Geneva sets the stage for Far East talks
TOMORROW, barring any last-minute hitches, the Geneva Conference will open in the magnificent building that houses the hopes of the United Nations in Europe and yet serves as a tomb for the war-shattered ideals of the League of Nations.
In the ornate Palais des Nations — which first opened its doors in 1936 only two weeks before Hitler sent his Nazi legions goose-stepping into the Rhineland — the foreign ministers of four powers will meet with representatives of 15 other nations in an attempt to bring peace to Korea and a truce to Indo-China.
Conceived in the dying moments of the Berlin Conference early this year, the conference will attempt to do for the two Far Eastern countries what could not be accomplished for Germany and Austria in Berlin. The Western Powers are insistent that Red China will sit at the table as an invited guest — but not as an equal partner. Soviet Russia, up to the eleventh hour, was still proposing that the Chinese delegation be known as the fifth big power at the horseshoe-shaped table. And some observers expressed the belief that the talks might break down over that very point before ever agreeing to anything.
But others feel that as long as the Soviets are willing to discuss matters there is still hope of agreement.
As early as three weeks before the conference was to open officials of the United Nations, the city and canton of Geneva and the national government in Berne were still waiting to be officially notified of the parley. But they didn't delay the work that had to be done before the conference could open. As one harried city official put it:
"We could read the newspapers, so we started to get things ready."
And this included complete renovation of a downtown department store which was to be torn down to make way for a newer building. Even though the 600 foreign press, radio and television reporters had a headquarters in the making they had no single agency to accredit them to the conference. So Charles DuBois, of the Berne press office and Albert LeGrand, press officer of UN headquarters here, agreed on a standard form, notified members of the press and then had all the paper work ready "for any group that declares itself competent to accredit correspondents," as DuBois put it.
But most of the delegations worked independently in making reservations for their delegates and secretariat. But because the Western powers were the first to put in bids for hotel space, the city was jammed before the Eastern powers could get their advance agents into town. That necessitated throwing out ail established reservations and rebooking everyone — which made none too happy but at least allowed the conference a chance to get underway without some participant stalking off in a huff.
MICHAEL NICOLE, head of Interets de Geneve, who was charged with finding suitable lodging for all delegations, said the Western Powers were quite easy to please and that the Soviets were "more correct" than some had anticipated. But the North Koreans and the Red Chinese were proving a problem. At first the Communists agreed on a hotel and then on a villa for the chiefs of their delegation. But after the agreements were signed they continued to attach new conditions which were impossible for the city officials to meet.
The Russians delayed for weeks before selecting a villa — and then reportedly chose one because of its high fence and lack of other buildings close by. But the one hitch was that the owner didn't want to. lease it to anyone as his daughter was to be married there in May. "Requisition it," the Geneva officials were urged by the Russians. But the Swiss patiently explained this couldn't be done in a democratic nation. The Russian reply, when translated, suggested that they needn't try to be witty about such an important problem.
John Foster Dulles and the U.S. delegation will be housed in the Hotel du Rhone — newest of the city's hotels. The U.S. Consulate usually occupies the top two floors of the building, but officials said the offices would be moved to other quarters during the conference to allow the delegation office space.
The French have reserved a villa for top officials and many of the experts will commute about 10 miles a day from a small resort across the border in France. The British have most of a hotel and a villa as do the Soviets. In fact the Soviets finally succeeded in leasing an entire hotel for the duration of the parley. It was closed to the public April 15, and completely renovated.
Geneva was also scrambling to find Chinese chefs as the city boasts only two Chinese restaurants and they are both small.
Security will be the responsibility of Geneva and Switzerland. It was reported that a regiment of Swiss soldiers has been called up to aid the hard-pressed city and national police assigned to the meeting. Delegations will only be allowed civilian bodyguards for their top delegates while the Swiss will provide uniformed guards.
City Police Chief Charles Knecht is in overall charge of security — and he's an old hand at it in that he has participated in, nearly all of the city's world conferences since the early days of the League of Nations.
Custodians of, the Palais des Nations were opening a special entrance to the Councils Chamber which seats about 500 around the horseshoe-shaped table and in the experts, press and public galleries. But the conference is not expected to be open to the press or the public.
The room is already equipped for simultaneous translations in five languages. The sombre room is decorated with huge murals by Spanish artist Jose-Maria Sert and capped by a giant ceiling mural which shows five muscular figures joining hands in friendship. The five figures represent the five continents.
Geneva will be hard pressed to care for all official visitors during the parley in that several minor conferences will also be underway during parts of the same period. But none has been cancelled and city officials said they would have to manage some way. USAREUR long ago warned personnel that facilities would be jammed and that attempts to secure hotel space during the conference will probably meet with failure.
BASICALLY the conference meets under the following agreement of the Big Four at the close of the Berlin Conference:
1—The Big Three and Russia are the inviting powers.
2—Red China is an invited power. Her participation does not imply recognition by the U-S. or any others who have withheld recognition from her so fur.
3—The conference will deal only with Korea and Indo-China. .
4—Korean talk participants win include the Big Three, Soviet Russia, China, North and South Korea and the nations that participated with armed forces in the Korean fighting. They are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines. Siam, Ethiopia, Colombia, Greece, Turkey, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and South Africa. All but the latter have indicated they will attend.
5—The Indo-China talks will be attended by the Big Four, Red China and "other interested parties," although they have not been determined as yet.
Geneva iself lies at the crossroads of major European highways and at the end of a great lake where the Rhone becomes a river again and hurtles toward the sea. As far back as the Middle Ages, Geneva was a meeting place for merchants and travelers. From Savoy and Burgundy, from the Vaud and from the Rhone plains, those with wares to sell collected in Geneva bringing together many races, languages and nationalities. Many have stayed on to lend an international touch to the city.
In its past, Geneva has been a fortified city, an imperial city, :an episcopal city and later the city of Reformation and finally a citadel of liberalism. In the 14th Century, the formation of the Genevese community began and the city obtained its famed code from Bishop Adhemar Fabri. A spirit of independence and a love of individual liberty were already apparent among its citizens.
In 1536, the people of Geneva adopted the Refofm with enthusiasm. Calvin founded the college and the university and his personality drew many great personages to the city. Later, in the reign of Louis XIV, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes brought a new influx of refugees who added considerably to the population of the city. Even today Geneva is sometimes called the Protestant Rome because of its connections and protection of various Protestant sects.
Watchmaking became an important industry late in the 16th Century and the canton of Geneva and those of the Jura mountains have been the world leaders ever since. Into one watchmaking family was born Jean-Jacques Rousseau and out of the spirit of Independence of the people of Geneva at that time was conceived his brilliant "Social Contracts." Two Genevese founded the Red Cross early in the 19th Century — and Switzerland reversed the colors of its flag to give the organization a name and a standard for all the world to know.