232. Telegram From the Department of State to Secretary of State Vance in New York1

Tosec 100096/238800. Eyes only for Atherton. Subject: The Secretary’s Conversation With PDRY Foreign Minister Muti’.

1. Following is suggested text for reporting to Embassies Jidda and London Secretary’s PDRY bilateral.2

2. Summary: Secretary held talks in friendly atmosphere with PDRY Foreign Minister Muti’ focusing on absence of formal diplomatic ties as impeding understanding and furthering of our mutual interests. At close of talks both sides declared they had decided to restore relations. Secretary agreed to Muti’s suggestion we send an appropriate level delegation to Aden within the next two months to discuss further timing and implementation. We agreed to Muti’s request to keep in confidence the fact we would be sending a delegation for this purpose. End summary.

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3. The Secretary met with PDRY FonMin Muti’ October 3. He was accompanied by Under Secretary Habib, Sabbagh as interpreter and Countryman of ARP as notetaker. PDRY PermRep Ashtal also sat in. Secretary began noting he had been looking forward to meeting with Muti’ and having a chance to talk about improving relations. We have not had any real communication and it would be of mutual benefit if we could change this situation by discussing issues which tend to push us apart.

4. Muti’ said he was grateful for meeting and had been looking forward to it. We have not had relations in the past but he hoped situation would improve. One of the main reasons for our differences has been the Palestinian question. The Israeli attack on the Beirut airport in 1969 was a major reason for the break of relations.3 During the intervening period PDRY has kept current on all positive and negative developments in the Middle East including US attitude toward Palestinian question and the Middle East as a whole. He hoped developments will move toward establishment of a just and lasting Middle East peace which cannot happen without settling the Palestinian question. Muti’ hoped US attitude toward PLO would improve as PLO has been recognized by all Arabs as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

5. As to our bilateral relations Muti’ said we can always study what we should do to improve them and go into the timing of implementation.

6. Secretary then gave Muti’ rundown of our current Middle East efforts focusing on moving toward a Geneva conference. Secretary stressed that Middle East peace was made an item of highest importance in the new administration’s foreign policy agenda. There is general agreement there should be a united Arab delegation including Palestinians. This is a step forward although considerable work remains to be done to get agreement how the conference would be organized.

7. Secretary then suggested Muti’ might wish to discuss bilateral issues which have separated us to see how we might resolve them and develop a time schedule for further improvement.

8. Muti’ then noted things which did not help good atmosphere between us with Secretary responding accordingly:

(A) There have been congressional reports naming PDRY as among countries which encourage terrorism. PDRY leadership was surprised to learn this and objected strongly to inclusion. Secretary read from Department’s April 27, 1977 letter to Senator Javits which noted “some public evidence that the PDRY has on occasion allowed its territory to [Page 740] be used as a sanctuary for terrorists,” emphasizing at the same time our further comment “the absence of any US representative in South Yemen and the general restrictions placed on the movements and contacts of foreigners there makes it difficult for the US to verify the existence and extent of PDRY support for terrorists.”4 Muti’ then explained that in recent hijackings West Germany and Japanese Governments had earnestly and persistently appealed to PDRY to permit terrorists to land giving PDRY Government no choice but to accept them.

(B) US had issued notice to mariners that it is not safe to anchor at PDRY ports due to danger of arrest to US citizens. PDRY considered this notice to constitute practically a blockade. Secretary reviewed details of a 1976 incident in which American yacht landing in Socotra under emergency conditions had been seized and its crew imprisoned.5 Because it took several weeks of concerted diplomatic efforts by our protecting power, the UK, to secure the release of the vessel and crew, we had no other choice but to issue this warning.

9. Secretary said he would like also to note problem of expropriated US property as being outstanding between our two countries. Existence of these various issues points up need for establishing mechanism to discuss problems in order to move eventually toward establishing relations.

10. Muti’ agreed and said PDRY would welcome a US visit to Aden in the next two months to discuss our relations. (In an aside to Under Secretary Habib, Secretary asked that we take necessary steps to send such a delegation.)

11. At close of meeting Muti’ said his government had decided to restore relations with the US. The Secretary said we had made same decision. It was also agreed at Muti’s request to keep in confidence the fact we would be sending a delegation to the PDRY.

12. For London and Jidda: You should brief host govts on Secretary’s conversation stressing following points:

(A) We believe it is necessary at this point in time to give the PDRY an alternative to its present reliance on Communist and radical governments;

(B) We will keep British and Saudis informed of our further contacts with the PDRY and will be particularly anxious to have their counsel prior to sending a delegation to Aden.

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(C) We are informing other area posts of the fact of the Secretary’s meeting with Muti’ noting, however, only that we discussed ways in which we might improve our current relations. NEA Assistant Secretary Atherton briefed Foreign Ministers Suwaidi of the UAE and Zawawi of Oman along these lines.6 You should stress to your host governments need to closely hold fact we intend sending a high level delegation to Aden.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance NODIS MemCons, 1977. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Countryman; cleared by Sydney Goldsmith (S/S); approved by Sober. Attached but not printed is an October 5 covering memorandum to Wisner from Reddy, noting that the “Secretary undertook to send a delegation to Aden in the next two months to discuss US/PDRY relations” and that NEA was preparing a recommendation for Vance concerning arrangements for this mission. Vance was in New York attending the UN General Assembly.
  2. The Department transmitted the text of this telegram in telegram 245537 to London and Jidda, October 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770372–0954)
  3. The attack took place on December 28, 1968. For information, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XX, Arab-Israeli Dispute, 1967–1968, Documents 369, 370, and 375.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 231.
  5. Reference is to the arrest of a U.S. citizen, his wife, and three crew members by PDRY authorities on April 14, 1976, detailed in telegram 90488 to Sana, April 15, 1976. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760143–0241)
  6. Atherton’s meeting with Suwaidi and Zawawi took place on October 3. (Telegram Tosec 100095/238803 to Secretary of State Vance in New York, October 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770362–0070)