16. Telegram 87526 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Argentina1
87526. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Foreign Minister Vignes.
1. The Secretary met with Foreign Minister Vignes on Tuesday, April 16, for approximately one hour. Other participants were Ambassador Orfila, Assistant Secretary Kubisch, Stephen Low of the NSC Staff and an interpreter. There follows summary of the discussion:
2. Cuba and the MFM—Vignes said Argentina seriously preoccupied by continuing isolation of Cuba. The situation presents a spectacle which is not in accord with international atmosphere of peaceful coexistence. There is a need for a solution. Vignes said he would raise Cuba in the MFM but would not propose a specific solution. Vignes said that he thought solution could be found without compromising the US. The Secretary responded by saying that organizing the MFM so soon after the Mexico meeting was a mistake. Vignes agreed. The Secretary said one right step would be to support the selection of Buenos Aires as the site for the next meeting. The Secretary then said that if friction developed over the Cuba question in Washington, US-Latin American relations would be set back substantially and the whole idea of periodic Foreign Ministers’ meetings could be jeopardized. The Secretary said he thought that the MFM could set up working groups to prepare for the next meeting in B.A. and to proceed in the spirit of Tlatelolco. Vignes agreed and stressed his personal conviction of the importance of good relations between the US and Argentina.
3. Vignes said the Argentine people would not understand if he did not speak out clearly on Cuba. He said he thought he had [Page 50]a formula which would give satisfaction to the US and to Argentina. He would state at the conference that the problem of Cuba is a problem for all the Latin American countries and he believed the Foreign Ministers should face it squarely. The Secretary asked if that was all he was going to say. Vignes said he intended to say much more but that the fundamental point was that he was not going to propose a specific solution. He would speak in general terms about coexistence and the need for a solution to the problem. He would then yield to Rabasa who would suggest that Cuba be invited to the next meeting. The Secretary asked what would happen then. Vignes said that he did not have a crystal ball but that this procedure would give everybody eight months and in that time the Secretary would be able to work out a solution. The Secretary said that if the meeting proceeded in a constructive way, if Cuba were the only controversial item, if there then were no clear cut resolution on Cuba, with only Mexico and Argentina speaking on the subject, then he thought we could live with it. He then asked if Vignes was going to make any other proposals on this subject at the OAS meeting. Vignes said he would not ask for the incorporation of Cuba in the OAS but he could not give assurances that the matter would not come up. He said if a vote on sanctions came up a two-thirds majority would be required. In that case the US could abstain, the vote would fall short and the Ministers would be rid of the problem. The Secretary then asked if Vignes was definitely planning on making this proposal if the subject came up and he responded in the affirmative. The Secretary said that such a move could not come at a worse possible moment. He said that he personally believed that relations with Cuba could be improved over time but that if the US is pressed into a rapid solution it would lead to an explosion. The Secretary said that we could live with some discussion in Washington but that bringing up Cuba in Atlanta would be too much. He told Vignes we were considering changing our position on OAS voting procedures but we could not do so if a vote on Cuba sanctions were to follow. This would give the appearance of collusion and would be an impossible move for us.
4. Vignes responded by saying that the Argentines were searching for a solution and that if Mexico would propose that Cuba be invited to the next conference this proposal would be accepted and that there would be no further argument. The Secretary said that we could not accept this and the best solution would be the one that gave us eight months time. Vignes said that he could not ask the countries to wait eight months and that the point he wanted to make was that all the nations should study the problem and search for a solution. The Secretary pointed out other countries such as Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay [Page 51]would not agree with the Argentine approach and the US also could not agree. The Secretary pointed out that the US could not be put in a position of having a decision taken in Washington to invite Cuba to a Foreign Ministers’ meeting. If it reached that point the US would simply have to say that it would not attend and would work to prevent it from happening. Vignes responded that he was not advocating a vote and that he wanted a decision without a vote. The Secretary said what the US could not have in Washington was a decision to invite Cuba even if that decision were arrived at by silence. Vignes said he understood and proposed that instead of Rabasa saying that he wanted to invite Cuba to the conference he would ask only for the formation of a working group. The Secretary said we could consider that though, of course, we couldn’t support it. (Further discussion concerning MFM tactics and the timing of the Buenos Aires meeting followed. Vignes suggested March.) The Secretary then proposed that Vignes make his statement, Rabasa would then say he proposed to invite Cuba. The Secretary would then say that he thought that Vignes as the host for the next conference should consult with all the governments of the hemisphere about their views. The Secretary said that he would not oppose or support the proposal but that would, in itself, be a positive American approach. He would make our position clear and hope that before March 1975 some progress could be made.
5. The Secretary said he hoped that he would be able to visit Buenos Aires before that time. Vignes expressed pleasure and said he would so inform President Perón. The Secretary said that Vignes could count on his visit because an understanding between Argentina and the US can be the basis for Western Hemisphere policy.
6. Vignes then summarized his proposal on Cuba and the Secretary agreed that the Argentines should consult with the other countries about their views and ideas and the wisdom of inviting Cuba but that no vote would be asked for at the MFM. The Secretary then asked if this procedure would enable the subject to be avoided at the OAS. Vignes said he would have to touch on the matter but that he would say that Argentina had found a solution it considered viable. The Secretary then repeated that the US was considering the possibility of agreeing on a change in the voting procedure on sanctions. He reiterated that we would only be able to do this if there was no vote in Atlanta because we could not have it appear as if we were in collusion.
7. US subsidiaries—Vignes, near the end of the conversation, asked about the US subsidiaries and the question of automobile sales. The Secretary said he thought he could get a positive answer by Thursday, April 18. Vignes said he wanted to be able to have an answer before leaving Washington and that it would cover up the other aspects of [Page 52]the Cuba matter entirely in the Argentine press. The Secretary said that if the Cuba question could be handled properly in Washington and Atlanta he could get a decision on the sales.
Summary: In a meeting with Secretary Kissinger, Foreign Minister Vignes voiced his concern over the U.S. Government’s policy toward Cuba.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850027–1724. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Davis on April 26; cleared by Luers, Kubisch, Eagleburger, and Ortiz.↩