247. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Malta—Prime Minister Heath Reports the Results of his most recent Negotiations with Mintoff
Prime Minister Heath has sent you a “hot line” message2 (at Tab A) responding to your message of March 3 (Tab B) and reporting on the results of his March 5–6 negotiations with Malta’s Prime Minister Mintoff.
In the most recent round of talks, the British were able to accommodate Mintoff’s demands on several UK-Maltese bilateral issues, re[Page 783]solving in principle the key question of the level of Maltese personnel to be employed by the British under the terms of a new defense agreement. Prime Minister Heath says that two bilateral issues, each worth approximately three million pounds, are still in dispute—one involving duty free imports, the other an understanding between the UK and Mintoff’s predecessor on improvements to Malta’s drydocks. The British have offered to split the difference; Mintoff insists that he must have both.
Prime Minister Heath notes that another issue still unresolved is that involving visits by US warships to Malta. Mintoff has agreed that Warsaw Pact forces will be explicitly excluded from Malta under the terms of a new defense agreement. He continues to insist that there must be explicit mention in the agreement that US forces are also excluded. The United States has insisted that we cannot be mentioned by name as being explicitly excluded: Such mention would not be in keeping with our substantial cash contribution to the UK(NATO) offer; it would make it very difficult to justify this contribution to the Congress; and it is not necessary to mention the US by name since Mintoff would have the right to veto visits by any third country other than the UK. Your new Ambassador to Malta, John Getz, plans to address this issue with Mintoff on March 9.3
Prime Minister Heath states that the central question in the negotiations remains that of money. Mintoff wants a one-time payment of five million pounds in addition to the 14 million pound UK(NATO) offer. The NATO allies are holding firm on the 14 million pound offer. The United States has recently reassured Malta that as soon as a new UK-Malta agreement is reached we will send a financial team to Malta to examine Malta’s economic situation, permitting us to determine how we might best assist Malta bilaterally. While the State Department is opposed to the United States’ offering Mintoff additional bilateral cash assistance—primarily because of State’s concerns over justifying such assistance to the Congress—this option still remains open.
Prime Minister Heath informs you that the British now plan to sit tight. Mintoff has said he must consult with his Maltese colleagues; the British, however, do not believe he has an acceptable alternative to the UK(NATO) offer. Prime Minister Heath warned Mintoff that time is of the essence, that the UK will be gone from Malta by March 31 if a new agreement is not reached. The Prime Minister concludes by saying that [Page 784] he knows you will go on doing what you can to make Mintoff see reason.
The Prime Minister’s message is informational in nature, and I do not believe that a further reply from you is required at this point. It will be important to learn what results from Ambassador Getz’ first meeting with Mintoff, and what results from Mintoff’s consultations with his colleagues. I have sent a copy of Prime Minister Heath’s message to the Department of State, and we will continue to watch the Maltese situation very closely. No action is required on your part at this time.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 622, Country Files—Middle East, Malta, Vol. II. Secret. Sent for information. The stamped notation “The President has seen” is on the first page, and Nixon wrote the following note: “K—Note to Heath from RN—‘You are handling a very delicate situation with consummate skill.’” Tabs A and B are not printed.↩
- Dated March 8.↩
- During the meeting, which took place at 6:30 p.m., March 10, Mintoff requested U.S. support for Italian diplomatic initiatives and asked for a meeting with either the President or Kissinger. It was reported in telegram 562 from Valletta, March 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 15 MALTA–UK)↩