90. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Private Meeting Between the Secretary and King Hassan of Morocco


  • The Secretary
  • King Hassan
  • Mr. Toumayan, Notetaker/Interpreter

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Spanish Sahara.]

Hassan: You are aware of our problem with Spain? There are already two hot spots in the Mediterranean—one in the east and one in the center with Cyprus. The United States is not interested in seeing the west also becoming a hot point. It is in fact in no one’s interest. I have talked about this with Lopez-Bravo who was by far the best foreign minister Spain has had in recent years.

The Secretary: I fully agree. The present foreign minister (Cortina) is to be avoided at all costs. He has the mind of a clerk.

Hassan: I told Lopez-Bravo that I agree that Spain remains but I do not agree in the Spanish Sahara becoming independent. I prefer the Spanish presence to self-determination for 30,000 people.

The Secretary: President Boumediene asked me yesterday what I thought about that and I said self-determination for 30–40,000 people who do not even know where they live?

[Page 259]

Hassan: What does Boumediene say?

The Secretary: He is for self-determination. I assumed that he wanted an outlet on the Atlantic but he said that he has absolutely no interest in the Sahara.

Hassan: This territory belonged to someone in the past, it is not res nullus. I seek the ICJ (International Court of Justice) decision, because I know that they will say that this land belonged to Morocco before, and I will in any event accept the ICJ decision because the evidence that I submitted to the ICJ is very, very strong.

The Secretary: Many states are an absurdity, such as Guinea-Bissau or Spanish Sahara, why are you so sure that the ICJ will rule in your favor?

Hassan: Our evidence is very, very firm. As recently as 1955 the French official register listed the cities that were administered there as being administered from the administrative centers of Morocco. So I am willing to accept the ruling of the courts and, in addition, I must gain time while Franco is there. To accept an independent state in the Spanish Sahara is, all things being equal, like the United States accepting the Soviet missiles in Cuba or like the Soviet Union accepting the Czech situation. The same imperative applies in this case.

The Secretary: If I were in Your Majesty’s position, I would do exactly the same thing. But the United States Government is sometimes acting with more sentimentality and more legalism—look, for instance, at our attitude on the Cyprus matter and the Congress’ actions vis-à-vis Turkey. Be assured that I will cause you no problem on this matter. I personally like the ICJ solution.

Hassan: Ask Spain not to turn down the ICJ solution. We are a small country, we have no pretentions, I am very serious because my seriousness is my major asset and capital. I lived in exile myself for three years. I know the methods used by colonialist administrations, I know what passes for a referendum and I know all about nationalism. If Spain moves to give independence to Spanish Sahara, I prefer to tell you in the most candid terms, so that you can stop supplying us with weapons, tanks, and airplanes if you wish, but if at 10 o’clock Spanish Sahara becomes independent, I shall move my forces and go in at 11 o’clock. I will not lie to you. If Spain gives independence to that territory, within two years the place will be full of Russian and Chinese revolutionaries. If Spain goes home, Morocco will be surrounded on one side by the Atlantic and on the other side by the Mediterranean and it will be surrounded by Algeria, Algeria and Algeria on the three other sides.

The Secretary: Boumediene believes that there is already an agreement between Morocco and Mauritania.

[Page 260]

Hassan: Oh, but there is such an agreement. We have exchanged letters. With Mauritania everything is settled, there is no problem. President Ould Daddah will come to Rabat three days before the Summit and we will make the announcement then. But I asked Spain to accept the ICJ formula. In a secret letter with Ould Daddah, we have agreed on the zones of influence and Algeria has absolutely nothing to say. Why is Algeria so anxious to have a port outlet? It’s because the iron ore has to transit through Morocco. Instead of concerning himself with how he can occupy Africa, Boumediene should look to his own domestic problems. His situation is not very good.

The Secretary: I understand your problem, but Your Majesty must understand very clearly that the United States Foreign Service is composed very largely of frustrated missionaries better suited to conducting Sunday school than diplomacy and if you should be lectured moralistically on the subject of the Spanish Sahara, I would want you to talk to me directly first before you jump to any conclusions. I will tell Spain about the ICJ solution. My associates tell me that Your Majesty proposes the ICJ because you consider it inappropriate to resort to force but want to use diplomatic and juridical methods. I believe that you want to gain time.

Hassan: I am sure of the outcome with the ICJ and Spain must accept that formula.

The Secretary: Can we succeed?

Hassan: I am sure your intelligence tells you what many of my own staff officers trained in Madrid and who have retained their contacts in Madrid tell me, there is not a single Spanish soldier or officer who wants to die for Spanish Sahara, particularly not after the Portuguese experience. I do not like the use of force, but if there is no other solution, I will.

The Secretary: When will this matter come to a head?

Hassan: It may come in about a week, my understanding is that on October 28 Spain begins to gather the nomads to tell them that first, they will receive internal autonomy which is a preliminary step to full independence.

The Secretary: At what point will Your Majesty move?

Hassan: It will help me very much if this occurs during the Summit.

The Secretary: Do you conceive this consultation with the nomadic tribal chiefs to be the beginning of the referendum?

Hassan: It is the beginning of the violation of Spain’s pledge to the United Nations. All my friends in Spain recognize that Franco, who is senile, has a fixation on the subject.

[Page 261]

The Secretary: I cannot say that my life will be incomplete if I do not have one more military crisis.

Hassan: I don’t want to embarrass any of our friends, we will not ask anyone to make a choice between Spain and Morocco. We are aware of the large interests of the United States in Spain but after Franco passes on you must review this strategy and perhaps you will then transfer some of those interests to Morocco. There is no question of asking you to make a choice. We are not asking you to choose one side or the other. This concerns purely Spain and Morocco. Remember that the French had 180,000 soldiers in Morocco—we did not have one single rifle. The French have left. Spain will leave also. We are ready to fight.

The Secretary: I will talk to Spain about the ICJ.

Hassan: To do so would be a great service to peace.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Spanish Sahara.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and King Hassan discussed Moroccan, Spanish, Algerian, and Mauritanian positions on the Spanish Sahara. King Hassan agreed to accept the decision of the International Court of Justice, but declared that he would move forces into Spanish Sahara if Spain granted it independence.

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 202, Geopolitical Files, Morocco. August 20, 1973–September 19, 1975. Secret; Nodis. Kissinger was in Morocco to discuss bilateral relations and the Middle East peace process with King Hassan.