62. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Ahmed Benhima, Foreign Minister of Morocco
  • Badreddine Senoussi, Ambassador of Morocco
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

Foreign Minister Benhima expressed pleasure in the opportunity to meet with Dr. Kissinger.

Dr. Kissinger replied that the President was very sorry that he had not been able to receive the Foreign Minister. He had had to cancel all [Page 165]of his appointments the previous day to prepare for his nation-wide speech marking the end of the Vietnam war and, because of his departure for San Clemente this afternoon, had had to concentrate a number of appointments in a very short period of time today.

The Foreign Minister said that he was grateful to the President for his having asked Dr. Kissinger to receive him.

Dr. Kissinger continued that the President had wanted him to see the Foreign Minister and to communicate the extreme importance which we attach to our relations with Morocco.

The Foreign Minister said that King Hassan appreciated those sentiments which had also been expressed in the President’s most recent letter to His Majesty. The King had also appreciated the President sending Ambassador Robert Murphy to see him.

The Minister explained that in recent months US-Moroccan relations had “crossed” some points of “reserve”, and direct contacts were valuable in providing opportunity for explaining on both sides why the relationship has reached this point. The President’s invitation for the Foreign Minister to come to Washington and the Murphy visit to Rabat had given the King an opportunity to explain his view of what had happened.

The Minister said that the main point on the King’s mind is to find out what will be US interests in relation to Moroccan policies in three areas—national policy, foreign relations and economic progress.

[Page 166]

On the question of national policy, the Foreign Minister explained that the King had some time ago embarked on a policy of greater liberalism in domestic politics than existed elsewhere in the North African area. This experiment did not succeed. Some opposition leaders had used this liberalization against the government, not to move toward greater democracy as the King had intended. Referring to the two attempts on the King’s life, he noted that the government had had “two bad experiences” over the last two years and also had detected Libyan-trained guerrillas infiltrating into Morocco through Spain and Algeria. The King had decided that he had to reverse the trend toward greater liberalization and concentrate on restoring authority.

Turning to foreign relations, the Foreign Minister expressed Moroccan feeling that the Western Mediterranean is a key area. Its security is important to US interests as well as for the defense of Morocco. The King would like to know how the US views its interests there and what kind of cooperation among the US, Morocco and other partners in the area might be possible in maintaining its security. Morocco feels that it can play a role, perhaps with Spain, not only in the Western Mediterranean area but perhaps also in the Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal.

On the question of domestic development—“prosperity,” as the Minister calls it—the Minister pointed out that Morocco’s needs are so significant that it is not easy to meet them with Morocco’s own resources. At the same time, it is necessary to preserve armed forces which can provide national security and the defense of Morocco’s borders. Sometimes US credit conditions make it difficult for Morocco to procure military equipment from the United States. Morocco is getting some of its arms from the USSR, but this is purely a “commercial choice and not a political choice.” If the US could look at this aspect of Moroccan security, it would help because Morocco prefers US arms.

The Foreign Minister concluded by saying that these are the main points in the Moroccan view at this time. His Majesty is very interested in taking the first possible opportunity to see the President. However, he cannot move from the country at this point. He has assumed direct charge over his programs there. However, if the President were to travel to the area, the King would appreciate it very much if the President could stop in Morocco for a day or two. In the meantime, Dr. Kissinger would be most welcome to come to Morocco under any conditions he might choose. The King believes in direct contact.

In sum, the Minister said that Moroccans want to understand what relationship they will have with the United States. They want to know whether it will be an old friendship with relations “good but empty” or whether Morocco and the United States will be associates in some new venture.

Dr. Kissinger said that he also believed in direct contact. The President would certainly give very careful consideration to a visit to Morocco as his travel plans become firmer. Dr. Kissinger said that he also would consider a visit to Morocco.

Dr. Kissinger said that “we in this building” agree that Morocco might play a role in the Western Mediterranean such as Iran plays at the other end of the region. He noted that he had personally not been able to become deeply involved in the question of US-Moroccan relationships. He had held meetings on the question of the military bases but he felt that that was not the central issue, for that issue would fall into place.

As for his own travel, he said that he is trying at this point not to move around as much as he had in the past. However, he may go to Europe from time to time. He noted that he had always been fascinated with Morocco and at one point had even attempted to arrange a vacation there. He said that he would certainly keep very much in mind a visit to Morocco. He said that in principle he would be happy to make such a stop if he were in Europe at some point. “We can aim for this.”

On the question of the US-Moroccan relationship, he said that he did not feel that the real issue is the question of legal documents or alli[Page 167]ances. The real issue is what kind of relationship we have. He said that he hoped the Moroccans would communicate any precise ideas they might have.

Dr. Kissinger asked the Foreign Minister to tell His Majesty that we greatly appreciate his sending the Foreign Minister to Washington. He hoped that the Foreign Minister would convey to His Majesty that Dr. Kissinger finds it “inconceivable” that there could have been any US connection with the coup attempts in Morocco. We in the US have always identified Moroccan stability with the King’s regime, and the US has a strong interest in Moroccan stability. He assured the Minister that the King’s government will never be under pressure from the US to adopt any particular domestic course of action, nor will he have to be concerned about the US consorting with his opposition. To reiterate, he hoped that the Minister would let us know whatever concrete ideas he might have on the question of our longer term relationship.

In parting, the Foreign Minister again thanked Dr. Kissinger and the President for his reception in the White House. He knew that King Hassan would be very pleased.

Harold H. Saunders
  1. Summary: Kissinger and Benhima discussed U.S.-Moroccan relations. Benhima expressed Morocco’s desire for a greater role in the Western Mediterranean, and improved credit conditions for arms procurement. Kissinger agreed that Morocco might play a larger regional role and asked for concrete ideas on improving bilateral relations.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 740, Country Files, Africa, Morocco Vol. II. Secret. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office.