66. Message From British Prime Minister Heath to President Nixon 1

Dear Mr President

I wished to let you know at once of the outcome of Alec Douglas-Home’s personal visit to Rhodesia. He has managed, in spite of all the difficulties, to obtain the agreement of Mr Smith and his colleagues to proposals for a settlement which we believe can be demonstrated to be in full accordance with the first Four Principles, and which we shall hope to show to be acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole under the Fifth Principle. I am sure that the settlement offers the Africans in Rhodesia a real prospect of political, social and economic advance. It is moreover likely to be the last opportunity for achieving this.

Joe Godber, whom I have asked to bring this message, was hoping to see Secretary Rogers and Henry Kissinger but as I understand they [Page 162] will both be away from Washington I hope he will be able to see other representatives of the State Department and your own staff.2 The purpose of his visit will be to give your people the background, and full details of the agreement reached and of our plans for conducting a “Test of Acceptability” in Rhodesia. He will also wish to discuss future tactics, particularly in relation to the United Nations. He will of course be at your disposal should you wish to have a personal report from him. He will be planning later to go to New York for talks there.

The way ahead now hinges on our demonstrating, in the “Test of Acceptability” which is to be carried out by a Commission led by a British Judge, that all the races in Rhodesia accept the settlement as the way out of present stagnation and an increasingly dark future. Subject to this, we would pass the necessary legislation granting Rhodesia independence, and at this stage our sanctions legislation would be terminated. All this will of course take a little time.

Meanwhile, it will be all-important to aim for the greatest degree of international acceptance which it is possible to obtain for the settlement. There are opponents of any agreement with the Rhodesians. There is an obvious danger that they will use every effort in the OAU and the UN to engineer opposition to the settlement regardless of the views or interests of the Rhodesian Africans. They may well try to forestall the outcome of the “Test of Acceptability” by action in the Security Council. We shall at all costs have to prevent this. In the first instance our aim will be to persuade as many Governments as possible not to take up firm positions against the settlement before the result of the “Test of Acceptability” is known. In particular we shall be seeking the necessary number of supporting votes (or at least absentations) to prevent any unacceptable resolution being passed in the Council. In the longer term we shall all need to have it accepted that the implementation of a successful settlement has brought about a situation in which sanctions resolutions have lapsed. Here again we must expect strong opposition from some quarters.

I believe that we are agreed that the existing situation had become increasingly unrealistic and damaging, and I hope that you will feel that Alec Douglas-Home has achieved a solution which we can all support. Certainly your help will be immensely valuable to us in the task of explaining the settlement and resisting attempts to undermine and destroy it. It will be a great encouragement to us if we know we can count on this.

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May I add how extremely grateful I was for your most prompt and helpful response to my message to you about sanctions.3 It was very good of you to agree to act so quickly.

With best personal wishes,

Yours sincerely

Edward Heath 4
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 16 RHOD. Secret. An advance text of the message was transmitted by Cromer to Nixon on November 24.
  2. See Document 67.
  3. See Document 65 and footnote 2 thereto. Nixon’s response was not found.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.