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John Foster Dulles on the Possibility of Negotiations with the GDR (November 26, 1958)

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Q. Mr. Secretary, the Mayor of West Berlin said today that this crisis might provide an opportunity for a new discussion with the Soviets on German and European security questions. Sir, do you see any possibility of renewing that discussion in view of the past deadlock, and are there any new thoughts here on tying the Russian idea of negotiating a peace treaty with German unification?

A. I would hardly think that the present mood of the Soviet Union makes this a propitious time for such a negotiation. Actually, of course, we would in these matters be largely guided by the views of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is primarily concerned, and which has a government with which we have the closest relations, and in which we have the greatest confidence. Their views in these matters would carry weight with us. I have had no intimation of this kind from the Government of the Federal Republic.

[ . . . ]

Q. Mr. Secretary, supposing that the question of a blockade did not come up but the East Germans insisted upon being dealt with as an independent nation rather than as agents of the Soviet Union, would we still insist upon using the three routes?

A. I really think that I have clarified our position on these matters as far as it is useful for me to try to do it at this time, bearing in mind this is a tripartite or quadripartite matter.

While I can state and have stated the common principles that are held and upon which we stand, I don't think it's wise for me to try, just on behalf of one of the four countries involved, to be more particular.

Q. Can I ask the question, Mr. Secretary, have we ruled out the possibility of using force to back up our rights to unimpeded access to Berlin should the East Germans seek to stop us?

A. We have not ruled out any of our rights at all. All I have said is that nothing that was said, which Khrushchev or anybody else in recent weeks has said, suggests that there is now any purpose on the part of either the Soviet Union or the GDR to impede or obstruct our access by the various media that are available to us to and from Berlin.

Therefore, it seems to me that the question as to whether if they did it we would use force is an academic proposition because, as I say, nothing has happened to indicate that there is any present intention on their part to do that.

Source: Remarks at News Conference by Secretary of State Dulles, on Berlin (November 26, 1958); reprinted in Documents on Germany, 1944-1959: Background Documents on Germany, 1944-1959, and a Chronology of Political Developments affecting Berlin, 1945-1956. Washington, DC: General Printing Office, 1959, pp. 312-17.

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