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Abyssinia Crisis

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The Abyssinia Crisis was a pre-WW2 diplomatic crisis originating in the conflict between Italy and Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). Its effects were to undermine the credibility of the League of Nations and to encourage Italy to ally with Germany.

Both Italy and Abyssinia were members of the League of Nations, which had rules forbidding aggression. After their border clash at Walwal in 1934, Abyssinia appealed to the League for arbitration, but the response was dull and sluggish.

In actuality, many nations were working independently of the League in order to keep Italy as an ally. Shortly after the initial appeal, Pierre Laval of France met with Benito Mussolini in Rome and they created the Franco-Italian Agreement. This treaty gave Italy parts of French Somaliland (now Djibouti), redefined the official status of Italians in French-held Tunisia, and essentially gave the Italians a free hand in dealing with Abyssinia. In exchange for this, France hoped for Italian support against German aggression.

There was little international protest to Mussolini when he then sent large numbers of troops to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, two colonies of Italy that bordered Abyssinia on the North and Southeast respectively.

Britain did attempt to alleviate the situation at one point, sending Anthony Eden to broker peace. It was a failed mission though, as Mussolini was bent on conquest. Following that, Britain then declared an arms embargo on both Italy and Abyssinia. Many believe that is was direct result of Italy's decree that supplying Abyssinia would be perceived as an act of unfriendliness. Britain also cleared its warships from the Mediterranean, further allowing Italy unhindered access.

Shortly after the League exonerated both parties in the Walwal incident, Italy attacked, resulting in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The League responded by condemning the attack and imposing economic sanctions on Italy. However the sanctions excluded vital materials such as oil, and were not carried out by all members of the League. The United Kingdom and France did not take any serious action against Italy (such as blocking Italian access to the Suez Canal).

Even actions such as the use of chemical weapons and the massacre of civilians did little to change the League's passive approach to the situation.

In December 1935 Samuel Hoare of Britain and Pierre Laval of France proposed the secret Hoare-Laval Plan which would end the war but allow Italy to control large areas of Abyssinia. Mussolini agreed to the plan, but it caused an outcry in Britain and France when the plan was leaked to the media. Hoare and Leval were accused of betraying the Abyssinians, and both resigned. The plan was dropped, but the perception spread that Britain and France were not serious about the principles of the League. After the plan was dropped, the war continued and Mussolini turned to Adolf Hitler for alliance.

Soon following the Italian capture of the capital, Addis Ababa, and merging Abyssinia with its other colonies (creating Italian East Africa), all sanctions placed by the League were dropped.

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