231. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in Paris and Multiple Posts1

Tosec 70004/145783. Subject: Atherton Meeting With PDRY UN Ambassador. Ref: State 144046.2

1. At our initiative, Assistant Secretary Atherton met in New York June 22 with PDRY Permanent Representative Ashtal.3 Atherton asked Ashtal to convey to his government that, in accordance with President’s policy of seeking to improve relations wherever possible, we would like to enter into a high-level dialogue with a view to improving relations with South Yemen looking toward the restoration of diplomatic relations. To that end, we proposed a meeting of senior officials of our two governments in Aden, Washington, New York or wherever the Yemenis found convenient.

2. Ashtal noted that during meeting with PDRY Foreign Minister in New York during 1975 General Assembly, Secretary Kissinger had indicated he would send representative to Aden to discuss resumption of relations.4 For various reasons this had not worked out, and Ashtal said he welcomed this renewed initiative for which he thought present circumstances were auspicious. In response to Ashtal’s question about level of U.S. representative for proposed meeting, Atherton said we had not decided precisely but it would be a senior official, possibly [Page 737] Under Secretary Habib who had recently visited Baghdad for similar mission.5 Ashtal asked about timing and Atherton said whenever it was convenient for PDRY but from our point of view, the sooner the better. Ashtal said he wanted to inform us that there would be opportunity for high-level contact this fall since the Chairman of the PDRY Presidential Council, Salim Rubayya Ali, would be coming to New York following a visit to Cuba to address the UNGA on September 29. Meanwhile, he would convey our suggestion to Aden and was certain he would receive an early reply. Ashtal indicated his hope that today’s meeting would be kept confidential. Atherton said this was our intention. We also would try to keep any high-level meeting confidential if PDRY so wished but could not of course guarantee it would not come to public attention.

3. In general discussion that followed, Ashtal noted recent publication of Department letter to Congress on terrorism which had mentioned PDRY and said this had created a bad impression with his government. Atherton said we were responding to a congressional inquiry and had to provide factual information as we knew it.6 This was the kind of thing that could be discussed privately between us if we had a better dialogue.

4. In response to Atherton’s query about PDRY relations with its neighbors, Ashtal said they were much improved and cited in particular Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and North Yemen. PDRY wanted to pursue its own independent national policy and to focus its efforts on internal economic problems. Ashtal said his government hoped U.S. companies would become interested in PDRY; he acknowledged that reestablishment of relations might encourage such interest. Ashtal then commented that situation “in our area” was becoming explosive. He made particular reference to Horn of Africa and situation between Ethiopia and Somalia.7 PDRY, he said, has good relations with both and is trying quietly to be helpful. Atherton said U.S. hoped regional problems could be resolved by regional states without outside power seeking to take advantage of situation.

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5. Finally, Atherton described briefly our Middle East peace efforts, citing in particular Vice President Mondale’s recent San Francisco speech8 and stressing that we are determined to continue to work for just Middle East settlement.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 93, Yemen: Democratic Republic (South): 2/77–9/80. Secret; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Atherton. Sent to Jidda, Tehran, Muscat, Sana, Cairo, London, Amman, and Damascus; sent for information to the Secretary’s delegation and USUN. Vance was in Paris June 22–24 for the OECD Ministerial meeting.
  2. In telegram 144046 to multiple Middle Eastern posts and London, June 21, the Department requested that U.S. Ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, North Yemen, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Jordan, and Syria inform their host governments that the United States believed “the time has now come for us to take the initiative to explore whether the South Yemeni Government is prepared to move toward restoring relations with the U.S. To this end, we are approaching the South Yemen Ambassador in New York to suggest a high level meeting either in Aden, the U.S. or elsewhere, for the purpose of beginning a dialogue looking toward the reestablishment of U.S.–PDRY diplomatic relations.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770221–1063)
  3. In a June 3 action memorandum to Vance, sent through Habib, Atherton proposed meeting with Ashtal regarding the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and informing regional governments of this initiative. Atherton also attached a draft cable, which the Department transmitted as telegram 144046 (see footnote 2 above). An unknown hand initialed Vance’s approval of Atherton’s proposal. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840877–0632)
  4. Kissinger met with Foreign Minister Muti at the UNGA on October 1, 1975. (Telegram 236570 to Jidda, October 3, 1975; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850011–2018)
  5. Habib met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hammadi on May 16 to discuss the normalization of U.S.-Iraqi relations. See Document 132.
  6. Reference is to a letter and supplementary materials prepared in the Department of State and furnished to Javits. The April 27 letter, made public on May 8, identified South Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia as countries that actively supported terrorist groups. In February, Javits had requested that the Department of State inform him of what the United States “intended to do to combat hijackings and other international violence.” (“U.S. Says Libya, Somalia, Iraq and South Yemen Aid Terrorists,” The New York Times, May 9, 1977, p. 4)
  7. Documentation on the Ethiopia-Somalia situation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa.
  8. On June 17, Mondale delivered a speech on U.S. Middle East peace policy to the World Affairs Council of Northern California, meeting in San Francisco. For the text, see the Department of State Bulletin, July 11, 1977, pp. 41–46.