309. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, June 11, 1971.1 2

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June 11, 1971

SUBJECT: Ecuadorean Initiative on Fisheries Dispute

Ecuadorean Ambassador Mantilla met Wednesday on his return from Ecuador with Assistant Secretary Charles Meyer. He brought a message from President Velasco Ibarra to the effect that Velasco personally has ordered there be no seizures of US fishing vessels in Ecuadorean waters through September 30. Velasco hopes this gesture will make possible the lifting of the suspension on US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Ecuador which was imposed during the spate of tuna boat seizures early this year (January–February). He believes lifting the suspension on FMS is the key to breaking the pattern of deteriorating US-Ecuadorean relations and to beginning to reestablish more normal relations.

Lifting the suspension would enable Ecuador to enter into negotiations aimed at reaching a practical solution on the fisheries problem. Ecuador would prefer to try to work out a new and realistic agreement within the framework of tripartite negotiations with Peru and Chile, then resuming quadripartite talks with the US. However, Ecuador would be prepared to consider bilateral negotiations with the US if this fails. Velasco reportedly has also said that Ecuador’s claim to 200 miles is directed toward control of resources, including the seabed, but not toward a claim to the full jurisdiction of territorial seas. The President reportedly said he had directed an immediate review of Ecuador’s laws to make sure they are consistent with this position.

State has directed our Ambassador to confirm the substance of this conversation between Ambassador Mantilla and President Velasco with the Foreign Minister, who was also present. If confirmed, this initiative represents the first major break in the impasse which has deeply disturbed our relations with Ecuador. If it is true that the GOE is willing to consider something less than full sovereignty in the 200 mile zone and settle for control over resources, this change also has promising implications for the whole Law of the Sea problem. We will keep you informed of future developments.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 784, Country Files, Latin America, Ecuador, Vol. I, 1969–1970. Secret; Exdis. Sent for information. Nixon circled the word “State” at the beginning of the last paragraph and wrote “good” in the margin. A June 4 covering memorandum from Nachmanoff to Kissinger indicated that copies of the memorandum were sent to Haig, Wright, Negroponte, and Clift.
  2. President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger informed President Nixon that in an attempt to resume Foreign Military Sales (FMS) shipments, and facilitate an agreement to reach a solution on the fisheries dispute, President Velasco halted seizures of U.S. fishing vessels in Ecuadorian waters through September 30.