168. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in France0

525. Ref urtel 3761 and Deptel 77 to Tunis rptd USUN 150 Paris 524. US position and reasoning on assistance to airlift Tunisian troops described for your information in Deptel 77.2

You are authorized inform FonOff that US has carefully considered French objections to our providing airlift support for Tunisian contingent from Congo. In view implications which might be drawn from using US military aircraft to repatriate Tunisian troops at this time, US has decided, contrary to past practice in Congo operations, that US military aircraft will not participate in lift.

In fulfilling its obligation repatriate Tunisians, UN has approached commercial carriers including US and European lines to bid on contract for airlift. Since this airlift represents bona fide UN request, USG will not interpose objections to US airlines participating in airlift. We understand Sabena was first airline to bid on UN contract for lift.

You may wish emphasize that airlift being handled as strictly UN operation, with combination of UN aircraft and chartered commercial aircraft of European and American carriers.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 332.70G/7-2561. Confidential. Drafted by Pelcovits, cleared by Blue and Root, and approved by Cleveland. Passed to CINCEUR and to USUN and Tunis.
  2. Telegram 376 from Paris, July 24, reported that Lyon had informed French Foreign Minister Couve de Murville concerning the planned U.S. airlift of Tunisian troops from the Congo. The Foreign Minister replied that he did not like to see the United States failing to support France and would have preferred to see Soviet planes doing this work. He also expressed concern that Bourguiba wanted these troops for a future operation against France. (Ibid., 772.56351/7-2461)
  3. In telegram 77 to Tunis, July 25, the Department noted that the United States was “cooperating fully” in repatriating Tunisian troops from the Congo, but had decided to use commercial carriers rather than have the U.S. Air Force directly involved in the “disturbed situation within Tunisia.” Ambassador Walter Walmsley was authorized to stress to the Tunisian Government that the United States was “responding fully and favorably to their request in the most expeditious way possible,” noting that the difference between using commercial aircraft and USAF aircraft was “symbolic rather than real.” (Ibid., 323.70G/7-2561)