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CONVERSATIONS WITH ITALY
Mr. Chamberlain made his first step towards international
appeasement by responding to an approach from Italy, whose
traditional friendship with this country had been broken by the
Abyssinian War and further aggravated by the difference of out-
look on the Spanish Civil War. A friendly gesture had been made
by Signor Mussolini in July^ 1937, in a message to the Prime
Ministeri to which the latter had cordially replied in a personal
letter. But tension in the Mediterranean over the Spanish blockade
and the decision of Italy to leave the JLeague of Nations prevented
further negotiations for a time. Early in February^ 1938 however^
came a chance of improving a 'worsening situation with an intima-
tion of the Italian Ambassador's^followingsome friendlyconversa-
tions between him and Mr. Anthony Eden^ the British Foreign
Secretary^ that the Italian Government -was ready at any time to
open conversations with the British Government covering every
question of dispute between the two countries, including the
broadcast propaganda in the Middle East^ the foreign volunteers
in Spain and the formal recognition of the Abyssinian conquest.
Mr* Eden had replied that^ though Great Britain was bound to
act as a loyal member of the League of Nations, a settlement
between the two countries as a contribution to general appeasement
would no doubt influence the L.eague*s attitude towards Italy.
A week later Mr. Eden resigned on the grounds that the time for
negotiations had not yet arrived^ and that Italy must first agree on
certain conditions precedent before discussions could commence.
Mr. Chamberlain^ supported by the rest of the Cabinet^ held
that this was not a practicable method of negotiation. On the
afternoon ofzist February', after the House had listened to the
statements of the Foreign Secretary and Under Secretary^
Lord Cranborne^ on their resignations^ the Prime Minister
rose to explain the Government's policy.