134. Aide-Mémoire From the Embassy in France to the Government of France 1
The Government of the United States hopes that the Government of France will use its influence among members of the UN Security Council to discourage the campaign to have the Security Council meet in Panama. That campaign aims at convening a meeting in Panama City next March, when the representative of Panama is scheduled to preside over the Security Council.
While asserting that the meeting would not be aimed against the United States Government, the Permanent Representative of Panama to the United Nations has informed us that the purpose of holding a meeting in Panama would be to focus the attention of public opinion, specifically in the United States, on the issues involved in the current negotiations between the United States and Panama concerning the Panama canal. The United States Government considers that it is inadmissable that the meetings of the Security Council should be moved to a particular locality for the express purpose of generating pressure on a specific issue especially one which is under active negotiation. The [Page 254]precedent of locating a Security Council meeting to influence bilateral negotiations or bilateral issues could in the future plague any and every member of the Council, whether permanent or not.
We believe that permanent members of the Security Council have special responsibility in this matter because of the influence they exercise in the Security Council and because opposition from permanent Security Council members would be given particular weight in a matter of this kind. The major powers must be concerned with the precedent that would be established if a country having an issue with one of them were to use its temporary membership on the Security Council and its presidency of the Council in a particular month, to move that forum to a locality from which it can bring pressure to bear on a permanent member.
Technically a vote on the location of a Security Council meeting is a procedural one; therefore under Article 27 of the UN Charter not subject to veto and requiring the affirmative votes of only 9 out of the 15 members. In fact, however, we believe the Security Council would hesitate to go against the serious reservations of several permanent members in matters of this importance.
It has been argued that there is a precedent for holding a Security Council meeting away from UN Headquarters. The United States Government does not believe that the Security Council’s previous meeting in Addis Ababa is analogous to the proposed meeting in Panama. In the former case, the appropriate regional organization, the Organization of African Unity, extended the invitation to meet in Addis Ababa which was endorsed by the General Assembly with a recommendation for the Security Council to act favorably; therefore there is no precedent for a response to an invitation by a single state to convene a meeting on its territory. Furthermore in the case of the meeting in Addis Ababa there were several African items on the existing active agenda of the Security Council, whereas there are no Latin American items currently scheduled to be discussed by the Council.
Under Article 28 (3) of the United Nations Charter, “The Security Council may hold meetings at such places other than the seat of the Organization as in its judgment will best facilitate its work.” The United States Government trusts the Government of France will agree that there is no issue presently or prospectively before the Security Council for which a meeting in Panama will best facilitate the Council’s work.
The Governments of France and the United States have been in agreement on the importance of limiting expenditures by the United Nations to those expenses which are essential. The United Nations budget is already badly strained and we hope that the Government of France will urge other members of the Security Council to give careful [Page 255]consideration to the unusual financial drain which is involved in holding any United Nations meeting away from the seat of the organization.
The Governments of the United States and France have also been in agreement that the Security Council should address itself primarily to matters of urgency and matters on which the Council can be expected to contribute significantly. It is also widely agreed that the Council should be able to convene instantly with excellent communications available to all the Embassies of member states should a crisis arise. These two principles also would militate strongly against holding a meeting of the Council in Panama without any apparent corresponding advantages.
The United States Government hopes the Government of France will consider its position concerning a Security Council meeting in Panama in the light of the above points and would be willing to concert with the United States Government on the best means of discouraging this effort.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, UN 3 SC. No classification marking. The text printed here is a copy transmitted to the Department as an attachment to airgram A–863, October 10, which reported that Watson delivered the aidemémoire to Schumann on October 5.↩