162. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Morocco1

293669. Subject: King’s Visit: Military Supply Discussions.

Summary. During his visit, King Hassan assured the Secretary that U.S. furnished weapons would not be used outside Moroccan territory. We informed the Moroccan party that this assurance fell short of our requirement and the issue of use of American equipment in the Sahara remains unresolved. We intend to pursue the subject further with Moroccan Ambassador Bengelloun. End summary.

1. At the White House meeting on the morning of November 15 the Secretary had a brief side discussion with Foreign Minister Boucetta and Ambassador Bengelloun during which Bengelloun raised question of arms for Morocco. The Secretary said we wanted to help but we needed some assurances regarding how arms would be used. Bengelloun said Morocco was ready to give assurances that they would be used only for legitimate self-defense. Secretary said we had a congressional problem with regard to use of these arms in the Sahara. Bengelloun contested this but the Secretary held his ground and said we did indeed have a political problem and we needed to take it into account [Page 390] in our policy. What we needed was an assurance as to where the arms would be used and for what purposes. If the Moroccans, for instance, would tell us they would be stationed at such and such places in northern Morocco and be used only against an invasion threat, that would be satisfactory.

2. Afternoon of November 15 Ambassador Bengelloun told Ambassador Parker that US should show more comprehension of Moroccan needs. He said he was counting on Ambassador Parker to get USG to change its position from that set forth by the Secretary in the morning. (There was no opportunity to report this conversation to the Secretary before he met with the King that evening.)

3. King opened meeting with the Secretary evening November 15 by saying he thought his trip had opened a large window. He did not want to look at problems through the keyhole. If the Department felt the Moroccans must give a letter guaranteeing that American military equipment would not be used outside Moroccan territory, Moroccans would do so. In this regard he suggested jocularly that we might consider Kosygin formula.

4. King then described how he had sent Prime Minister Osman to Soviet Union to sign agreements regarding phosphates and fishing.2 There was no problem with the phosphates, but Soviets were obviously dragging their feet on the fishing agreement, regarding which they had earlier been very keen. It appeared that question of Sahara coastline was bothering them. Prime Minister was authorized to sign the phosphate agreement and return. Hassan then summoned his Ambassador from Moscow and sent him to see Kosygin and ask him personal question on King’s behalf: Why did Soviets not want to sign agreement? Was it because of Algerian pressure?

5. Kosygin, who had just returned from the Sino-Soviet border area hit the ceiling at the mention of Algerian pressure, pointing out that Soviet Union was an independent state. Ambassador asked if this was the Soviet answer to the King’s question. Kosygin told him to wait ten minutes during which he would draft a text. Kosygin left Ambassador in his office and returned shortly thereafter with typed text in French saying Soviets would fish along Moroccan coastline in accordance with Moroccan laws.

6. In any event, Hassan did not want to embarrass his friends. Any time he might ask for American equipment he would not use it outside Moroccan frontiers. As he had said to President day before, most impor [Page 391] tant thing U.S. could do for Morocco was to have its Ambassadors around the world openly say that Morocco was our friend.3

7. Assuming King’s remarks regarding arms were shorthand response to Secretary’s earlier statement to Boucetta and Bengelloun, Secretary said he thought we could proceed on that basis.

8. November 16 Ambassador Parker telephoned Ambassador Bengelloun to clarify the nature of the assurances we were expecting from King Hassan regarding use of American weapons. Bengelloun said King’s meaning was very clear. He, Bengelloun, was to send the Department a letter stating that American arms would be used only for the defense of Morocco and would not be used outside Moroccan territory. Ambassador Parker noted that in Moroccan context this would include the Sahara. Bengelloun replied “of course”, but this did not mean that they would necessarily be used there. The King did not want to embarrass the United States and would do his best to avoid it. But he could not make a distinction between the Sahara and the rest of Morocco in a document.

9. Ambassador Parker told Bengelloun that unfortunately he had not been able to inform the Secretary about Bengelloun’s remarks Wednesday morning4 on the need to modify the American position on assurances. The Secretary had assumed that the King’s remarks reflected his acceptance of the conditions the Secretary had specified in his morning conversation with Boucetta and Bengelloun, i.e., a commitment where the arms would be and what they would be used for. Ambassador Parker suggested that it might be stated that the arms would be stationed in northern Morocco and used only in the case of invasion in the east. Bengelloun replied that an attack was also possible from the south or even from the sea. He protested that what Ambassador Parker was suggesting went beyond the limits of diplomacy. Ambassador Parker told him he felt there had been a misunderstanding, and he called back later to confirm this. His remarks had been conveyed to the Secretary who said he did not want to spoil the visit and raise the subject with the King this evening, but the Moroccans should have no question in their minds that there had been a misunderstanding. The Secretary had interpreted the King’s remarks as meaning that he would accept the position set forth by the Secretary to Bengelloun and Boucetta in the morning. Secretary could not go beyond that.

10. We intend to pursue this issue with Ambassador Bengelloun in an effort to get the type of assurances mentioned by the Secretary in his initial conversation reported para 1 above. In the meantime, we [Page 392] are using press guidance prepared for the visit which states that we do not want to sell Morocco arms for use in the Western Sahara, that we will continue to consider new requests for arms sales to Morocco on a case by case basis, and that we will of course consult with Congress as required by law.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 69, Morocco: 7/78–8/80. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Parker, who was in Washington for the King’s visit, and F.O. Smith; approved in S. Sent for information Priority to Algiers, Paris, Nouakchott, Madrid, and Moscow.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 160.
  3. See Document 161.
  4. November 15.