192. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spanish Government Position on Overflights of Spain by Military Aircraft of NATO Countries Bound for or Going to Gibraltar


  • The Under Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Leddy
  • Thomas M. Judd, EUR/BNA
  • Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador
  • Kenneth B.A. Scott, First Secretary, British Embassy

Ambassador Dean referred to the Spanish Government note of January 22 to all NATO governments,2 except the UK, regarding the overflight of Spanish territory by military aircraft of NATO countries intending to land at or taking off from Gibraltar. The British representative intended to make a statement on this note at the NAC meeting on January 26. The statement would make three principal points:

Gibraltar was not a NATO base.
Gibraltar was, in fact, a British base. Use was made of it by Britain’s NATO allies at the invitation of the British Government.
The British Government regretted any Spanish action which might curtail the use of facilities on Gibraltar which the UK offered to its NATO allies. The effect, however slight, would be to make more difficult the defense of the West.

The British Ambassador went on to say that HMG was particularly anxious to have U.S. support for this statement. HMG considered that the position taken by the U.S. would have an important effect on the attitude of other NATO members.

Mr. Ball replied that this was a difficult problem for us. Our position with Spain was a special one inasmuch as we had a bilateral agreement with the Spanish Government. An additional point was that this was not purely a State Department problem; other agencies were concerned. We would need some time to work out our position.

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Mr. Leddy asked if there was any particular hurry. He noted that we had just received the text of the Spanish note and had not had time to study it. Also, the Spanish had included an additional point in the note they sent us. They had asked us not to have our planes operating from Spanish bases land at Gibraltar.

Mr. Scott said Shuckburgh had mentioned the possibility of getting the discussions on Gibraltar postponed. Mr. Ball said this would be the best course for us.

Ambassador Dean said that from the British point of view, it was more important to get the right answer than a quick answer. He said that Foreign Secretary Stewart was very interested in the Gibraltar question. He would probably want to raise it on Thursday during the discussions on the British defense review.

Ambassador Dean left the attached aide-mémoire setting forth the British position.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 19 GIB. Confidential. Drafted by Judd and approved in U on January 28. The meeting was held in Ball’s office.
  2. Transmitted to the Department of State in airgram A-464 from Madrid, January 22. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed.