96. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Moroccan Ambassador Boutaleb


  • Morocco
  • Ambassador Abdelhadi Boutaleb
  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Atherton
  • Sophie Porson—Interpreter
  • Stanley T. Escudero—Notetaker

Ambassador Boutaleb had requested the meeting in order to make a formal presentation of King Hassan’s response to the Secretary’s message counseling Moroccan restraint in the Spanish Sahara. The text of the message had earlier been delivered to Mr. Sisco. A verbatim account of the conversation follows:

Ambassador Boutaleb: Mr. Secretary, it is a great joy to see you; it is a great privilege to have this opportunity as I know how busy your schedule is.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, unfortunately I am going to China.

Ambassador Boutaleb: Yes, I know exactly what your schedule must be like and I realize you only have a few minutes to see me.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, you know I am a great admirer of your King.

Ambassador Boutaleb: Of course he feels the same admiration toward you.

Secretary Kissinger: I hope you will give him my very warm regards.

Ambassador Boutaleb: He asked me to do the same for you. I am here, Mr. Secretary to bring a message in reply to your letter of October 4. However, this is only a formality as you have already received a report on this from Mr. Sisco.

[Page 273]

Secretary Kissinger: I have read it.

Ambassador Boutaleb: Your question was whether Morocco was planning to launch any aggression or a military assault in the Sahara. His Majesty’s response was that there was no question of that. His Majesty’s speech yesterday was further evidence that Morocco does not want war with Spain. What the King has done is intended to be beneficial to the institution of a dialogue with Spain so that the two nations can cooperate toward a solution of the problem.

I do not wish to give you the historical background of the case since I have already discussed the matter at length with Messrs. Sisco, Atherton, and Hartman. I do wish to make the point, however, that the Sahara had always been recognized by Spain as being Moroccan. Over the years Spain had always asked the Moroccans to be patient and to wait a little longer. It is only in recent times, incited by the Algerians (on this point I wish to be absolutely frank), that Spain completely changed its position. We believe that this is not serving Spain’s interests, but rather that Spain is serving the interests of a neighboring country which for reasons of its own is striving for the creation of a fictitious national entity.

Morocco believes that Spain must be consistent with itself. Spain cannot on the one hand refuse to recognize the existence of separatist movements among the Basques and the Canary Islands and on the other hand favor the creation of the separatist movement in the Sahara, even under the guise of a so-called liberation movement. I reiterate that Spain has to be consistent. Spain cannot very well refuse to consider self-determination for Gibraltar and seek to impose a referendum for the Sahara. Spain’s positions are totally inconsistent and illogical.

Morocco believes that both the opinion of the ICJ and the report of the fact-finding mission have supported Morocco’s contentions. The fact-finding team mentioned the special nature of the Sahara. It is not a colonial territory where decolonialization could take place according to the usual UN methods. This territory is not a separate entity but is actually part of another territory, and in such cases territorial unity takes precedence over other considerations.

Turning to the ICJ opinion, I point out that it declared that indeed ties and allegiances had existed between the Moroccan sovereign and the Sahara at the time of the Spanish occupation. Therefore Morocco believes that the ICJ upheld the Moroccan position on both questions put to the Court—the terra nullius issue and the existence of legal ties between Morocco and the Sahara. Morocco does not believe that one can play with distinctions between allegiance and territorial ties because there are many cases where only allegiance existed, especially in countries which had no monarchs of their own. Where monarchs did exist, in most cases allegiance was rendered to the sovereign. The fact [Page 274] that the ICJ added that this issue should be resolved through self-determination was outside of the purview of the Court. The Court could resolve legal issues before it, but the rest was political and not of its concern.

Secretary Kissinger: I hear you and understand your views, but what is the hurry? Why could you not wait a few weeks to see how the results of this juridical decision could be translated into negotiations?

Ambassador Boutaleb: Spain has consented to Algeria’s establishing in the Sahara an artificial movement for the purpose of occupying the territory and if we wait we will lose everything. Yesterday a Madrid news agency reported that nine Moroccans and one member of F POLISARIO had been killed in the Sahara. It is clear then that Spain is no longer administering the territory but that another element is doing so.

We do not want war with Spain, but if Spain is handing the Sahara over to dissident Moroccan elements and to outsiders, we think that we are within our rights to ask the U.S., our friend, to help Morocco, its friend, and to be actively sympathetic to Morocco’s cause. It is no longer a question of choosing between Morocco and Spain, but of choosing between Morocco and outside elements that wish to usurp what is rightfully Morocco’s.

Secretary Kissinger: You know our feelings of friendship for Morocco and our great admiration for the King who has always shown friendship for us. This is, of course, a very complicated time for us for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I am leaving town today and won’t be available for a week, so let me reflect about this and I will have to communicate with my associates from the airplane. We hope that His Majesty could delay for some weeks until we can see what diplomatic possibilities exist.

Ambassador Boutaleb: I will transmit that advice to His Majesty but would it be possible for the U.S. to institute a démarche on this subject with Spain?

Secretary Kissinger: We will do that. We will be in touch and we will let you know what we will do.

Ambassador Boutaleb: (Upon departure) Your original message noted that you would be sending an emissary to Morocco to discuss matters with His Majesty.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, that will be Mr. Atherton. He should be in Morocco in about a week.

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Boutaleb discussed Morocco’s position regarding the Spanish Sahara. Boutaleb delivered King Hassan’s assurances that Morocco did not intend to engage Spain militarily in the Sahara.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P820123–2423. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Stanley T. Escudero in NEA/AFN on October 18; and approved by Covey on November 4. The non-official translation of King Hassan’s letter is ibid., P820123–2428.