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.