211. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance in Switzerland to the Embassy in Morocco1

Secto 4127. Subj: Secretary’s Meeting With Waldheim: Sahara Problem.

1. During working breakfast May 19 with the Secretary, UN Secy General Waldheim said he wanted to bring the Secretary up to date on the following recent developments with respect to the Sahara and to seek his assistance.

2. Waldheim said that when he was recently in Saudi Arabia, he had met with Algerian Foreign Minister Bouteflika, who had asked for his help in finding a face-saving formula2 for Algiers. Subsequently, when he was in Maputo, he had been approached by an emissary of Boumediene’s (phonetic spelling Sahnoun) with a further request for his assistance.

3. One idea that had occurred to him, Waldheim said, was the autonomy for the Sahara. With both the OAU and UN divided on this subject, however, King Hassan felt in a strong position and Waldheim doubted that he was ready for a face-saving solution. He was nevertheless in touch with a Moroccan representative in Geneva to explore whether any new approach to this problem was possible. The Algerians hoped for a solution before the African summit in Gabon in July and were urging him to visit the area. Waldheim said he wanted first, however, to see whether Morocco was ready for any kind of face-saving procedure such as, for example, a process of consultations with Saharoui leaders. He had also discussed this problem with Sadruddin Aga Khan, who is carrying out census of Saharouis in Algeria.

4. Waldheim said that Boumediene’s emissary had told him the Moroccans were massing troops on the Algerian border. According to Sadruddin Khan, there was no doubt the Algerians are supporting the [Page 508] Polisario,3 and he is concerned about a possible Moroccan preemptive strike across the border against Tindouf.

5. The Secretary said we have good relations with Hassan and could use our good offices in support of the Secretary General.4 Waldheim said we could tell Hassan of the approach to him by Boumediene’s emissary in Maputo, who had said that Algeria is worried about the situation and has asked the Secretary General to take an initiative which could contribute to a solution of the problem.

6. Waldheim said he was cautious about again involving himself in the Saharan situation after his last experience. King Hassan takes the position that the problem has been solved and that the self-determination requirement was fulfilled through his consultation with the Saharoui Assembly. Neither Spain nor Algeria accepts this, however, pointing out that Hassan only consulted a rump assembly consisting of Moroccan stooges. They did not agree that this fulfilled Morocco’s obligation under the Moroccan-Mauritanian-Spanish agreement.5 What is needed, Waldheim concluded, is a face-saving formula for the Algerians.

7. Before deciding how to proceed in support of Waldheim’s request for help, we would like Rabat’s analysis and recommendations. We would also welcome any comments that info addressees may have.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 1, Algeria: 2–12/77. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to the Department of State. Sent for information Priority to USUN, Algiers, Madrid, and Nouakchott. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Vance was in Geneva to meet with Gromyko to discuss SALT and the Middle East.
  2. An unknown hand underlined “face-saving formula.”
  3. For a detailed report on the Polisario Front, see Document 221.
  4. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence.
  5. Reference is to the 1975 Morocco Accords; see footnote 5, Document 31.