63. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Algeria1

155012. Subj: Secretary’s June 10 Meeting With Algerian Foreign Minister Bouteflika. Ref: State 135959.2

1. Summary: During a lengthy conversation Algerian Foreign Minister Bouteflika gave Secretary a letter from President Boumediene to President Carter protesting France’s military intervention in the Western Saharan conflict.3 Bouteflika elaborated on this theme in discussion, criticizing the French also for their military role in Zaire and Chad. When he sought assurance there had been no change in administration’s African policy, Secretary reminded him that U.S. has sought peaceful resolution of African disputes, while Soviets have fueled the fires of conflict with massive arms shipments. FonMin said he had told Castro, Kosygin, and Mengistu the Eritrean conflict will have to be settled politically, and that Castro had told him Cuban troops would not become involved. On Namibia, Bouteflika said Algeria will support a solution acceptable to the Front Line states. Bouteflika admitted there have been secret peace talks between Rabat and Algiers on the Western Sahara war. However, he indicated these have not been productive.

Secretary pledged continuing U.S. neutrality. Bouteflika outlined terms of a possible settlement. On the Middle East, Bouteflika was highly critical of Sadat and argued that the Soviets be given a larger role in the peace process. Secretary took the occasion to give him a briefing on our current Middle East policy. End summary.

2. Bouteflika called on Secretary June 10 following request for appointment from Algerian Embassy, which said Bouteflika had been instructed to seek meeting by Algerian President Boumediene. Talks which lasted two and half hours covered following topics:

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3. U.S. African policy and the French: As discussion began, Bouteflika handed Secretary letter from Boumediene to President Carter (text, which being cabled septel, protests French military intervention in Africa). Bouteflika quickly took up same theme, claiming African Anglophones and those other African nations maintaining “policy of national independence” join Algeria in opposition to French action. Commenting that French appear to be acting on behalf of the West, Bouteflika asked rhetorically why the West intervened to support defective, incompetent and corrupt leaders against their own peoples. Accusing French of engaging in colonial conquest, he said Paris is seeking encircle Algeria by extending its influence in surrounding states. He suggested that if Algeria forced to choose between suffering French attacks and permitting Soviets to establish bases, Algeria would do latter. Noting that U.S. is associated with France and Morocco in Shaba operation, FonMin asked if this represented a long term change in U.S. policy. He called on U.S. to urge France to act with greater restraint in Africa. He then attacked African intervention force proposed by France.

4. Replying, Secretary assured Bouteflika there has been no change in African policies of Carter administration, reminding him that new administration had substantially increased economic assistance to Africa, had given clear support for African majority rule in Southern Africa and had sought peaceful resolution of problems, while Soviets and Cubans poured in arms which escalated conflict. With regard to Zaire, U.S. respected OAU principle of territorial integrity. Danger to civilians arose from violation of international frontier. U.S. response to requests for assistance from Zaire, France and Belgium was motivated by humanitarian factors. He added parenthetically that U.S. action was a specific response to situation in Shaba and not within the context of proposals for an African peacekeeping force. U.S. realizes fundamental reforms are necessary in Zaire and will seek these for the benefit of the country’s people. Secretary again invited Bouteflika to look at record of U.S. African policy over previous 18 months and assured FonMin that U.S. wants Algeria to continue to pursue its policy of national independence.

5. Bouteflika said he was reassured by Secretary’s reaffirmation of administration’s African policy. He said Algeria also supported principle of territorial integrity and had demonstrated it in Congo, Biafra and Ethiopian contexts. Mobutu’s accusations of Algerian complicity in renewed Shaba incursion were prompted by French and Moroccans, he claimed. He blamed South Africans for Shaba problem, indicating he thought they brought it on via their support for Savimbi in an effort to distract attention from their designs in Namibia and Rhodesia.

6. Namibia and Rhodesia: As examples of U.S. efforts to promote peaceful settlements, Secretary outlined for Bouteflika current efforts [Page 171] to reach agreement on future of Zambia and Rhodesia. He expressed hope Algerians would use their good offices to get SWAPO to accept the principles formulated by the Group of Five4 which are supported by the Front Line states. He said U.S. also would appreciate any help Algerians could give to promote Rhodesian settlement.

7. Algeria fully supports Front Line states, FonMin said. Discussing Walvis Bay, Bouteflika expressed belief this issue is principal obstacle to SWAPO’s adhesion to Group of Five’s proposals. Secretary then outlined elements of public statement Group of Five prepared to make concerning Walvis Bay if SWAPO would agree to defer resolution of its status until after elections. He also clarified other aspects of Group of Five proposal and reactions of individual Front Line Presidents. Responding, Bouteflika described himself as personally reassured.

8. Western Sahara: Responding to the Secretary’s inquiry regarding press reports of talks between Rabat and Algiers, Bouteflika admitted these have occurred, asking Secretary to treat this information confidentially. He accused Moroccans of press leaks designed to forestall efforts by third parties to mediate dispute. If this behavior continued, he said, Algeria will reveal that no progress has been made and that the two parties remain in total disagreement. His personal belief, Bouteflika claimed, is that Moroccans think French intervened in Mauritania partially to prevent Morocco from extending its borders to Nouakchott or even St. Louis. In brief discussion of possible solutions, Bouteflika said that realizing Hassan had put his throne at risk Algeria appreciates some concession must be made to his ambitions. He suggested Morocco might keep portion of Sahara including phosphate mines and part of seacoast, while Saharans received remainder of territory now occupied by Morocco and Mauritania. Although the Moroccan political parties are very bellicose, there are factions in Morocco which favor peace, even within the royal entourage. He suggested that if U.S. helped Algeria by getting the French to pull back rather than fueling fires, Algeria would work for a relaxation of tension in the area. He cautioned that, as with Namibia, it would be difficult to achieve progress. Without making any comment on this proposal, Secretary said U.S. policy toward Sahara dispute would remain one of neutrality.

9. During exchange on the Horn, Secretary said U.S. could see no possible justification for Cuban military involvement in Eritrea, as the dispute is purely internal. Such involvement moreover would be inconsistent with Cuban pretensions of non-alignment. In fact, U.S. already has told Cubans there is no justification for them to remain in Ethiopia. [Page 172] Focusing initially on Soviets, Bouteflika said they already had been ejected from two Nilotic countries and that no superpower should want to see the other superpower feeling humiliated. Superpowers should regard each other within the context of global issues, and the U.S. should not force the Soviets’ backs to the wall if U.S. wants a SALT agreement. Both U.S. and USSR should “close eyes to some things” in the search for equilibrium. He said that during his recent meetings in Havana Castro had assured him Cuba would not become militarily engaged in Eritrea. The problem demanded a political solution, and Bouteflika said he had pressed this view on Kosygin and Mengistu, as well as on Castro. Asked by the Secretary why 17,000 Cuban troops remain in Ethiopia, Bouteflika said the Ethiopians fear new trouble in the Ogaden, and that the Somalis clearly do not regard that chapter as closed.

10. Middle East: During discussion on this topic, Bouteflika was highly critical of Sadat in exchange which repeated main themes of Bouteflika/Saunders conversation described reftel, with Secretary identifying questions regarding future of West Bank currently under consideration by Israeli Cabinet at U.S. request. Bouteflika urged that Soviets be given more prominent role in peace process.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 1, Algeria: 1–12/78. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information to Rabat, Nouakchott, Paris, Madrid, USUN, Havana, Kinshasa, Mogadiscio, and Addis Ababa. Printed from a copy that was received in the White House Situation Room. Drafted by Bishop; cleared by Houghton and in AF/I and P; approved by Saunders. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780254–0757)
  2. In telegram 135959 to Algiers, May 27, the Department reported on Saunders’s May 25 meeting with Bouteflika. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780225–0036)
  3. A copy of Boumediene’s May 20 letter to Carter is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 1, Algeria: President Houari Boumediene, 5/77–6/78. See also Document 229.
  4. The Group of Five, comprised of France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Federal Republic of Germany, worked to resolve the conflict between the South-West Africa People’s Organization (Namibia) and the South African Government.