 529: debated on Monday 28 June 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what attitude has been adopted by Her Majesty's representative on the Security Council to the renewed request of Guatemala for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to consider the invasion of Guatemala.

A meeting of the Security Council to consider Guatemala's further request was held on Friday, 25th June. A proposal to accept the Guatemalan complaint on the Agenda was defeated by five votes to four, the United Kingdom and France abstaining. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government, which was made clear at the meeting by the United Kingdom delegate, is that the Security Council cannot divest itself of responsibility.

However, a competent regional organisation within the meaning of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter exists—namely, the Organisation of American States. The Inter-American Peace Committee, which is a part of that body, is sending, with the agreement of the Guatemalan Government, a fact-finding committee to the area. This committee will inform the Security Council as soon as possible of its conclusions and the Council, by allowing the regional organisation to take action does not, therefore, surrender its ultimate authority.

Can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government accept the proposition laid down by the United States Administration that incidents in the American hemisphere are not the concern of the United Nations? Would he answer that quite clearly? As for the fact-finding body, is it not the case that Guatemala has not been in agreement with the nations which compose this fact-finding commission? Will he make certain that the inquiries are carried out with all possible speed and that, if necessary, the United Nations itself sends a competent body to investigate?

Her Majesty's Government are in favour of adhering to the Charter of the United Nations. If the hon. Member will study Chapter VIII he will see that there is a clear place in the Charter for these regional organisations and that each case has to be taken upon its merits.

Answering the second part of the supplementary question, I think there is widespread misunderstanding about the composition of the peace committee. The representatives are Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and the United States. That does not mean that all of them are necessarily hostile to the Guatemalan Government.

Is not Chapter VIII of the Charter subject to Article 35, under which Guatemala had an absolute right to have its dispute heard by the Security Council? Is it not a fact that under Article 39 the Security Council had an absolute duty to determine whether there was a threat of invasion? Is it not most regrettable that, instead of voting with New Zealand, the United Kingdom delegate compromised the principles for which we fought in Korea by his regrettable abstention?

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman at all. I think the Charter as a whole has so to be operated as to produce satisfactory results in the cause of peace. In this case, in view of the circumstances—and the right hon. Gentleman is as well aware as I am of some of the difficulties in regard to Latin American countries—I think it is quite right, in the first instance, to try this peace committee, always provided that it has to report back to the Security Council.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that Latin American disputes are always more easily settled in the first place within the hemisphere and that the intervention of external organisations in these matters always has the result of making them worse? Was not the intervention of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) most ill-judged?

Is it the Minister's point that successful aggression can sometimes be in the best interests of the cause of peace?

My point is that each case has to be dealt with in such a way as to produce peace as quickly as possible. Our view is that this peace committee of the Organisation of the American States is the best way to find the facts as quickly as possible.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend say what are the terms of reference of the fact-finding commission and what action will be consequent upon its conclusions?

Is it not also essential that anybody who brings his case before the United Nations should feel that he is getting justice?

That is certainly true and I think that in this case the Guatemalan Government will get justice.

What will be the attitude of Her Majesty's Government or the United States Government if an Asian country at Geneva now takes the line that incidents in Asia should be settled by the Asian people?