48. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

817. Committee of 24 Africa Trip. Ref: State 40540.2

We informed UK, Italy and Norway March 17 of US decision not to participate in Committee’s Africa trip. Shaw (UK) said UK intended inform Mestiri of UK decision on trip by end of week and, therefore, he saw no reason why we should not proceed to tell Mestiri as soon as we wished.
Finger accordingly met with Mestiri late afternoon Mar. 17 and conveyed our decision. Mestiri said he very much regretted we had decided not participate; he had expected UK would not participate but had believed US would go on trip. He said he would have to inform Afro-Asian group and Committee working group of US decision but would like to think about how best use this info. When Finger suggested desirability of not informing Afro-Asians for few days in order avoid possible risk to SC negotiations re Namibia which now in progress, Mestiri readily agreed and said he would hold off until next week before informing Afro-Asians.
Mestiri then said that trip without US and UK would obviously be less effective, and he would like to avoid doing anything which would harm prestige of Committee and of UN. However, there was very strong sentiment in Committee for trip and Mestiri thought it would not be possible to put off trip this year. He said he had given considerable thought to matter of Africa trip and that his discouraging of trip last year was part of his strategy of trying to put increasingly long intervals of time between trips, i.e., two-year interval now, perhaps three-year interval next time.
Mestiri then suggested that it would be very useful, in this connection, if visiting missions could be arranged to other territories. This, he said, would help serve as deterrent to regular Africa trips by whole Committee and would enable Committee to divide into sub-groups to visit various territories, so that, for example, one group might visit Africa, another an American territory, and while still another might go to a British territory. Mestiri then mentioned desirability of visiting mission [Page 81] to US Virgin Islands, saying he thought it could be arranged that responsible group of Committee members could be chosen for such trips, with US having a say in selection. He said he has been generally encouraged by developments within Committee because moderate elements appeared to be showing more strength and radicals like Tanzania becoming increasingly isolated. He noted as case in point that Tanzania, although strongly opposed to Committee’s undertaking study of small territories, had been unable to make its view prevail. Mestiri urged we give serious consideration to possibility of visiting mission to one of our territories and thought Virgin Islands might be easiest one from our point of view. He said that if we were to agree to such a visiting mission, he was confident that demand for visiting missions to other US territories could be held off for at least three years, adding that a lot can happen in three years, including possibility that such a mission could make important contribution to greater realism in Committee.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 19 UN. Confidential. Repeated to Capetown, London, and Pretoria.
  2. In telegram 40540, March 15, the Department concurred that participation in the Committee’s African trip was not in U.S. interests, and authorized the Mission to inform Mestiri that the United States had serious reservations about the usefulness of the trip and would not participate in it. (Ibid.)