4 MARCH 1949, Page 2

Austrian Stalemate

Yugoslav intervention in the Austrian treaty talks now being con- ducted in London has so far proved a waste of time. This, of course, was very far from being unexpected, and was the reason why the three Western Powers held out as long as they could against the Soviet proposal to hear yet another statement of Yugoslav claims on Austria. These claims have been duly renewed by Mr. Bebler, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia, in a form which is called a compromise—which means that they have been reduced from the wildly extravagant to the extravagant. The Teheran Conference laid it down that Austria should be independent within her pre-Anschluss borders ; the Yugoslav " compromise " was that the Slovene areas of Carinthia should be transferred to Yugoslavia, though the idea of some kind of semi-autonomy is now substituted. Potsdam laid it down that no reparations should be extracted from Austria ; tho Yugoslav " compromise " is to demand substantially more by waY of reparations than the surrender of Austrian assets in Yugoslavia, which, as a concession in the interests of peace, the Austrian Government is prepared to offer in spite of Potsdam. These futile arguments raise the old question: does Russia want a peace treaty with Austria at all, since she is apparently still backing Yugoslati claims even though they make the conclusion of a treaty impossible ? There is a good deal of evidence that Russia would find the conclusion of a peace treaty an embarrassment, particularly since this would in- volve her in withdrawing her forces, not only from Austria but also from Hungary and Rumania. If this is the case, her present tactics are perfectly in order, although it must still be one of the mysteries of the Kremlin's process of thought why the present discussions were agreed to in the first place.