Former Deputy Foreign Minister Colonel Ha Van Lau, now 97 years old, was a member of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV)’s negotiation team at the Geneva Conference in 1954. He shared his memories about the Geneva talks on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Geneva agreement, which put an end to the war and restored peace in Indochina and Vietnam.

Together with the then Deputy Defence Minister Ta Quang Buu, Colonel Lau served as a military expert for the team. He recalled that the team travelled to Geneva by train via Beijing and Moscow, and arrived in Geneva on May 4, 1954. By that time, the DRV was yet to receive any official invitation to attend the talks. The invitation only came on May 8, 1954, just one day before the session on Vietnam began.

“Deputy Defence Minister Ta Quang Buu and I, as military experts of the delegation, studied the military aspects of the talks, which concerned the ceasefire, the movement of troops and France’s withdrawal of troops from the three Indochinese countries,” Lau said, adding that he was very worried because the work was new for him while there was very little information.

“We heard about the Dien Bien Phu Victory through western countries’ media before receiving reports from home,” he said. “No words can express our joy. Head of the delegation Pham Van Dong hugged everyone, and we spent a sleepless night to discuss plans for the meeting the next morning.”

The victory enhanced the DRV’s position at the talks, he said.

Reminiscing about the most tense moments during the negotiations 60 years ago, he said Buu and he met many times with the French side to discuss the demarcation for the relocation of military troops of both sides. Vietnam at first suggested Parallel 13, as the three provinces of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh were then the liberated zone, but the French side insisted on Parallel 18. Through much debate, the conference at last settled on Parallel 17, which was along Ben Hai River to the north of Quang Tri province.

“One difficulty for us at the negotiation was that we did not have the independence like in the later Paris talks,” the veteran diplomat said, adding that the DRV delegation had to rely on information provided by the Soviet Union and China. However, with the victory on the domestic battle fields and the firm principle of “independence, national unification and territorial integrity,” the delegation was able to achieve the goal of an agreement that put an end to war and restored peace in Indochina on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty, national unification and territorial integrity of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

According to the former Deputy Foreign Minister, the Geneva agreement marked a great victory of the anti-French resistance war, with participating countries, including France, committed respect for Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty, national unification and territorial integrity.-VNA