95. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spanish Sahara


  • Spain
  • H.E. Pedro Cortina, Foreign Minister of Spain
  • H.E. Jaime Alba, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Jose Luis Dicenta, Secretary to the Foreign Minister (notetaker)
  • U.S.
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador McCloskey
  • Ambassador Stabler
  • Robert E. Barbour, EUR/WE (notetaker)

The Secretary: We have some information concerning a possible Moroccan attack in the Sahara. I want you to know that we have urged the King of Morocco not to do it, that is, not to do anything rash. We have warned him against it and have urged him to negotiate, just as I urge you to negotiate.

Cortina: We are ready to do so, and we have said that we would do so. However, it is important to maintain the form of a referendum on self-determination with guarantees to negotiate and to give satisfaction to the parties. Self-determination does not mean independence, although that is one of the options included to give it credibility, but what the people of the area will be called on to do is to show their preference either for Morocco or for Mauritania.

The Secretary: The problem is the people won’t know what Morocco is, or what Mauritania is.

Cortina: Unfortunately, they have learned well from experience what those countries are and they know what all the possibilities are.

The Secretary: We are ready to use our influence for negotiations.

Cortina: According to the news we have the Moroccan attack will not be exclusively on the Sahara territory, but also against Algeria.

The Secretary: They can’t be that crazy.

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Cortina: I believe that, too.

The Secretary: I sent a message to the King urging him against precipitate action.

Cortina: That is very important because, having supplied him with U.S. arms, you have a capacity for influence that others do not have. He also has arms from the Soviet Union.

The Secretary: We have not given him many arms, about $20 million, I think. In fact, we think he might receive a bad beating.

Cortina: Facts will tell, and I would not want to anticipate, but I hope nothing happens because it would be very unfortunate.

The Secretary: Yes, it would be very unfortunate, and we are trying hard to prevent it.

Cortina: What is unfortunate is that the King has recently become very nervous, according to our information, because he wanted to resolve that problem exclusively through his own diplomatic skills and without the cooperation of the political parties or the Army, though he was trying at the same time to manipulate them. Then too, populations from Algeria and Mauritania are in the territory and that complicates the problem.

The Secretary: If he has to negotiate with you he will be lucky to keep Morocco.

Cortina: He tried very hard with me last August to have us not inform the United Nations of our decolonization plans, but I explained to him that we had to do that.

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Cortina discussed a possible Moroccan attack in the Spanish Sahara, and the need for all parties to resolve the issue through negotiations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P820123–2401. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Director of the Office of Western European Affairs Robert E. Barbour; and approved by Covey on October 20. The meeting took place in the Spanish Embassy.