160. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal 1

671. Greatly appreciate your 6522 as means break stalemate in this long-standing and grave issue. It has evoked wide interest here and in African posts whose views have been solicited and which you have seen.

We are only too well aware of difficulties you would have in selling proposal to Portuguese and appreciate need for positive elements from their viewpoint if they are to give serious consideration to such proposal. At same time we are concerned about such aspects as extent of US involvement, length of transitional period, need for political activity prior to plebiscite, and role for UN and OAU. We have modified your proposal on these points and have elaborated several others and following is outline of our thinking for an approach to Portuguese.

We believe present juncture when Portuguese are in relatively strong position in both Angola and Mozambique presents opportunity for GOP and Africans to reach agreement for peaceful resolution their differences. Key elements of solution would have to be transition period leading to self-determination and cessation of nationalist-inspired violence and subversion, as well as inspiration and support for such actions by African governments concerned. Full range of choice would be left to people, and would include maintenance of present relationship with Portugal, autonomy within Commonwealth, or full independence. Aim of proposal would be peaceful transition and creation stable society no matter what political decisions are made by the people.
Specifically Portugal would propose eight-year transition period leading to free and open plebiscite observed by UN and OAU representatives. (FYI: We propose eight years, given comments from African posts that five may be realistic limit negotiable with Africans, but this of course is matter for negotiating parties to determine. End FYI.) In return neighboring African states would pledge assurances they would not allow subversive elements to organize or operate from their territories against Portuguese territories for purposes of infiltration, subversion or attack across international frontiers, and that they will not allow arms to flow across their territories to such elements. All [Page 327] training camps for nationalist military or para-military training would be disbanded.
US and other NATO allies would encourage Africans’ acceptance and urge fulfillment terms of such an agreement, would publicly come out in full support of agreement once it is adopted and would publicly condemn any violation of terms should such occur subsequently from any quarter. We would sympathetically consider Portuguese request for support for Portuguese complaint in UN if we were satisfied deliberate and organized violations had taken place, and under same circumstances would be responsive to GOP requests for arms purchases. FYI. By same token if Portugal welched on plebiscite, we would consider sympathetically African requests for support. End FYI.
We recognize that Guinea and Congo (Brazzaville) are not likely to accept proposal and would probably continue support of violence against Portuguese Guinea and Cabinda. If agreement were reached and in force with others, we would in this event publicly condemn such actions. We would make other African governments aware of our position on this aspect from the outset.
During transition period US would itself provide and would encourage other NATO allies to provide, if Portugal so requests, economic and technical support for Portuguese efforts to develop African territories. UN and its specialized agencies would be allowed to observe and report on developments and provide assistance. OAU members would also be invited to provide economic and technical assistance.
Increasingly free political activity would obviously have to be permitted to make for meaningful plebiscite. Full amnesty and repatriation would also be allowed for refugees and, as time for plebiscite approached, for nationalist leaders, who must be permitted to campaign openly and freely for independence if they choose to do so.
We would hope that GOP, if interested in such proposal, would in time present it to African leaders and thereby initiate dialogue which might result in meaningful negotiations. Should Portugal desire, we would be quite willing to assist by sounding out such leaders and U Thant on a tentative basis and in manner designed to pave way for direct Portuguese-African discussions.

Would appreciate your comments on foregoing draft presentation and on timing of any approach.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 10 PORT. Secret. Drafted by Looram, High, and Beigel; cleared in EUR and AF and by Buffum and Harriman; and approved by Ball.
  2. Dated April 13. (Ibid., AID PORT)
  3. The Embassy commented in telegram 799 from Lisbon, June 18. (Ibid.)