47. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

Ethiopia. Ethiopian Ambassador Ayalew delivered a letter to us this morning announcing his decision to resign as ambassador. He informed his government January 29. Ayalew said that after careful soundings with friends in Addis Ababa, he did not dare return home [Page 108] as instructed. He will not announce his resignation and will cooperate with us in keeping it quiet as long as possible.2

Ayalew has confirmation that your personal message has been delivered to Mengistu.3 He says the message will spark a fierce debate between pro-Soviets and remaining moderate elements in Addis. He has no hint of Mengistu’s reaction, although the Foreign Minister—who is not a member of the ruling military group—felt it was “a positive letter.” He also believes that a request for agrement of an American Ambassador now would support our position. We are cabling this request tonight.

However, Ayalew is convinced that an announcement that we are suspending the pending shipment of military spare parts would seriously undermine the possibility of progress on the basis of your letter and could force a break in relations. There will be no shipment before February 13, at the earliest, and the freight forwarder will notify us before any movement occurs, so we have a little time. We plan tomorrow to instruct our Charge to inquire of the ruling military group about a response to your letter.4

[Omitted here are items unrelated to the Horn of Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Plains File, Subject File, Box 13, State Department Evening Reports, 1/78. Secret. Carter initialed and wrote, “Cy.”
  2. In telegram 24567 to Addis Ababa, January 31, the Department reported on Ayalew’s reasons for resignation and defection. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780045–0167)
  3. See Document 42. Carter underlined “Mengistu” and wrote in the left margin, “He made a bad public statement.” In Mengistu’s public statement on January 30, he accused President Carter of a conspiracy against Ethiopia. (Telegram 468 from Addis Ababa, January 31; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780046–0199)
  4. Carter wrote “good” in the left margin. In his response to Carter’s message, Mengistu welcomed the idea of a visit by a senior U.S. Government emissary to Ethiopia. (Telegram 538 from Addis Ababa, February 3; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850104–2364)