MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
Parker Borg (notetaker)
Mr. Toumayan (interpreter)
Algeria: Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdelaziz Bouteflika
TIME & DATE: 10:30 a.m., December 21, 1974
PLACE: Office of Minister Bouteflika, UN, New York
The Secretary: I believe the Foreign Minister speaks English now.
Min. Bouteflika: I had fully intended to study English, but I was not able to do so. I’m sure you realize that I was too busy and that I put in many many hours attending to my duties.
The Secretary: There were times we wished you would take some rest from your duties. I spent a lot of time explaining to my colleagues that you are a revolutionary by temperament not by official ideology like the Communists.
Min. Bouteflika: This is a good way to put it; it’s a good definition. Perhaps age is also a factor. I have not yet reached the age of wisdom. My rebel temperament also plays a part.
The Secretary: As you know, I admire your President greatly. I missed you very much when I was in Algiers. Being a man of principles, you’re not always easy to deal with but you’re always interesting.
Min. Bouteflika: I’m very happy to have a chance to see you before my departure. I was in Algiers recently and I explained to the President that you and I had agreed on the timing for this visit at the end of the session. I want to thank you for drawing attention to the fact that January 9 was the approximate date of the Eigal-Allon visit.
The Secretary: We didn’t want any embarrassments.
Min. Bouteflika: We appreciate very much your attitude. We also wish to avoid as much speculation as possible.
The Minister (Bouteflika): People would have said this is another of Dr. K’s tricks. So thank you for drawing our attention to this. When you mentioned the schedule around Christmas or early next year, we knew that you would not propose any visit during the holiday week and that it would therefore be early next year. This is fine for me -- another reason being that I would like our new ambassador to be in Washington when I come.
The Secretary: Will you then come to Washington in January or February?
Mr. Bouteflika: Preferably February.
The Secretary: We will then entertain you and it will not be in the context of the UNGA.
Min. Bouteflika: In any event I made it quite clear that after December 18 I was completely free of the UNGA.
The Secretary: I think mid-February is a good period.
Min. Bouteflika: Let me now tell you sore of my views of the 29th UNGA. First of all let me assure you that in South Africa I was not behaving like a naive choirboy but that I was acting quite deliberately. I remain convinced that any decolonization contest is unwise at the time when Rhodesia is beginning to think about the problem and when the Security Council is unanimously voting a resolution on Namibia. Then the time has come for the U.S. and the European countries with interests in South Africa to begin a dialogue with the South African leaders. You cannot pursue any longer a policy which is in disharmony with the rest of the world.
I feel that there can be no revolution if South Africa prepares public opinion at home, and I feel that this can lead to three or four different stages just as you have acted with respect to the Middle East. There you had at first an all or nothing situation, but you opted for the stage by stage approach; with South Africa we shall do the same. Houphouet-Boigny began the dialogue between the African leaders and the South African leaders and we do not encounter the same problem that we encounter in setting up the dialogue with the Israelis. Israel faced the problem of being considered a foreign body in the Middle East.
The expressions had been used of pushing Israel into the sea. But the wise South Africans are full-fledged Africans.
The Secretary: Except that they themselves don’t think so.
Min. Bouteflika: They do not think of themselves as Europeans. They identify with what happens. As evidenced by the wonderful reception extended to the Algerian delegation to the independence ceremony of Swaziland when they stopped through Johannesburg on their way. The time has come to think seriously about this and put it fully in the agenda.
The Secretary: Let us plan to discuss this in great detail when you come to Washington in February. In principle, I am interested, but this must be discussed with great discretion.
Min. Bouteflika: Yes, discretion is necessary.
The Secretary: It is essential.
Min. Bouteflika: At this GA we gave a clear warning, and this may help Ian Smith of Rhodesia to implement constitutional changes. Foreign Secretary Callaghan was interested in constitutional changes. I found him very honest when he talked to me about this. And Prime Minister Wilson was also very honest about this. At the time of the Kaunda Mission to the UK then PM Heath was very unreceptive but Wilson was very open to the idea and remains very open minded and receptive today.
The second question I want to discuss with you is the Palestinian issue. I remain convinced that at the GA we have given you one more trump card to help you tell the Israelis that you are with them all the way.
I scrutinized minutely the behavior of your delegation at the time of the inscription of the Palestinian issue on the agenda. I told de Guiringaud that the U.S. preferred to see this question discussed in committee, not at the GA. But was it not the best way to tame the Palestinians by letting this question be discussed at the GA? In this connection I omitted to say yesterday in my press conference that I intend to say this. The U.S. deserves a very special tribute. I have never seen them move so selflessly and sincerely round the clock as they did then. They’re a wonderful team and they knew that the prestige of the U.S. was at stake.
The Secretary: They were under very strict instructions.
Min. Bouteflika: They were wonderful and I have asked the Palestinians to write to them telling them how grateful they are. Now I am going to talk to you about Cambodia and I’m asking you not to become impatient with me.
The Secretary: I can never become impatient with you because I consider you my friend and I do want to talk to you about Cambodia and Cuba and I also want to talk to you privately about the Palestinians, this is why I did not want to spend too much time about South Africa.
Min. Bouteflika: At the time of the vote on the Cambodia resolution this was the first time that the press said that the President of the UNGA had acted with full objectivity. I watched from the podium and I helped your resolution pass. I sensed that the atmosphere was becoming heavy. There is a tendency in the press to present as a defeat to the U.S. something which is nothing of the kind. Was South Africa a defeat to the U.S.? You speak about the Palestinians and the press distorts this as if it were a defeat to the U.S.
The Secretary: There are more Jewish journalists in New York than there are Arab ones.
Min. Bouteflika: I have met Jews and Zionist Jews in New York. Some of them are very very lucid. They know the terms of the problem and there cannot be a settlement without the Palestinians and they want to try to work out a settlement with the Palestinians.
The Secretary: I believe you and I agree.
Min. Bouteflika: The resolution did not pass because Egypt, co-author of the resolution, remained absent, even though its delegation numbers fifty. The story I got was that the car bringing the delegate to the vote broke down, the votes took about six hours but the car remained out of service during that time. Morocco which recognized Sihanouk voted for the other resolution; Tunisia which recognizes Sihanouk abstained; the emirates and Bahrain who also recognized Sihanouk abstained. Baroody, who is very skillful offered amendments to the two resolutions but no one takes him seriously. If other groups had negotiated seriously with Baroody, the result of the vote would have been different.
The Secretary: You are right.
Min. Bouteflika: Baroody’s getting old and as men grow older their sensitivities increase. I first observed this when I met General DeGaulle for the first time. Even an outstanding man like him is not immune to that rile.
The Secretary: It is a painful phenomenon to observe.
Min. Bouteflika: The first time I met DeGaulle I observed how age had eroded him. How susceptible he had become to flattery and to his sensitivities. The Thai Ambassador who is young, skillful and intelligent used a moment of inattention to introduce an amendment which changed the substance of the resolution. Any delegation could have then invoked the 24-hour rule because of the change in the substance of the resolution but no one did. He acted very fast and I like him for it. Then the Ambassador of Sri Lanka got the point but no one understood. The bold move of the Thai ambassador appealed to me. He made his move very fast and he won. No one realized what was going on. We voted 56-54 and the resolution passed which is what I wanted. I point to your attention this 56-54 result. If it had been 55-55, the resolution would have come to a vote a second time then it would have been rejected and so you won your vote by one vote. This leads me to the conclusion that you have until the beginning of the next GA to settle that question. The resolution speaks of two parties Sihanouk and Lon Nol which it places on an equal footing. At the 27th GA the Handbro legal opinion on South Africa said and I quote: “Any delegation can be suspended when there are two parties recognized by the GA.” At the next GA Sihanouk will send letters of accreditation and the credentials committee will be in an untenable position. Believe me I speak to you as a friend.
The Secretary: Well we have spoken about this in the past. We are not opposed to Sihanouk playing in Cambodia the kind of role that Souvanna Phouma has played in Laos. We are looking for a way to talk to Sihanouk but haven’t yet found one. Of course it would help if he would restrain his eloquence for a few weeks, but this is a minor point.
Min. Bouteflika: The fact that he does not restrain his eloquence is not a disservice to you because it annoys some of his supporters.
The Secretary: The fact is how can we have a serious exchange with Sihanouk.
Min. Bouteflika: Without appearing to work at cross purposes with you I want to invite their Defense Minister to Algiers. He is the Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Khmer Rouge.
The Secretary: What’s his name? Could Ambassador Parker talk to him quietly?
Min. Bouteflika: I do not recall his name but I always feel that those in power are more reasonable than those who are not. And I want to talk to him without Sihanouk to see what are the limits of the problem.
The Secretary: But you can tell him the U.S. has no national interest in Cambodia. We want to end the war in a way that our national dignity is preserved. We do not seek a permanent position in Cambodia.
Min. Bouteflika: I simply draw your attention to the fact that you have eight months to try to solve the problem because at the next GA you will have a very bad situation on your hands. Now on Korea, even at the Security Council among the five permanent members there begins to be the feeling that there is no reason for the UN flag to be there. The US can have a defense pact with any nation and keep troops in South Korea if it wished but as a US, not UN, proposition.
The Secretary: This is possible.
Min. Bouteflika: It would be better if the idea came from you than if it came from the Security Council.
The Secretary: We can do that.
Amb. Buffum: I think we can work out an arrangement with the parties and notify the Security Council.
The Secretary: Do you think North Korea will agree?
Min. Bouteflika: Even if it doesn’t it does not matter since you do not have relations with them now. Let me now speak to the revolutionary spirit in you. If you have an opportunity to meet Kim Il Song you should do so. In my view in the Third world there were Cuba, Algeria, Vietnam and Korea each trying to set up an independent national policy. Cuba cannot do so until it has normalized its relations with the U.S.
The Secretary: I fully agree with you.
Min. Bouteflika: Cuba is like a patient with one lung, who cannot take a deep breath until it has healed. Algeria has a long history with France and Europe and progress will take time. The policy of independence is costly. Something or other is always coming up. Vietnam has been forced by war to choose a policy of balance between Moscow and Peking, leaning to either Peking or Moscow as one or the other shows greater reluctance. The only country with truly a policy of national independence is North Korea. I asked Kim Il Song why he did not rejoin the nonaligned group, pointing out to him that after all countries like Cuba and Yugoslavia are in it. He told me he had never thought about it. I pointed out to him that he has defense pacts with the Soviet Union and Peking. He said if Seoul renounces its defense pacts with the U.S. and Japan within 24 hours he will renounce his with Moscow and Peking. You won’t be sorry to talk to Kim Il Song. I told him that. I had read his works and I see that he encourages the cult of personality, having himself described as the beloved leader of forty million North Koreans. He pointed out the need for the Korean people to have someone with whom they can identify as a national figure because in neighboring China there is one God who is Mao and he wanted the Koreans to feel they did not have to seek outside their own borders for a national figure.
The Secretary: This is very important.
Min. Bouteflika: You will understand them better after talking to them.
The Secretary: We had thought we would wait until after the GA.
Min. Bouteflika: I know Kim Il Song is the most open of all the North Korean leaders. The one who will find compromise, the others are just like students with a master. You must try to get his personal views. At this GA we voted on the economic charter but you must not take that too seriously. We voted also on the revision of the San Francisco charter but this is a very long process. Ambassador Malik asked me how come the name of Algeria appeared alongside the names of Colombia and the Philippines and Brazil. I told him Algeria belongs to the non-aligned world, that we are not Communists. Eleven years ago Gromyko had told me that I was dogmatic with respect to the Charter. How can we accept today references to Germany and Japan as enemy states when they are both active in the organization. How can we accept provisions on trusteeship when decolonization is a reality. No one challenges the right of veto. Actually a correct analysis would demonstrate that only two countries should have a veto power. I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but there are only two superpowers in the world today, and they in fact have an actual veto power. The more dogmatic the Soviets show themselves the more flexible you should be and observe the situation without challenging the tide of the third world. You must understand that the third world does not wish to be Communist; the Chinese have understood this.
The Secretary: I have understood that. The Third World is torn between rhetoric and cooperation. On the one hand they argue politically with the industrialized world, on the other they seek economic cooperation. This dilemma won’t work. In the special session next September we have an obligation to attempt to solve the problem. I agree with your President 100 percent. We must be cooperative. In bilateral terms, this makes no difference at all because the U.S. continues to be a strong country. However, Europe and Japan are no longer that strong. The U.S. cannot have the Third World demoralizing Japan and Europe. You understand I am talking to you now as an old friend and also as a leader of the Third World. If we can work together during this special session it must become a symbol of the cooperation between us then we can do much. If it becomes a session of confrontation, then that worries me greatly.
Min. Bouteflika: It would never be a confrontation. We have also ended on a conciliatory note. When we voted on the rearrangement of the economic order, we voted ideas freely. The UN can be a democratic forum where small countries are not afraid to hurt the feelings of big nations. The US is a house of freedom. What we seek is not the result of confrontation hut of a dialogue and of consultation. Ambassador Scali said you would not become a member of the Council of Governors (of the special fund) because you would not belong to it since you had chosen the path of bilateral cooperation. This was a very honest statement. Your country can do what it chooses bilaterally and incidentally I certainly hope that Algeria will be one of the countries with which you pursue bilateral assistance.
The Secretary: Absolutely, you must have no doubt about that.
Min. Bouteflika: President Boumedienne has said if you have ten billion dollars or 20 billion dollars available, we shall need them for our own development. But here with the special fund you can made a political investment to assist the drought stricken countries or can give aid to the newly independent nations. Nations remember those who aided them first. I would advise you to make a token contribution to the special fund because being away altogether is not good for you.
The Secretary: This is something that I want to discuss with my associates.
Min. Bouteflika: A country with your power has in this instance given the impression that it was annoyed, angry. You should not remain absent completely. If you are present within the fund you can help give it a certain direction, but if you are absent, you’re always in the wrong. Besides, you can still retain your bilateral relations because you can earmark up to one-half or possibly two-thirds of your contribution to bilateral recipients.
Amb. Buffum: The argument was not so much earmarking a share of one’s contribution for bilateral recipients as it was using existing organizations rather than setting up new competing bodies, your President had told McNamara that the World Bank would be acceptable as a channel. A lot of things remain unclear.
Min. Bouteflika: Yes, a lot of points I never made clear in advance but are subsequently cleared up in practice. I will get back by you, Mr. Secretary, in due time on all these points.
The Secretary: You have given me much food for thought and reflection. I plan a speech about the UN where I will combine being critical and being constructive.
(The Secretary then spoke privately with the Algerian Foreign Minister.)
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P740058–0148. Secret. The meeting was held in Bouteflika’s office at U.N. headquarters. The “Kaunda mission” refers to an October 1970 visit by Kaunda and other African leaders to the United Kingdom to discuss prospective British arms sales to the South African government. The “Eigal-Allon visit” refers to Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s trip to Washington for talks with Kissinger, which was postponed until January 15, 1975. “Handbro” refers to Edvard Hambro of Norway, who served as President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1970 and 1971 and as President of the United Nations International Law Commission from 1972 until 1977.↩
- Kissinger and Bouteflika discussed positions taken during the 29th United Nations General Assembly and issues to be addressed in future negotiations.↩