76. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaughn) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Position on Mediation Request in British Honduras Dispute

Discussion

The Governments of Guatemala and the United Kingdom formally requested the United States Government on July 6, 1965 to move beyond its role of good offices in the UK–Guatemala dispute over British Honduras and to serve as a mediator in the dispute either solely or in conjunction with other governments to be mutually agreed upon. This request was the outcome of informal talks held in London during the last week of June between representatives of the Governments of Guatemala, the United Kingdom, and British Honduras. These talks, as well as the round of talks which preceded them in May in Miami, were arranged through the good offices which the U.S. Government has been extending to the U.K. and Guatemala since 1963, shortly after the long-standing dispute over British Honduras (or Belize) led to the rupture of diplomatic relations between those two governments. Having received informal notice from both sides that the London talks would probably lead to a request for U.S. Government mediation, the Department unsuccessfully attempted to ward off such a request by informing both sides, prior to the London talks, that the USGovt would prefer not to mediate but would be willing, on request, to suggest prominent foreign (non-U.S.) private citizens as mediators. Our position was dictated by our desire to avoid the onus of a settlement which is bound to be unpopular with one side or the other and particularly so with Guatemala. The possible adverse reaction to direct USG mediation by Mexico, which also has a claim to part of British Honduras, has been another consideration.

Following receipt of the request for U.S. Government mediation, Embassy Guatemala strongly urged the Department to accede (Embtel 13, July 6, Tab A).2 AmConsul Belize endorsed Embassy Guatemala’s [Page 190]recommendation (Belize No. 3 of July 13, Tab B).3 The British Government is believed to desire a favorable U.S. response primarily to ensure continuation of the search for a solution which will enable it to withdraw from British Honduras. Embassy Mexico recommended that, if the USGovt were to undertake the mediation, prior consultation should be carried out with the GOM because of Mexico’s own historic claim to part of British Honduras (Embtel 63, July 7, Tab C).4 Embassy Mexico believes GOM would not object to mediation by a prominent U.S. private citizen, but recommends that announcement of the appointment of a mediator be made, not by the U.S. Government, but by the UK and the GOG, to minimize the appearance of official U.S. participation (Embtel 143, July 15, Tab D).5 Mr. Meeker, in a memorandum of July 12 (copy attached, Tab E)6 suggested that the Department be responsive to the request but attempt, at least for the time being, to keep to a minimum the U.S. Government association with the mediation by offering to suggest a prominent U.S. private citizen or citizens as mediator(s).

Recommendation

With the concurrence of EUR and of L, I recommend that the Department reply to the UK and GOG request by offering to suggest to them a prominent U.S. private citizen or citizens to serve as mediator. I further recommend that, if the answer of the UK and GOG to this offer is affirmative, ARA and L be authorized together to begin discreet, informal exploratory soundings with appropriate U.S. private citizens.7

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 GUAT–UK. Confidential. Drafted by Steins on July 21; cleared by Shullaw, Reis, and Salans. Sayre initialed for Vaughn. Another copy indicates that the memorandum was also cleared by Leonhardy and Sause. (Ibid.)
  2. Not attached. (Ibid., POL BRHOND–GUAT)
  3. Not attached. (Ibid., POL 32–1 GUAT–UK)
  4. Not attached. (Ibid., POL BRHOND–GUAT)
  5. Not attached. Reference should be to telegram 142 from Mexico. (Ibid.)
  6. Not attached. Reference is in error; the memorandum from Meeker to Vaughn and Leddy is dated July 13. (Ibid., POL 32–1 GUAT–UK)
  7. Ball approved this recommendation on July 24.