130. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

3620. Dept pass ARA and SC member capitals as desired. Subj: Possible Security Council Meeting in Panama. Refs: (A) USUN 3587,2 (B) USUN 3598,3 (C) USUN 3544,4 (D) USUN 3525,5 (E) Panama 4410,6 (F) Panama 4450,7 (G) State 179271.8

As USUN reporting shows Panamanian PermRep Boyd obviously believes, with some reason, he has made significant progress in garnering support for SC meeting in Panama in March 1973.
Boyd’s role in SC has been almost exclusively aimed at this objective since Panama joined SC in January 1972. In his first statement before SC and in most since, he has raised Canal question either directly or in reference to racial and other discrimination in Canal Zone. Specifically Boyd had openly stated that his frequent support for African initiatives on Southern Africa and decolonization resolutions is aimed at getting African support for SC meeting in Panama.
Our assessment of present situation is that, with present SC composition US, UK, Belgium and Italy would oppose. Should no action be taken before 1973 we would expect Australia as replacement for one we oppose. Although French Mission here and UN Director Leprette surprised at Schumann statement of support during LA dinner we assume that French position may be pretty much established. (French privately had reservations about Addis meeting but these were never expressed publicly.) We would expect all others, including Austria, in 1973, to support. Nevertheless we are not convinced that all positions, even those of LAs, are completely firm as yet. Furthermore, most supporters have not given thought to agenda and political considerations of Panama meeting.
USUN 3587 indicates our standing criteria for SC meetings away from headquarters. Argentine PermRep Ortiz has advised us the financial and administrative arguments against the meeting will not be very useful, presumably with LAs, but substantive reasoning could be effective.
Boyd has stated to us that Panama’s objective is to discuss the Canal and have favorable impact on US public opinion. He should know, however, just how little play SC meeting in Panama will probably get in US media unless there is violence—physical or oratorical— which, from Panama’s point of view, would probably have adverse effect on US public opinion.
Meeting in Panama is not entirely analogous to that of meeting in Addis Ababa.
Invitation: OAU extended invitation which endorsed by GA with recommendation to SC to act favorably. Therefore there is no precedent for response to invitation by single state although we assume OAS could be persuaded follow OAU example.
Agenda: In case of Addis meeting there was plethora African items on existing SC agenda but SC committee on meetings away from headquarters put together catchall agenda item called consideration of questions relating to Africa with which SC is currently seized and implementation of its relevant resolutions. Substituting LA for Africa— as Boyd has suggested—would have grave implications since only LA items falling into this category are Cuban questions (1960 and 1962), Haitian complaints about Dominican Republic and US policy in Dominican Republic 1965 (Soviet initiative). The Canal is specifically on the agenda, Item 60, as a result of letter to SC President from Panamanian PermRep of January 10, 1964 as result incidents in Panama and the Zone.
We believe not even Panamanians would wish to reopen Cuban or Dominican Republic items. If they to invoke only Item 60 we would have strong argument—for what it would be worth—for not holding [Page 248]meeting in area concerned and thus subject SC to local tensions and undesirable pressures. Therefore we suspect they likely draw up general item, not specifically including the Canal, which did not get SC into morass of past LA items which could degenerate into debate not about Canal but cold war questions. Conceivably Cuba and, possibly, Chile would attempt to have item include situations which subjects of dispute with US.
Our initial recommendations for opposing meetings would be:
There is no item currently under discussion concerning LA before the SC.
If agenda Item 60 (Panama Canal) is to be basis for meeting, Panama would be least desirable locus.
We unaware of any urgent issues which require meeting away from headquarters.
OAS as regional organization is forum for issues of current importance.
UN finances, already badly strained, would again be subject to unusual drain without corresponding substantive benefits to UN, SC, Panama or others.
SC would be lending itself to exploitation for advantage of one member which not in interest of UN. Furthermore, as seems likely, SC will again put itself in position of failing to make real contribution to resolution of political disputes.
Obviously it would serve to defuse Panamanian initiative if progress could be made toward settlement of the Canal question but Embassy Panama’s reporting leads us to believe that Panama’s game plan is to reinforce its bargaining position by use of SC meeting. Presumably interim progress in this regard would require significant and unacceptable USG concessions on Canal at a time when ball is in Panamanian court.
If our analysis is correct and if we decide make major effort on this issue we believe suitably tailored approaches will be necessary at ARA posts and most SC member capitals. Even if we unable head off SC meeting in Panama—as we suspect—our lobbying added to kinds of action Embassy Panama has suggested in reftel (F) could help keep meeting within tolerable limits and thus assure least possible damage to our position and to the image of the UN.
As first step suggest Embassy Paris be requested get interpretation Schumann’s remarks here as reported USUN 3544 which should be repeated to Paris.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 SC. Confidential. Repeated to Panama City.
  2. Telegram 3587 from USUN, September 29, described a luncheon meeting between Bush and Panamanian Permanent Representative Boyd the day before. Bush said the cost of any meeting had to be carefully considered, and meetings should not be held “to bring special pressure to bear on a specific issue.” Boyd replied that Panama expected to be “very generous” with expenses. He also hoped that a special Security Council meeting in Panama “would favorably mould public opinion in the US on the Canal issue,” but was vague about other agenda items. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 3598 from USUN, September 30, described a meeting with members of the Japanese UN Mission, who had told Bush that they had not yet been approached by Boyd about the special meeting in Panama. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 3544 from USUN, September 28, mentioned that Boyd had told Deputy Representative W. Tapley Bennett that French Foreign Minister Schumann had expressed full support for a Security Council meeting in Panama. (Ibid.)
  5. In telegram 3525 from USUN, September 28, Bush mentioned that British Permanent Representative Crowe said that the Panamanian initiative had the support of 11 Security Council members. Any effort to reverse the trend “would necessarily include high-level démarches in capitals of West European SC members and at LA capitals,” and was unlikely to succeed. (Ibid.)
  6. In telegram 4410 from Panama City, September 28, Ambassador Robert M. Sayre announced Panama’s formal request for U.S. support for holding a Security Council meeting in Panama in March 1973. (Ibid.)
  7. Telegram 4450 from Panama City, September 30, analyzed President Torrijos’ efforts to use a Security Council meeting in Panama to focus world attention on the Panama Canal situation. (Ibid., POL 33–3 CZ)
  8. In telegram 179271, October 2, the Department concurred in Ambassador Sayre’s analysis of President Torrijos’ “game plan” and reported that efforts would be made to “slow, if not halt, its momentum.” (Ibid.)