529. Telegram 10581 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Panama1 2

[Page 1]


  • Date for Treaty Discussions


  • Panama 144

1. FYI. When Torrijos visited New York last October, he expressed to Ambassador Anderson Panama’s desire to pursue the canal treaty negotiations at an early date. Ambassador Anderson replied that we would be willing to resume treaty discussions whenever we were requested to do so by the Government of Panama. Ambassador Anderson adopted this position for two reasons: first, it was important to demonstrate US good faith through readiness to seek a prompt solution to the problems attending the existing treaty; and second, it was important to be able to demonstrate to Congress [Page 2] (and others) that the initiative for resuming talks came from the Panamanians.

2. With regard to the second consideration, it is not fully clear from FonMin Tack’s formulation of his query whether indeed Panama is now ready to resume treaty discussions and is taking the initiative by asking us to set a date to begin the talks. This doubt should be clarified so that we here can reach a decision regarding our response in light of all the facts.

3. Our experience with the negotiations leading to the 1967 drafts was that the absence of publicity during the negotiations contributed substantially to their success. It enabled negotiators on both sides to change their positions, when necessary, without having to do so publicly. These talks took place in Washington, as publicity regarding the movements [Page 3] of US negotiators and their meetings could not be avoided in Panama. While recognizing Torrijos’ control over the press, we believe the secrecy requisite for negotiations unmarred by propaganda can best be achieved in Washington. In this connection, it would be desirable to keep Panama’s interest in setting a date closely held to avoid premature press speculation. END FYI.

4. As a first step you are instructed to recall to FonMin Tack that Ambassador Anderson had requested General Torrijos to let us know when Panama had completed its review of the 1967 drafts and that it wished to resume treaty discussions. You should ask Tack whether his query to you of January 16 indeed constituted notification to us that Panama was now ready and was requesting resumption of the talks. You should report his reply and inform Tack that you will be in further touch with him on this matter.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–3 CZ. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Grove and Hurwitch; cleared by Anderson; approved by Meyer. Repeated to USCINCSO.
  2. The Department of State instructed Ambassador Sayre to ask Foreign Minister Tack when Panama would complete its review of the 1967 Canal Treaty drafts and when it wanted to resume treaty discussions.