88. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Pedro Cortina Mauri, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain
  • Luis Guillermo Perinat y Elio, Director General for North American and Far Eastern Affairs, MFA
  • Santiago Martinez Caro, Chef de Cabinet
  • MFA Interpreter
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Ambassador Horacio Rivero
  • David E. Simcox, Political Counsel
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff


  • Portugal; Spanish Sahara; Gibraltar; Base Negotiations

[Omitted here is discussion of Portugal.]

Cortina: We did talk on the subject in Washington—New York—and you expressed you had very good relations with Rabat and Madrid so you’d keep a neutral position. We did understand your position, and therefore we were very surprised when we read in the Washington Post [Page 255] that it had been manifested that the U.S. was in favor of a direct understanding between Rabat and Madrid to turn over the Spanish Sahara to Morocco.

Kissinger: I never even read that article, and it’s total nonsense.

Cortina: It was yesterday.

Kissinger: I never read the Washington Post, except the Sports Section and the Style Section. Now that I’m married I can read it [the Style Section] without fear.

Our policy is what I’ve told you. What the policy of our Deputy Chief of Mission there is, I don’t know. In fact, I don’t know what our DCM did here, but he won’t do it again. The next time he does it he’ll have to do it from a longer distance. If we have something to say to you about the Spanish Sahara, we’ll do it directly. I don’t know who he is.

Sisco: Coon.

Kissinger: What did he say?

Rivero: He gave the impression—it wasn’t clear whether he was speaking for the Secretary but was giving his personal views.

Kissinger: What I’ve told you is our policy. We have no particular view about the future of the Spanish Sahara. I told you privately that, as a political scientist, the future of Spanish Sahara doesn’t seem particularly great. I feel the same way about Guinea-Bissau, or Upper Volta. The world can survive without a Spanish Sahara; it won’t be among the countries making a great contribution.

Cortina: Anyway, it should not be used against others.

Kissinger: There was a period in my life when I didn’t know where the Spanish Sahara was, and I was as happy as I am today.

Cortina: Before phosphates were discovered!

Kissinger: Look, if you work out something with the King of Morocco, all right. But it’s not an American concern.

Cortina: What you’ve expressed to me is more than enough. But I want to make clear we’ll make an effort to reach agreement with Morocco. But not if our side gives 100 percent. We’re prepared to do something.

Kissinger: Like what?

Cortina: This is a general way of talking. We’ll have to sit around the table and talk about it.

Kissinger: Having negotiated with you, I don’t think you give things so fast. That’s my impression.

Cortina: As you know, I like your sense of humor.

Kissinger: First, the reason I’m going to Rabat is because of Algeria, and given the fact the Arab Summit is in Rabat, I didn’t think I could go to Algeria without going there. And second, I’m going to Al[Page 256]geria because we need Boumediene to help us with Syria and the radical Arabs. So it has nothing to do with Spain. If we change our policy—which is impossible—I will let you know. We won’t change our policy.

[Omitted here is discussion of Gibraltar and base negotiations.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger assured Cortina that the U.S. position of neutrality regarding the Spanish Sahara had not changed despite recent news reports. Kissinger also explained that his upcoming trips to Morocco and Algeria were unrelated to Spain.

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 343, Department of State Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, October–November 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. The meeting took place in the distinguished visitor’s lounge at the Torrejon Air Force Base. Kissinger was en route to Egypt to discuss the Middle East peace process.