220. Letter From Representative Donald M. Fraser to Secretary of State Vance1

Dear Mr. Secretary:

In light of the upcoming visit by King Hassan of Morocco, I recently wrote the President a letter on the question of the conflict in Western Sahara, urging him to discuss with the King the issues of self-determination in the Sahara and the question of U.S. military assistance to Morocco. Although I sent you a copy at the time, I am enclosing another one for your information.2

As a follow-up to this letter, as well as subsequent meetings between the subcommittee staff and U.S. government officials on this subject, I thought I would put in writing some specific points and recommendations on U.S. policy toward Western Sahara.

United States official policy on Western Sahara remains essentially unchanged from the past:

—U.S. is neutral in the conflict;

—U.S. acknowledges administrative control of Western Sahara by Mauritania and Morocco without acknowledging their claims of sovereignty;

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—The question of exercise of self-determination is a fair legal question, but the United States does not make a judgment on it, as this would prejudice a peaceful resolution of the dispute and would negatively affect our relations with Morocco, as well as Algeria and Mauritania;

—The United States has urged on occasion that those involved in the dispute should, in resolving the problems, avail themselves of the international organs as the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity.

In past administrations, this official policy has been used as a facade covering a posture of abstaining in actions that would upset our good relations with Morocco.

The present administration, however, has committed itself to actively upholding and promoting international human rights, which include the right to expression of self-determination. It therefore seems important that the United States Government substantiate its official policy toward Western Sahara in the following manner:

—The United States should begin to make clear, through quiet diplomatic channels, to the nations involved—Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria—that it intends to more actively pursue, bilaterally and through the United Nations organs, its public policy, than has been the case in the past; that there are important differences in the manner in which the United States has carried out this policy in the past and how it will be carried out in the future;

—The United States strongly supports an end to the fighting in the region;

—The United States supports the idea that participants in the conflict work out conditions under which the people of Western Sahara can be allowed to determine the status of their political future under international auspices;

—The United States should show great interest in the upcoming meeting by the Organization of African Unity that will reportedly be held in Egypt in March of 1978,3 to resolve the conflict in this region;

—The United States should consult with Spain and France, both of which are on record as favoring self-determination and both of which take the position that even the Madrid Agreement has yet to be carried out by Morocco, with a view to seeing what further can be done to assist in the process of self-determination;

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—The United States should reiterate that U.S. law limits use of its military assistance to internal and collective defense, and prohibits such assistance for acts of agression.

Your consideration to these matters is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely yours,

Donald M. Fraser4
Subcommittee on International Organizations
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material. Middle East, Subject File, Box 87, Spanish Sahara: 5–12/77. No classification marking. Copies were sent to Christopher, Young, Brzezinski, Flaten, Richardson, Quandt, and Veliotes.
  2. Not attached; printed as Document 219.
  3. The OAU meeting in Cairo was cancelled. At the OAU Summit held in Khartoum July 18–22, 1978, regarding the Western Sahara, the OAU adopted a resolution to set up an ad hoc committee, known as the Wisemen’s Committee, “to find a solution to this question compatible with self-determination.” See footnote 4, Document 45.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.