318. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Saudi Arabia0

164. Dept commends you for your able handling of delicate issues with Saqqaf and Faysal. We anxious now explore new means induce greater Saudi cooperation with disengagement effort. Faysal’s rejection US proposal for informal unconditional, exploratory SAG-UAR talks as means achieve detente in Saudi-UAR relations and facilitate process disengagement ends most recent US initiative to speed settlement Yemen crisis. Even if Saqqaf able obtain Faysal’s agreement talks subsequently, moment now appropriate for review situation, assessment gains and losses and determination future courses action.

You should arrange early meeting with Crown Prince to deliver President’s reply to his letter re Talbot-Hickenlooper correspondence1 and use this opportunity to convey, in manner you deem most appropriate, latest USG thinking on Yemen situation.

Following text message from President to Faysal:2

Your Royal Highness:

Thank you for your frank letter of August 18 regarding your concern that the recently published Talbot-Hickenlooper letter seemed inconsistent with our understanding on the Bunker disengagement agreement set forth in my letter of March 1, 1963.3 I appreciate your candor and am pleased at this opportunity to renew our correspondence.

Assistant Secretary Talbot’s letter was written in response to Senator Hickenlooper’s specific queries about certain points of United States [Page 689] policy toward Yemen. I can assure you that his letter was not intended to represent any change in policy and certainly no lessening in our determination to assure implementation of the disengagement agreement. We recognized the Yemen Arab Republic in December 1962 because it met the international criteria normally required for recognition of newly established governments. We believe this step helped to facilitate the process of disengagement that all parties to the conflict support.

We have no intention of seeking to impose on Yemen any particular form of government. As I understand your position you feel the same way. We both share the objective of leaving Yemen to the Yemenis, free from outside intervention. However, it is by no means inconsistent with this objective for the US to believe that through stabilization of the existing regime and elimination of all external pressures, the Yemenis ultimately will best be able to choose for themselves the political structure they prefer. The commencement of withdrawal of UAR forces in accordance with the disengagement agreement is a step in achieving this end.

I particularly welcome your renewed affirmation of support for the disengagement agreement and hope that the measures your authorities are taking to prevent any arms smuggling into Yemen will be effective. I count on your continued help and cooperation in the struggle to achieve a satisfactory settlement of the Yemen conflict.

Ambassador Hart has discussed with me in detail the recent developments in your country. I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the progress that has been made, and to renew to your Royal Highness assurance of my highest esteem and warm personal friendship.

May God crown our joint efforts with success and grant you and the Saudi people peace.

Sincerely, John F. Kennedy

Following are points you should make orally with Faysal (you might consider desirability of leaving written Arabic summary of your presentation with Saqqaf):

Disengagement agreement, though slow to be implemented and hindered by occasional failure of parties to honor scrupulously their undertakings, so far successful according UN reports. It has served Saudi interests by preventing large scale UAR air raids or deep penetrations such as those which took place prior to effective date disengagement agreement at Jizan, Khamis al-Mishayt and Abha. Disengagement will continue to act as a brake upon UAR.
UN has certified net withdrawal considerable number UAR troops since beginning formal disengagement early July and indications are that withdrawal continuing at reasonable rate. UAR bombings of July 31 and August 12 clear violations of disengagement agreement which USG has protested to Cairo, but in our view do not alter UAR [Page 690] undertaking withdraw forces. UARG has recently confirmed to us their intentions this respect.
US has contributed materially to start of disengagement by obtaining agreement parties cooperate in first instance and by exerting pressure on UAR to begin troop withdrawals and then to continue process as rapidly as possible. US support of Saudi Arabia and presence in country of US forces helped prevent major Saudi-UAR confrontation and deep UAR penetrations of Saudi territory.
US gratified at prompt SAG undertaking suspend support to Yemeni royalists and expression willingness continue financial support UNYOM. Suspension aid to royalists greatly increased our ability to exert pressure on UAR to withdraw its forces. We are concerned, however, about reports Saudi arms smuggling across Yemen border. With UAR troop withdrawals underway, failure SAG enforce suspension support to royalists can severely damage Saudi international reputation vis-à-vis UAR and tarnish Saudi record honoring disengagement agreement. Saudi failure control smuggling would shift blame for any failure of disengagement operation from UAR to Saudi shoulders. Urge SAG take all possible measures effectively control smuggling and seal border in cooperation with UNYOM observers.
Effective border closure on SAG side would rapidly curtail military activities royalists. UAR defensive and punitive actions permitted under disengagement agreement would become unnecessary and border violations would cease. Reduction hostilities in Yemen would remove basic reason for UAR presence and speed troop withdrawals.
Strict compliance by all parties with disengagement agreement and cooperation with UN vital to ultimate success operation. Since UN charged with supervision implementation agreement, world will look to UN for assessment performance of parties. FYI. You may say to Saqqaf that mutual recriminations and charges by parties of non-performance by other side only impede UN in conduct its task. End FYI.
Disengagement alone cannot resolve Yemen conflict. To create proper atmosphere for restoration peace and exercise Yemeni self-determination, parties must bury past grievances and seek modus vivendi. Talks proposed by US offered opening in this direction. Propaganda attacks by the UAR, however, were cited as reason for SAG refusal participate. US quite prepared endeavor obtain UAR agreement moderate propaganda against Saudi Arabia, but SAG practices such as permitting Yemeni royalists use Mecca radio to broadcast reports victories over UAR troops and to make scurrilous attacks against UAR jeopardize chances success. Moreover, practice inconsistent with SAG undertaking suspend support to royalists and with earlier affirmations that SAG indifferent to who rules Yemen so long as Yemenis make free choice.
USG would welcome Saudi suggestions as to best way achieve detente SAG-UAR relations and permit free exercise self-determination in Yemen.

In conveying foregoing views to Faysal you may amend language as necessary make them most effective. At your discretion you may present points more strongly to Saqqaf outside of conversation with Faysal.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 YEMEN. Secret; Operational Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Russell on August 22; cleared by Symmes, Buffum, McKesson, McGeorge Bundy, Hart, and Grant; and approved by Harriman. Repeated to Cairo, London, and Taiz (via Asmara), and to USUN.
  2. In telegram 200 from Jidda, August 18, the Embassy conveyed the text of a letter from Faisal to Kennedy in which the Crown Prince objected strongly to the content of a July 16 letter from Talbot to Senator Hickenlooper that had discussed reasons for the U.S. recognition of the Yemen Arab Republic and given an account of developments relating to the Saudi-UAR conflict concerning that country. (Ibid.) The Department of State transmitted the text of Talbot’s letter to Senator Hickenlooper in telegram 102 to Jidda, August 5. (Ibid.) Saqqaf had first raised Faisal’s concerns with Charge Thacher on August 3. (Telegram 140 from Jidda, August 3; ibid., POL 27 UAR-YEMEN)
  3. A memorandum from Komer to Kennedy, August 23, transmitted a Department of State draft of the message to Faisal that had been rewritten by Komer. A marginal notation indicates Komer’s memorandum and its attachment were included in the President’s weekend reading on August 24. Another notation indicates that McGeorge Bundy approved Komer’s rewritten version of the letter on August 26. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Saudi Arabia, 7/63–8/63)
  4. Document 172.
  5. Thacher delivered Kennedy’s message to Faisal on August 30. According to Thacher’s report, Faisal’s reaction was “neutral” except for an initial comment that “We are glad to have this assurance that American policy is unchanged towards disengagement.” (Telegram 243 from Jidda, September 1; Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 YEMEN)