131. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • West German Attitude Toward Proposal for International Access Authority

PARTICIPANTS

  • Ambassador Karl Heinrich Knappstein, German embassy
  • Assistant Secretary William R. Tyler, EUR
  • Mr. Martin J. Hillenbrand, Director, BTF
  • Mr. Robert C. Creel, Director, GeR

Ambassador Knappstein called on Mr. Tyler this afternoon at his own request. He said he had not come to make a demarche but to consult on a matter which “worries me a little”. In Mayor Brandt’s talk with [Page 356]the President on October 5, 19621 the latter had made several statements which “worried us” since it appeared that possibly they had been made on the basis of incomplete information. These statements were that thus far all United States proposals for a solution of the problem of civilian access to Berlin had been rejected by either Moscow or Bonn, that the United States would make no more proposals on this subject, and that it was now up to the West Berliners and West Germans to get together and make their own proposals for a solution.

Knappstein said he felt that some of these statements were not entirely supported by the facts. He was also bothered by recent newspaper articles reporting a shift in the West German attitude toward the proposal for an International Access Authority. These reports gave the wrong impression that the Germans have been opposed to this proposal. In fact, however, Foreign Minister Schroeder had told Secretary Rusk last June in Bonn2 that the Federal Republic was in basic agreement with the United States draft regarding the composition of the Governing Board for an Access Authority. Knappstein said he considered it important to clear the matter up before Minister Schroeder arrived in the United States. He was most anxious to do away with “these little misunderstandings”. He, therefore, wished to consult us on whether it would not be advisable for the German embassy to issue a public statement to the press setting forth the facts. He then read a proposed statement, which laid stress on the fact that agreement to the International Access Authority proposal had been given by Minister Schroeder last June.

Mr. Tyler said his intial reaction to this suggestion was to wonder whether such a statement might not serve only to stir things up and blow them out of proportion. It would tend to focus attention pointedly on the existence of an area of misunderstanding and might well lead to all sorts of public speculation which could be damaging to our relations. It would tend to revive in the press the ghost of the previous misunderstandings of some months ago. It was possible the current flurry might blow over quickly. He would, therefore, advise against making any such statement to the press at this time.

Mr. Hillenbrand commented that the President’s remarks had been limited to the question of civilian access. It was correct to say that our proposals for an International Access Authority had at one time publicly been shot down by the Germans. Probably the impression which had remained strongest in our minds was the great public hullabaloo which [Page 357]had resulted from the Chancellor’s public denunciation last Spring of the international access proposal.

Mr. Tyler commented that the basic idea involved here was that we considered it appropriate for the Germans to take a more active role in working for a solution of our mutual problems.

Ambassador Knappstein said that upon reflection he tended to agree with Mr. Tyler that the suggested press statement might only serve to stir things up. At the same time he was anxious to get the matter in proper focus before the arrival of Minister Schroeder and the latter’s talk with the President. He felt he should consult with Mr. Bundy on the problem right away. He wished the President to be aware before his talk with Schroeder that the Germans had in fact accepted last June the proposal for an access authority.

At two separate points during the conversation Ambassador Knappstein commented, rather defensively, that he had felt it would have been inappropriate for him to take any major part in the discussion between the President and Mayor Brandt.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10–1062. Secret. Drafted by Creel and initialed by Tyler.
  2. See Document 128.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 68.