124. Telegram 202479 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal1
Subject: Lajes Flights. Eyes Only for Chargé.
1. You should seek an immediate appointment with the Foreign Minister, or if he is not available with a senior official who has his trust and confidence.
2. You should inform the Foreign Minister that you have been asked to see him to explain that over the next several weeks we will wish to use the Lajes Base for the flight of chartered civilian aircraft to Israel. The aircraft are chartered by the United States Defense Department. The flights will be carrying urgently needed military assistance equipment to Israel. We will average 10 to 20 flights a day. They will stop in Lajes for crew change and refueling. They will touch down nowhere else on their way to or from Israel. We will want to begin flights tonight.
3. We believe the Portuguese Government should be frankly informed of our intentions. We would hope that at the bare minimum they would receive this information without further comment as to the use of the base. We wish of course to avoid their refusing to permit us to use this base.
4. You may tell the Foreign Minister that we consider this a very important part of our efforts to maintain the balance in the Middle East and to seek a negotiated solution which will bring a durable peace to the region. We will not forget Portuguese help and cooperation in this effort.
5. You should inform the Portuguese that this activity is being carried on against the backdrop of a large Soviet aerial resupply effort in Egypt, Syria and Iraq which has been going on for the last several days.
6. We hope and trust the Portuguese will respect our confidence in this matter. We intend no publicity. We of course cannot guarantee that [Page 445]over time the flights will escape public notice. If they come to public notice we intend to say only that our ongoing supply relationship to Israel is of course well known; we neither confirm nor deny specific information relating to that relationship.
7. We are also calling in Portuguese Ambassador today to inform him of your approach to Patricio and to request his support for our démarche.
The Department instructed the Embassy to inform Portuguese
officials of the U.S. desire to use the Lajes Base as a
refueling stop for defense matériel-laden aircraft on the way to
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973, [no film number]. Secret; Flash; Exdis; Eyes Only. Drafted by Pickering; cleared by Stabler, Scowcroft (in substance), Atherton, and DOD (informed); and approved by Pickering. In telegram 3779 from Lisbon, October 13, the Embassy reported Patricio’s suggestion that Portuguese compliance with the U.S. request would depend on U.S. willingness to “provide GOP with surface-to-air missiles for use against expected air threat in Portuguese Guinea,” as well as “provide GOP with general political support, treat GOP in a non-discriminatory manner.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 701, Country Files, Europe, Portugal, Vol. II (1972–1974) (1 of 2))↩