434. Telegram From Secretary of State Rusk to the Department of State1
New York, October 1, 1968, 2052Z.
6765/Secto 6. Secretary, accompanied by Buffum and Sisco, had about an hour’s discussion with SYG on Sept. 30 (accompanied by Bunche) on a number of matters relating to current GA.
Following are principal points which emerged:
- In response to Secretary’s inquiry on how SYG sees upcoming GA, Thant singled out as important Assembly discussion of disarmament, ENDC report, results of non-nuclear conference, seabeds, outer space, and UNCTAD items.
- On Middle East, Secretary stressed need for Jarring2 to intensify his efforts and to seize opportunity afforded by presence of Foreign Ministers at GA to see whether progress could be made. Secretary expressed hope, that if parties not making progress, Jarring would put forward proposals of his own. SYG said he expected new proposal from Eban. Bunche said Jarring depressed because Israelis have not given him anything. Suggested Secretary encourage Jarring when he sees him Tuesday3 am. Thant said Jarring expects to continue his efforts possibly until the end of November and then submit report. If substantial progress has not been made, SC will have to consider matter. Thant and Bunche said Jarring expects put forward “ideas” of his own to the parties probably near end of his tour. Both Thant and Bunche, who described Jarring’s ideas as constructive, assumed that if one or the other parties turns down ideas this would end Jarring’s utility and will generate series of SC meetings where Thant sees two alternatives: (a) appointment of a new Jarring; or (b) a new substantive resolution different from November SC resolution. Bunche stressed that another factor which will influence whether Jarring decides to continue beyond end of Oct is the amount of support he gets from major powers. Secretary affirmed that US intends to support Jarring’s efforts and that he would be seeing Eban, Rifai, and Riad to this end. Also it was pointed out fact that Jarring puts forward “ideas” that are turned down by one or other of parties might not necessarily mean that parties would consider UN representatives’ mission at an end. We believed UN rep could submit ideas to parties privately, but whether his utility will [Page 936] have come to an end will depend in part on how much he decides to put out publicly regarding the substance of his ideas. If any SC report were non-substantive, break in Jarring’s services might be avoided.
- Considerable part of conversation centered on Vietnam. Secretary said we had been taken by surprise by Thant’s recent statement4 and that Ambassador Ball had expressed our views to Thant last week. Secretary said he surprised SYG made no reference to what other side would do. SYG said he had long held view that first step to be taken is for US to cease the bombing unilaterally and that “meaningful talks would ensue.” He urged US to take risk. He cited French and Soviet views in support of thesis that meaningful talks would follow cessation of bombing. In response to Thant’s statement that Hanoi considers cessation of bombing of North non-negotiable, the Secretary rejoined that stopping bombing without some reciprocation is not negotiable; question was in light these strongly held views how was war to be ended and an honorable solution achieved. Throughout Thant maintained that his objectives were same as US, but that his understanding and his conception of war was different than ours. As Secretary pressed Thant to say what as a matter of conscience Hanoi should do, Thant responded that Hanoi should abide by the Geneva Accords of 1954 and “at some stage” with the general agreements of 1962.5 Thant refused to respond directly as to whether Communists should stop sending guerrillas to Thailand or restore DMZ. When Secretary expressed view that majority in GA did not favor simple unilateral cessation of bombing resolution, Thant, as he did with Amb. Ball, repeated he was not suggesting that GA consider resolution on matter and that Hanoi, Paris and Moscow all against UN involvement. He said he based his assumption that majority favor simple cessation of bombing on examination of speeches made in general debate last year.
- In response to further queries of Secretary which focused on Communist action necessary to restore effectiveness of the Geneva Agreements on Laos and to respect territorial integrity of Cambodia, SecGen would not be drawn out. Moreover, he said he could not say for how many days or weeks US should stop the bombing. When Secretary asked whether SYG would support resumption of bombing of North if Communists took advantage of situation, Thant refused commit himself and limited himself to saying this depended on circumstances. Secretary stresssed that US had taken first step pursuant to President’s March 31 statement and that North Vietnam had not responded constructively to it. Secretary again returned to query as to what SYG in good conscience thought Hanoi should do to move [Page 937] towards peace and pointedly told SYG this lacking in his statements. Secretary said SYG had not been authorized by an organ of SC nor had there been an expression by majority of UN on basis which SYG expressed his views in favor total cessation of the US bombing of North Vietnam. SYG said he had authority under Article 99 to bring matter to UN, but that he had not done so. He underscored his strong anti-Communist views, while expressing strong disagreement with methods we were using in Vietnam. He said he would be happy to have UN consider Vietnam problem, preferably in SC, but he recognized that both Hanoi, French and Soviets were opposed. He would be happy to have Czechoslovakia matter brought to UN but Czech opposition prevented this. On ME he noted neither Arabs nor Israelis wanted matter of settlement discussed in Assembly at present time.
- Secretary explained the current state of play on Foreign Aid Bill, pointed out that impression from press might be that US was not doing great deal in this field. He singled out our support for Asian Bank, IDA, PL 480, and our hope there will be a substantial contribution made to UN development program.
- In response to Secretary’s query, Thant had no new ideas to offer regarding possible UN involvement in Nigerian matter. Expressed hope that UN would be able to send anything it wanted by way of help in agreement with govt in Lagos. He is waiting further reports from Gussing who presently in area.
- Thant raised question of four-power conference and said he sending a letter to ForMins on Tuesday with some modest ideas. Letter Thant apparently had in mind was one in which he would suggest four powers not try to discuss major difficult problems such as ME, Vietnam or Czechoslovakia, but rather would exchange views on how UN could be strengthened. He hoped that such a meeting might help devise ways and means to move UN forward and in particular arrive at some kind of solution of financial difficulties. Such meeting would give lift to UN, he said Secretary reacted strongly to sending formal letter of this kind to ForMins without prior consultations. Secretary said four-power meeting, in which no progress made, would set things back rather than move them forward. He insisted there should be prior consultations with ForMins before any such letter is sent. Secretary pointed out he consulting with other ForMins and Thant should do so before any such letter sent. Secretary stressed we living in highly dangerous world in which USSR nervous and afraid of something. Any move, such as four-power meeting, should be taken only with great care and after full consultations. To hold such a public meeting at which differences would be aired would be unhelpful. Effective diplomacy by SYG required prior consultations. Thant then backed off and said he would consult beforehand with four powers. Bunche later confirmed to US that SYG had definitely decided not send letter for time being pending consultations.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, United Nations, Vol. 11. Secret; Priority; Nodis.↩
- Between January and May 1968, Gunnar Jarring, the United Nations Special Representative in the Middle East, met with Arab and Israeli officials in Cyprus. After his return to New York Jarring continued secret discussions relating to a Middle East peace settlement at the United Nations.↩
- October 1.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 432.↩
- For text of the 1954 Geneva Accords, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. XVI, pp. 1505–1546. For text of the 1962 Geneva Agreements on Laos, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, pp. 1075–1083.↩