241. Telegram From the Embassy in Malta to the Department of State1

74. Subj: Malta: Mintoff Message to President.

1. MinCFA Secretary Chalmers delivered to me following message from Mintoff to President 10:00 p.m. local:

Quote. Dear Mr. President,

A. A very dangerous situation is rapidly developing in Malta. As you well know the British Government refuse to budge one inch from their offer of pounds 9.5 million which falls far short of the minimum [Page 768]annual rent of pounds 18 million requested by the Government of Malta.

B. At the recent NATO Council meeting2 are reliably informed—Great Britain has even rejected suggestions by other NATO members for a substantial revision of the pounds 9.5 million offer.

C. One would therefore have expected Britain genuinely to cooperate with the Maltese Government for a speedy and orderly withdrawal of her forces. This has not been the case.

D. All Britain’s actions have, on the contrary, been directed to browbeat the Maltese people into submission. Their agents and spokesmen have daily incited the Maltese people to overthrow their democratically elected government; they have tried to scare commercial shipping from undertaking repairs at the Malta drydocks; they have started a campaign in the British press against Maltese migrants working in Britain; and they are now trying through B.E.A.3 to divert British tourists from Malta to Cyprus.

E. Although the British Government have undertaken in writing to withdraw their forces with all possible dispatch, nothing was in fact done to implement this promise. Their so-called withdrawal operations have been confined to the packing of belongings of British service families stationed on the island. Whilst even school books have been made ready for transportation, not a single gun or valuable piece of military equipment has as yet been dismantled.

F. All evidence seems to point to the possibility of the British Government hoping for ‘incidents’ to take place which would justify the use of their well-equipped professional soldiers against our unarmed people.

G. The British Government’s representatives in Malta have refused the repeated offers of the Government of Malta to allow the Maltese Government’s technicians to run jointly with the British forces common facilities such as the airport, electricity supply, telephones, etc. This joint handling would have ensured not only the swift and peaceful evacuation of British servicemen but also the smooth continuation of these services which remain, after British withdrawal, just as vital to the daily economic needs of the Maltese people.

H. In these circumstances, therefore, the Maltese Government see no alternative but to alert the Security Council of the United Nations to the dangers to peace arising out of these grave happenings.

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I. We would, however, feel sorry if an approach to the Security Council would damage the efforts by the United States Government which, according to the message sent to us by the State Department on December 30, 1971, ‘continues to believe that a continuation of negotiations (between Malta and Britain) should lead to a mutually acceptable agreement that would prove to be of genuine benefit to all interested parties’.4

J. The Government of Malta have shown all the good will necessary for negotiations to be resumed. Indeed last Wednesday we have even readily accepted an Italian suggestion for high level talks to be held in a last minute attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. So far as we know the response from the British Government has not been positive and they still insist on complete and unconditional Maltese capitulation.

K. I would be extremely grateful if as soon as is humanly possible you could let me know what alternative course is open to us to protect our people other than applying forthwith for remedial measures by the Security Council of the United Nations. Sincerely yours, Dom Mintoff. Unquote.

2. Message delivered with covering letter to me full text as follows:

Quote. Dear John,

A. I had hoped that we could communicate with your President speedily and directly in case of an emergency.

B. When you last spoke to me on the telephone a few days ago, you promised to look into this matter and let me know if any direct means of communication is available.5

C. As I have not heard from you and as I believe the contents of the enclosed message to your President are of urgent and vital importance to our two countries, I expect you will oblige by transmitting it immediately and directing that a copy be forwarded forthwith to Mr. Ellsworth, the President’s personal representative.6

D. Please let me know the time the message will have reached the President. Yours sincerely, Dom Mintoff. Unquote.

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3. Request resonse last para ASAP.7 Lack of early response could provoke precipitate Mintoff action.

4. Comment: Text indicates Mintoff laying groundwork for complaint to S.C. if last ditch effort with USG fails. Certainly he expects acknowledgement of receipt soonest. Appears he is in desperate mood and expects USG take the lead in finding solution to present impasse.

Pritzlaff
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. I. Secret; Flash; Exdis.
  2. Apparent reference to the NATO Ministerial meeting at Brussels December 8–10, 1971. No mention of Malta was made in the communiqué. See footnote 2, Document 79.
  3. British European Airways, owned by the British Government.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. In telegram 17 from Valetta, January 4, Pritzlaff reported that Mintoff had tried without success to contact Nixon or Kissinger directly by telephone that day and had expressed his frustration at being unable to speak to them. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II)
  6. On December 9, the Washington Post reported that Nixon had asked Ellsworth to serve as his special envoy to Malta. (John M. Goshko, “NATO Impatient for Soviet Response,” Washington Post, December 9, 1971, p. A32)
  7. In a January 8 memorandum to Kissinger, Kennedy suggested a Presidential message might be useful to “cool things down” with Mintoff. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 65, Country Files—Europe, Malta) The White House cleared a message from the President for transmission to Mintoff. It was transmitted in telegram 409 to Valletta, January 8. (Ibid.) The text of a revised version of the telegram, stressing the need to avoid violence but avoiding any mention of time of delivery of Mintoff’s message, apparently sent to the Embassy in Valletta on January 8 is ibid.