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

66283. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Foreign Minister Boucetta: Western Sahara.

1. Summary: In March 11 working luncheon with Secretary, FonMin Boucetta outlined in detail GOM’s justification that it has acquired sovereignty in Sahara and continued to reject U.S. distinction between administrative control and sovereignty. Although told forcefully that USG holds that USG-furnished arms may not rpt not be employed in Sahara, Boucetta gave no commitment GOM will so restrict use of these arms. Second meeting scheduled for March 12. End summary.

2. Western Sahara was principal subject of conversation during Secretary’s March 11 working lunch with Foreign Minister Boucetta. Latter opened with statement that he welcomed chance discuss not only bilateral issues but problems which could impact on bilateral relations. On the Sahara, declarations had been made by responsible U.S. officials which, if repeated, risked creating situation which could encourage some sectors of international opinion to believe there had been a change in U.S. position. Minister then outlined in detail history of colonization and decolonization of Morocco, emphasizing fragmentary nature of each process, and Hassan’s preference for patient peaceful means to accomplish decolonization.

3. With respect to the Sahara, Boucetta continued, King had been similarly prudent, becoming engaged only after obtaining a clear expression of Algeria’s position at 1974 Rabat Summit conference,2 when Boumediene stated his country had no territorial claims and agreed to the parts of the Sahara which would go to Morocco and Mauritania. Spain subsequently tried to create a state that everyone realized would not be viable, and Green March occurred. UN in 1975 had required that sovereignty be resolved by interested parties. ICJ [Page 551] ruled there existed between Saharan population and Morocco ties of allegiance which, said Boucetta, could have no significance other than sovereignty. At time of Green March Security Council passed three resolutions urging parties to negotiate, and Madrid Accord signed. By its terms, continued Boucetta, Spain ceded all responsibilities and powers and agreement stated that the political desires of the Saharan population would be expressed by the Jema’a.

4. Boucetta described February 1976 Jema’a action as consistent with the procedure by which all Francophone African countries acceded to independence and said it was similar also to procedure employed in West Irian with approval of UNGA, and support of Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. When Spain gave up its powers, Morocco took them up, thus acquiring all the attributes of sovereignty. This was reaffirmed in subsequent local and professional body elections, as well as in the election of seven (and nomination of two additional) representatives from the Sahara to Morocco’s national legislature. In stating there is a difference between sovereignty and administrative control, USG is encouraging some sectors of international opinion to adopt erroneous ideas regarding Morocco’s sovereignty.

5. Commenting that foregoing had been merely legal aspects of an essentially political problem, FonMin said Morocco had chosen free world in which to live, but efforts are being made to destabilize Northwest Africa, e.g., in Canaries and Mauritania, which is weak link in chain, perhaps to recreate situations like Angola and Horn. Morocco hopes its situation will be understood in Washington, where a decision had been taken which Morocco hopes would be only temporary. A problem would be created, he concluded, if the distinction between sovereignty and administrative control were to be repeated by responsible U.S. officials.

6. Responding, Secretary reminded FonMin that USG has remained neutral in its public position on Sahara dispute. Prior to decision to which Boucetta referred, administration had consulted extensively with leadership of Congress and decided not to try to proceed with OV–10 and helicopter sales because they would have been rejected by Congress, because these arms would have been used beyond Morocco’s borders. Secretary said he wanted make clear that restriction of 1960 agreement regarding use outside Morocco’s borders3 applies also to equipment already furnished Morocco. To permit other use would require amending 1960 agreement, and this would not be an appropri [Page 552] ate time to do so. Administration strongly supports regular 45 million dols FMS program; Congress is receptive to it; and Secretary continued, in his opinion, Congress will approve it.

7. At Secretary’s suggestion, Veliotes then briefed FonMin in more detail on congressional consultations, emphasizing opposition of key committee chairmen. Bengelloun described conversation in which he said Senator Clark indicated he might call Secretary to mention changed view; and Secretary replied Clark had not discussed subject in recent meeting. Boucetta commented that recent visits of U.S. legislators left Moroccans with impression they enjoyed more support in Congress than Department indicated.

8. Secretary told Boucetta arms decision should not be misinterpreted as reflecting lack of U.S. support for Morocco. In both administration and Congress there are strong feelings regarding importance of bilateral relations and great admiration for Hassan’s courage. Boucetta expressed appreciation, then repeated that GOM unable understand distinction U.S. making between administrative control and sovereignty, as GOM recognizes only one Morocco. He assured Secretary U.S. arms would never be used for aggression, only defense. Bengelloun then attacked Algeria for efforts to achieve regional hegemony.

9. Ambassador Anderson described one of his first conversations with King in which Hassan said he would not place U.S., France, or other countries which had supported him in a difficult position on Sahara. Prime Minister Osman had told the President last December Morocco wanted diplomatic and moral support.4 In requesting USG in essence to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty in Sahara, which would be the case if that area were considered by US to be included as part of Morocco under the terms of the 1960 agreement, GOM asking USG take a step virtually no other government had yet taken. He then repeated suggestion made earlier in week to Boucetta that in view of aborted OAU special summit, effort be made to find formula, perhaps with assistance of a prestigious, neutral group, to recast self-determination issue in today’s circumstances rather than on resolutions of doubtful enforcibility in current situations.

10. Boucetta replied that no other government had taken public position similar to that of U.S.; Spanish Government had recently signed fishing accord which acknowledged Moroccan sovereignty in waters off Sahara; and no government is incorporating any reservations on restrictions regarding Sahara in agreements with GOM. Secretary reiterated that 1960 arms bilateral does not authorize Moroccan use of U.S. arms in Sahara. Brief discussion on Horn then ensued which being [Page 553] reported septel.5 Secretary invited Boucetta resume discussion March 12, and second meeting scheduled for morning.

11. FonMin did not mention contents of message from King. Although informed meeting with President had not been possible arrange, and invited have FonMin deliver communication to Secretary to be passed to President, Bengelloun persisted with request that Boucetta be received either by President or Vice President.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 69, Morocco: 3–6/78. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to Algiers, Nouakchott, Paris, and Madrid. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted by Bishop; cleared by Veliotes; approved by Houghten. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780115–0496)
  2. In telegram 5253 from Rabat, October 29, 1974, the Embassy summarized the proceedings of the Arab League Summit, which focused primarily on the PLO, but also addressed the Western Sahara: “On Sahara, conference reportedly decided to support joint Moroccan-Mauritanian request to resort to ICJ and appeal to Spain to go along with this and abstain from any unilateral measure which might harm traditional and fruitful Spanish-Arab friendship.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740307–0950)
  3. The 1960 bilateral security assistance agreement limited Morocco’s use of U.S. military equipment to the defense of its internationally recognized borders.
  4. See Document 151.
  5. Telegram 66282 to Rabat, March 15. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780118–0827)
  6. In telegram 70308 to Rabat, March 18, the Department summarized Boucetta’s March 14 meeting with Mondale, in which he delivered Hassan’s letter. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780121–0575) In telegram 66888 to Rabat, March 15, the Department transmitted the text of the letter. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840176–1469)