229. Telegram From the Mission in Geneva to the Department of State1

9779. For Amb Schaufele from Wisner. Dept pass London for Seitz. Subj: Rhodesia Conference: Results of Richard’s Consultations in London.

I called on Richard this afternoon to find out what happened in London and what decisions were reached. Richard was accompanied by Robin Byatt and Robin Young. He said that his guidelines from London called for him to finish out this week of consultations with the various delegations in order to clarify as much as possible their views [Page 642] and positions. Richard will also try to test Smith’s willingness to accept a new framework which would allow him to stay in the game. This will allow London time to draw up a range of options with regard to British responsibilities in the interim government which will then be presented to the Secretary and Callaghan this weekend. Richard will be present for the talks in London.
If the Secretary and Callaghan conclude that the conference cannot be held together during the next week while the parties, including the front line presidents and South Africa are sold on a new package of British responsibilities, then Richard would return to Geneva next week and adjourn the conference for the Christmas period. During that time, we and the British would try to sell a new package, based on expanded British involvement, in Africa and then would try to reconvene the conference. (We understand separately that the package of options on British responsibilities being prepared in Whitehall will be sent info to Washington.)
Richard told me in strictest confidence and asked that we hold the information closely, that Crosland believes the mandate he has received from the Cabinet is broad enough to develop whatever degree of British responsibility may be necessary, and he would not need to return to the Cabinet for a decision. Military involvement is, of course, not in the mandate.
Richard does not think he can carry the conference through next week without a new negotiating framework. The nationalists, he said, are predisposed to a recess, particularly Nkomo and Muzorewa who would like to adjourn this week. Both want to campaign at home. The British understand that it will not be easy to put Geneva back together following a recess. They recognize that nationalist demands may escalate and positions harden but British do not see that they have many choices.
Immediate prospects depend on Smith’s attitude, which Richard will begin to probe this evening in a quiet, private session. I urged Richard to find any way possible to convince Smith that the UK is sympathetic to his problems and to overcome some of the suspicion, verging on hostility, that has developed between Smith’s delegation and the British. Richard said he would consider the suggestion but stressed that if Smith insisted on continuing his public attacks on the British, he could not expect any improvement in the treatment he receives in return. Neither we nor the British have any indication of Smith’s plans and even his own delegation is very much in the dark. At present, the only indication we have is what the press is carrying, which contains both positive and negative signals. While reiterating that he regards the five points as a firm contract, Smith indicated some possible flexibility by saying upon departing Salisbury, that “we have [Page 643] to keep ourselves in a position where we can move and play things off the cuff.”
Richard said that if Smith sticks to his so-called “contract”, the conference will be in dire peril and even a new package would not make any new difference. He reiterated what he had said to Assistant Secretary Reinhardt, that Annex C, for all intents and purposes, is dead. He would be reluctant to propose to Crosland that the British try to table a package of UK responsibilities until they have had a chance to get some indication from the Africans and South Africans that such a package might be acceptable.
When I asked Richard about the current mood in London concerning the talks, he replied that in general the attitude was good, principally because the British had finally become comfortable with the idea that it would take a more active British role if a settlement is to be achieved. He noted that many had not expected the conference to get as far as it has. Not only has the conference held together, but the parties have spelled out their positions in clear detail and we now have a better assessment of where the gaps lie and what will be necessary to bridge them. The gaps remain wide and it is clear that the nature of UK involvement will have to be much greater, to include voting participation in a body like the Council of State and perhaps a tie breaking role in the Council of Ministers as well. Some UK involvement in the security aspects would also have to be contemplated. But he believes the British by and large are better prepared to accept such responsibilities now than at any time since the negotiations began.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.