106. Telegram 174121 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Ceylon1 2


  • Terrorism Item in UN General Assembly
GA will consider Saturday Sept. 23 whether to approve recommendation of General Committee, passed Sept. 22 by 15 (Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, France, Haiti, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Paraguay, Rwanda, UK, USA, Uruguay) to 7 (China, Ethiopia, Guinea, Libya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Syria) with 2 (Czechoslovakia, USSR) abstentions, that terrorism item be inscribed on agenda. Present indications are that unless tomorrow in plenary number of countries now apparently taking uncertain positions decide to vote in favor this recommendation could be defeated. Therefore, urgent efforts are required with govts to explain why inscription is in their enlightened interest and why defeat of GC recommendation would involve serious blow to the UN for a number of reasons.
SYG Waldheim proposed this item himself and entirely on his own initiative. A vote against inscription would be widely interpreted as a vote against him and his office, weakening the UN. Still more important, unwillingness of UN majority even to consider issue of terrorism, which peoples of the world regard as urgent concern of the world community, would be widely interpreted as sign of futility and irrelevance of the organization.
As far as US is concerned, we regard issue of terrorism as matter of top priority. This may not be, of course, an argument that will weigh heavily with some countries. You should know however that top levels of our govt will be looking at Sept. 23 vote, how individual countries voted, and what efforts were made to make sure they are aware of significance of their vote.
With regard to relation this problem to Middle East we believe that, while undertaking urgent measures to eradicate terrorism, we should also address underlying conflicts from which it springs. However, following realities must be recognized: a) only ultimate solution remains peaceful settlement on basis of Security Council Resolution 242; b) Palestinian Arabs from whose ranks terrorist movement draws its principal participants, have legitimate grievances; c) terrorist route to their solution is destructive of real interests of Palestinians of whom terrorists represent small minority and of Arab world generally for two basic reasons: 1) universal abhorrence of terrorist acts destroys understanding of and sympathy for legitimate end responsible Arabs seek, a peaceful settlement and 2) terrorism advocates oppose instead of supporting peaceful settlement; it is erroneous to maintain progress toward settlement in accordance SC Res 242 would in itself end terrorism. Opposite is true; it is necessary to make progress toward ending terrorism in order to make progress toward settlement based on Res 242.
You can say that the word terrorism is not the important matter. We are flexible on this. It would be very helpful indeed if instructions to host gov delegation could point out that the substance of terrorism being on the agenda is the important thing, not the particular wording employed. As far as liberation movements are concerned, Departmental spokesman made clear their movements and activities are in our view separate. This question should not confuse the issue. General Assembly has already taken clear positions on that subject and will no doubt continue to do so.
You can also point out that failure of the GA to inscribe the subject of terrorism on the agenda, particularly when it is a matter of worldwide concern, would in our considered view represent a blow not just to the prestige of its Secretary General but to the credibility of the institution itself. It is obvious that there are widely differing opinions about the subject [Page 3] of terrorism. To refuse to give the General Assembly even the opportunity to air those opinions, to discuss and debate the subject, would be seriously prejudicial to the future of the organization itself. It could be a turning point in its history. Within US, Congress and public would find it incomprehensible that on heels of Munich tragedy, the Croatian hijacking and continued campaign of murder via explosives in mail United Nations failed even to address this issue.
Timing of GA votes is always uncertain. you should therefore not be deterred from demarche by belief that it may be too late.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 23-8. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Herz and Armitage and approved by Atherton, Moore, and Daniel Goott (EUR). Sent to Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi, Valletta, Singapore, Vientiane, and USUN; repeated to Amman, Islamabad, and Kathmandu.
  2. The Department of State instructed key posts to explain to host governments that a vote against inscription of the terrorism item on the UNGA agenda would be a vote against the Secretary-General and would weaken the United Nations.