299. Telegram 164011/Tosec 60117 From the Department of State to Secretary of State Kissinger in Bonn1

164011/Tosec 60117. Subject: Meeting with Cubans. For the Secretary from Eagleburger and Rogers.

1. We held our meeting with the two Cubans on Wednesday in New York, as planned.

2. Eagleburger led off by mentioning that you had told him the evening before that, if the GOC thought it appropriate, you would consider meeting with a senior Cuban official in New York during the UNGA sessions. The Cubans said they would take this suggestion back. We ruminated with them whether the meeting would be public or private and, if intended to be private, whether we could keep it so. Both sides were clear that such a meeting did not preclude further talks at the working level. They were close to enchanted that you were thinking about coming into the picture.

3. Rogers began the substantive discussion. His initial presentation for our side was based squarely on the talking points we had prepared beforehand. He said that the process must be reciprocal, that we recognized the recent gestures made by Cuba and that we were prepared to allow the baseball visit and to support movement at San Jose. We think talks can now be useful about the reciprocal process of improving relations. Hostility is not a permanent feature of our nature. These talks should examine a number of issues. He then touched on the nine points as follows:

(A) Claims against Cuba: These are important. We are prepared to discuss compensation for expropriated private U.S. property realistically and with flexibility. We do not insist on an immediate cash settlement. Further discussions should also consider compensation for our interests in the Nicaro nickel mine, the return of outstanding ransom payments, the Cuban postal debt and the issue of defaulted bonds.

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(B) Cuban claims to blocked assets in the U.S. These also should be discussed.

(C) Third-country subsidiaries: We are prepared to support a resolution at San Jose which would leave each state free to determine its own diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. If such a resolution should pass, we will eliminate current U.S. prohibitions which apply to export sales to Cuba of goods manufactured by U.S. corporations in third countries.

(D) Third-country shipping: If the OAS sanctions are lifted, we will consider a general waiver of the ban on foreign assistance to countries whose vessels serve Cuba.

(E) U.S. prisoners: We would hope that the eight U.S. citizens now held in Cuba on charges of political offenses would be released.

(F) AmCits: We would hope that Cuba could consider requests from the approximately 800 U.S. citizens in Cuba (many considered by the Cuban authorities to be Cuban citizens) to return to the United States.

(G) Family visits: We should consider steps to ease the strain on divided families. For example, the two sides might arrange 100 visits per week in each direction. We will begin to permit the travel of U.S. artists and scholars to Cuba.

(H) Mutual respect: We do not deny Cuba the right to defend its own sovereignty but will assume during our discussions, and will verify, that Cuba will not be a base for offensive military operations or threats against the United States. Puerto Rico is also important. And there must be an appropriate way for Cuba to show that it will abide by the principle of mutual respect toward other nations in the hemisphere.

(I) Press: We suggest it would be appropriate to consider press accreditation in Washington for “Prensa Libre” and in Havana for U.S. wire services and news media.

4. Eagleburger then added that we were engaged in a process of mutual accommodation but that Cuba was not the single most important issue on our foreign relations agenda.

5. The Cubans responded as follows: We have taken account of the note you sent us, and we think it reflects a positive attitude. We welcome further conversations, and we think they will be useful. Like you, we see no virtue in perpetual hostility. But we cannot neglect the OAS sanctions. As long as they are in effect, our two countries are not in equal condition. We cannot negotiate in those circumstances. We are aware that the OAS may lift the sanctions. This will represent a partial solution. But even then we cannot negotiate. We are willing to discuss [Page 805] with you particularly how we can solve the (U.S.) blockade. We will do so at every opportunity. We recognize that there are internal political problems. It may be essential to move step by step. It must be realized that there cannot be perfect reciprocity. Since we have no blockade against the U.S., we cannot reciprocate the elimination of the U.S. block-ade against Cuba. Furthermore, it is important to note that we have already taken some steps, particularly the hijacking treaty. But have nothing like the innumerable regulations and executive decrees you have against Cuba (at which point they brought out from their briefcase a gigantic loose leaf notebook with an analysis in exquisite detail of the U.S. regulations directed against trade and financial transactions with Cuba). We don’t fully understand your view of the relationship between the (OAS) sanctions and the (U.S.) blockade, and how you can favor the elimination of the one and contemplate the continuation of the other. Furthermore, we do not think that the blockade is any longer of benefit either to the U.S. or to Cuba. There is no gain in it, and its continuation, we think, is in contradiction with the removal of the OAS sanctions. We are interested, in short, in the elimination of the (U.S.) blockade. We do not insist that all measures be dropped. We are not intransigent. And we are prepared to talk about a solution. As long as there is a situation of inequality we can’t negotiate. But we can talk, and these discussions will serve a useful purpose in permitting each side to exchange views as to what it perceives to be the claims and issues which are outstanding. In short, we agree to talk. And here are our views on the nine points you raise:

(A) Political prisoners: We agree that this issue can be discussed between us. In fact, we believe something can be done. “This is not a very difficult issue.”

(B) Mutuality of respect: This issue must be discussed from both sides. We are not a military power and thus pose no threat to the U.S. by ourselves. We, therefore, assume your point is related to our arrangements with the Soviet Union. Our policy has never been to promote aggression. Our defense measures are based on the legitimate interests of our own national security. In the absence of aggressive U.S. activities in the hemisphere, our approach will be along similar lines. It is a question of reciprocal respect for the principle of non-intervention. We will abide by that principle, as we have with those who extend such respect toward us. We have already offered relations to those states who supported the lifting of the OAS sanctions against Cuba, as part of the process of normalizing our relations in the hemisphere. Cuba and the United States must begin to discuss aggressive CIA activities directed against Cuba from bases in Miami, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Furthermore, we must also discuss the attitude of the United States towards Bay-of-Pigs-type incidents, and towards countries in Latin [Page 806] America such as Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. We must be sure that the events of the past are not repeated. These specific issues, and the question of Guantanamo, must be included on the agenda for discussions between Cuba and the United States under the mutuality of respect heading.

(C) The U.S. blockade: As we said, the blockade must be “essentially lifted” before the U.S. and Cuba can begin negotiations repeat negotiations on the wide range of bilateral issues. But in the process of normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations discussions repeat discussions can and should continue. If the San Jose meeting determines that the individual member states will be free to pursue their diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba as they see fit, what is then done by the United States afterwards will be extremely important. Such an OAS resolution itself, however, does not “solve the blockade issue essentially.” While we do not consider a step-by-step reduction of U.S. trade barriers the best way to resolve the issues between the two countries, we would not reject such an approach. The modification of your shipping regulations is a part of lifting the embargo. Should San Jose pass a freedom of action resolution, Cuba will regard this as positive and have a discreet attitude and will not use the resolution as a pretext to attack the United States.

(D) Compensation: We agree that compensation must be discussed. A formula should be worked out to resolve the many issues involved. The subject, however, is not one-sided. Cuba has claims against the United States for Bay of Pigs and CIA damages among others.

(E) U.S. Citizens in Cuba: We consider many of these to be Cubans, but we are prepared to discuss them, since some may have U.S. citizenship rights. We arranged this issue with Spain through discussions, and the question of dual nationals was much more complex in that case.

(F) Travel: We believe that we can also discuss the question of travel between our two countries, and develop a common migration policy on family visits in both directions. Perhaps something can be worked out.

(G) Press: This can also be discussed.

6. They then added that there were items not on our agenda which they would like to discuss. These include Guantanamo.

7. They said that they did not plan to use Congress as a substitute for discussions with the Executive. The difficulty was that so many Congressmen wanted to go to Cuba.

8. And they summed up as follows: First, a lifting of the blockade is essential, in order to create conditions of equality. Second, in the meantime we are willing to have discussions and exchanges of views. Third, the U.S. actions after San Jose will be very important. Those you have [Page 807] told us about are very positive, but they do not solve the blockade problem entirely, only partially. If the blockade is to be removed step-by-step, we will not object. Until there is a situation of equality, we can continue to exchange points of view.

9. Comment: The meeting provided considerable grist for analysis. Some preliminary observations:

(A) The other side had thought about the issues we raised. Their ability to respond substantively and responsibly to our agenda was all the more remarkable for the fact that we had not provided beforehand, as we had originally thought we would, the list of topics. Nevertheless, they had trenchant responsive comments to make. This suggests not only forethought but two other factors of significance to these conversations: (1) the two participants are intelligent men, able to respond adroitly and with flexibility to new issues as they arise; (2) they also enjoy rather more discretion than we had originally anticipated. We had expected a more conventional and mechanical response than we received.

(B) The meeting was free of polemics. This could suggest that the Cuban representatives are closer to Carlos Raphael Rodriguez than to Raul Roa. In all events, there is in this a distinctly hopeful sign for future conversations. And it indicates that they have not taken lessons from the Soviets in the conduct of relations with the United States.

(C) The meeting accomplished its first objective:

—To break the stalemate which was publicly evident from Castro’s public position (that we had to dismantle at least part of our “blockade”) and our public position (that we were prepared for movement if it were reciprocal). The Cubans have now clearly laid it down as a rule that they will not negotiate until we reduce the blockade, but they are quite prepared to discuss. This was the verbal breakthrough we had anticipated. It would not do to overstate the foresight; the distinction had been foreshadowed by some verbal hints from Havana. The important thing was that the distinction was laid down so clearly and emphatically in this meeting.

(D) The Cubans have also made it clear that they understood exactly what we are talking about when we urged them not to negotiate through Congress. Their response on this point was as well phrased as we could desire: that they do not see the Legislative Branch as substitute for government-to-government negotiations. Rather good, for a nation which had not enjoyed the luxury of legislative participation in foreign relations recently.

(E) They also are prepared to cooperate with us in the public handling of the San Jose meeting. Their direct statement that they would not celebrate it as a public triumph is helpful, and should increase our confidence in our present strategy with respect to that meeting.

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(F) It may be interesting that the Cubans have not taken up the practice of delivering personal messages. As you know, in our last two meetings we have communicated personal messages from you. They have not responded. It will be interesting to see if they do in the next meeting, in which they must focus on the statement that you are prepared to meet at the UN, and if so, whether that message comes from Castro, Carlos Raphael Rodriguez, or Raul Roa. That clue may be significant in terms of a further analysis of the organizational structure behind these probes. This could help us more precisely to forecast likely procedures and options to be opened by the Cubans in the future.

(G) Several things were specifically not mentioned by the Cubans: Lunt, the overflights, the expansion of the hijacking treaty to cover non-commercial craft, possible low-level cooperation between weather or coast guard services. Since the meeting was unprecedented, no traditions were available for it and we do not read very much into the omissions this time. But it will be interesting to see whether they push ahead into these areas at the next meeting. On the issues not on our agenda which they raised on their initiative—Guantanamo and the counterclaims for the embargo—we had anticipated the need to respond.

(H) You had suggested last week the possibility that we say we conceivably could do something in food and medicines. We did not go that far. The point was not made in our direct presentation. When the other side rejoined with its statement about the importance of eliminating not only the third country sanctions but the total U.S. embargo as well, we stated that we had noted the Prime Minister’s statement about food and medicines as an important first step. They said that that was indeed the case. We can carry the point further in later meetings if we want.

10. We left open the question when to meet again, and will want to discuss that issue after your return.

11. A verbatim account will be available when you return.

  1. Summary: Eagleburger and Rogers transmitted an account of a July 9 meeting with Cuban officials during which the two sides exchanged views on relations between the United States and Cuba.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis. Drafted by Egan and Rogers, and approved by Eagleburger. Kissinger was in Bonn to meet with German officials and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin. A July 5 memorandum from Eagleburger and Rogers to Kissinger outlined matters for discussion at the July 9 meeting with the Cubans. (Ibid., Henry A. Kissinger Office Files, Nodis Miscellaneous Documents, Telegrams, etc., 1973–1977, Box 1, Folder 3) Telegram 161411/Tosec 60008 to Kissinger, July 9, reported that the meeting’s “atmosphere was good.” (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]) The Cuban officials with whom Rogers and Eagleburger exchanged views were Ramón Sánchez Parodi and Nestor García. (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, pp. 775–779)