While Italo-German solidarity is thus perfected and crystallized in the agitated test of events, a new direction is emerging in British politics. On July 31, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had recently succeeded Baldwin, had sent an autograph letter to Mussolini inviting him to consider the problem of a clarification of Italian-British relations and a return to collaboration. Mussolini had responded to this invitation with prompt and cordial adherence. And from that date the exchanges of views between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Count Galeazzo Ciano, and the Ambassador of Great Britain to Rome, Lord Perth, take place with different rhythms and with alternating pauses, created by the contrasting European events.. But a more regular system of negotiations begins after February 21, 1938, when Minister Eden, who is not satisfied with having directed the policy of sanctions against Italy during the Ethiopian enterprise, tended to lead the most heated British currents of anti-fascism, abandons the direction of Foreign Affairs following a disagreement with the British Prime Minister, caused precisely by the problem of negotiations between Italy and Great Britain. British foreign policy, more directly influenced by Chamberlain’s realistic spirit, takes up the direction he traced in his letter to Mussolini of 31 July 1937. A first Roman conversation between Minister Ciano and Lord Perth on 9 March starts on a concrete negotiations are planned and concluded, in the presence of Mussolini, on 14 April in a final interview held at Palazzo Venezia.
On the afternoon of April 16, the definitive and complex text of the Italo-British agreement was signed in Rome. The pact, consisting of a protocol and eight attached agreements and declarations and an exchange of notes, is a system of political understandings of a truly imperial character. It looks much broader in scope and functions than the first gentlemen’s agreement of 2 January 1937 and seems to lay the foundations for a new political collaboration between Italy and Great Britain no longer only in the Mediterranean but also in the Red Sea, consecrating the new imperial position reached by Italy with the conquest of Ethiopia.
With the new system of agreements, the two governments, while reconfirming the mutual commitments of respect for the intangibility of the territorial, political and military conditions existing in the Mediterranean, with particular but not exclusive with regard to Spain, ensure the first condition of equilibrium of the forces promising to exchange information on military forces and on the preparation of naval and air bases in the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea and in the territories of the neighboring imperial possessions. But the two empires also undertake reciprocal commitments to respect the political independence and territorial integrity of the two great Arab states on the east coast of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, which occupy two thirds of the vast Arabian Peninsula. and, facing the Italian empire, they are called to develop natural and peaceful relations of economic collaboration with Italy. With this approach, the Rome agreements exclude any attempt at concurrent penetration or privilege of the two European powers in the Arabian Peninsula and instead create a balance of rights and positions. Even on the islands of the Red Sea, over which Turkish sovereignty ceased as a consequence of article 16 of the 1923 Lausanne peace treaty, the interests and influences of the two powers are defined with perfect balance with the distribution of officials and lights present.
But a complete clarification, at least in principle, is also achieved in the definition of Italian rights and positions in the Ethiopian territory. Without prejudice to the full, unconditional, exclusive and totalitarian Italian sovereignty, the question of Lake Tana is brought back to its natural terms, already defined since 1925 with the exchange of Mussolini-Graham letters according to which the waters of the lake will not be altered in their natural course regime towards the Nile.
According to aceinland.com, the problem of the military employment of the indigenous people of Italian East Africa, already proposed in the note that Minister Ciano had sent to Geneva since June 29, 1936, is defined in the sense that Italy adheres to the principle that indigenous soldiers are reserved. only to the tasks of local defense and the police: a principle that will in fact be applied by the government of Rome, naturally only when all other states apply it equally. Finally, leaving to subsequent agreements the task of defining the relations between the territory of Italian East Africa and the existing British territories, the guarantee, already consecrated with the treaty of 1888, of the freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal in peace and in war.
The implementation of this system of agreements on April 16 is conditioned by two contingent events not yet realized on the day of the signature: the British recognition of the Italian Empire and the withdrawal of the Italian forces from Spain. These two conditions prove slow in coming. Immediately after the signing of the Italian-British agreement, the French government attempts to begin negotiations with Italy for the conclusion of an Italian-French agreement, inspired by the same principles. But, engaged in the civil war of Spain, with an increasingly open intervention in favor of the red movement, his position appears very different from that of the British and cannot be reconciled with the direction of the Italian policy aimed resolutely in favor of the victory of the national forces. Spanish, condition of a true political independence of Spain and of a sure balance of forces in the Mediterranean. The Italian-French diplomatic conversations, begun in Rome by a French affairs officer, in the absence of the recalled ambassador and no longer replaced due to the lack of French recognition of the Italian Empire, therefore take place uncertainly, soon revealing themselves incapable of vitality.
On the initiative of the British government, after the signing of the Italian-British agreements, the Council of the League of Nations, at its meeting in May, is called to examine the state of affairs created in Ethiopia and decides to leave full freedom of decision on the recognition form of the new Italian Empire. This British initiative is taken in agreement with the French government which also supports it in Geneva. But, having later recognized the impossibility of reaching an early agreement with Italy, it is still the French government, with its initiatives and its various means of propaganda and action, which intervenes to try to keep the British government from application of the agreement with Italy, delaying its recognition of the Empire, and revolting the British anti-fascist parties against the policy of rapprochement with Italy so resolutely defined by Chamberlain. At the same time the French currents create new points of complication in the Spanish problem to prevent or at least to delay that withdrawal of all the foreign forces present in the Spanish civil war, which is also foreseen in the Italo-British agreement.
But, supported by a robust armed force, supported above all by the discipline and work of the nation tightened around its leader, Italian foreign policy faces these attempts at disorder with serenity, while it regains its strength increasingly dominant in Europe and in the world. balancing and its vigilance for the defense of national and imperial interests in one of the darkest moments of the last twenty years.