287. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State and the Embassy in the Yemen Arab Republic1
Secto 9012. Subject: Meeting Between Assistant Secretary Saunders and YAR Deputy Foreign Minister al-Kibsi.
1. (S-entire text)
2. Summary: Saunders met with al-Kibsi at the UNGA on October 4. Both noted the importance of bilateral ties. Al-Kibsi explained that several groups were competing for influence in Sana and this affected President Salih’s decision-making process. Al-Kibsi stressed that Saudi Arabia should be patient in its relations with the YAR and not press the border dispute. He felt that senior officials in YAR did not want to see the unity talks with PDRY succeed and explained the state of play in the talks. End summary.
3. There was an initial exchange of pleasantries. Al-Kibsi volunteered that because of his Western education, he was viewed in Sana as pro-US and pro-Saudi. He intended to be quite frank in this discussion.
4. US–YAR bilateral relations
Saunders said that the US sees the security of North Yemen as important, not only in its own right, but because of its impact on larger regional events. The US cannot afford to see nations fall due to external threats. The US is pleased by its growing relations with the YAR and hopes that future ties will also be fruitful.
Al-Kibsi commented that President Salih appreciated US efforts to respond to Yemen’s needs during the spring fighting with PDRY. Salih understood that President Carter had made a major effort in waiving the 30 day congressional notification requirement and rapidly sending military assistance. Al-Kibsi hoped that former Foreign Minister Asnag had succeeded in alleviating any US concern over the language in the YAR/PDRY Kuwait communique that had been critical of the US.2
5. YAR domestic situation
Al-Kibsi stated that the YAR’s primary objective is economic development and in order to make progress Yemen needs stability. Many groups in Yemen—Baathists, Army officers, tribal sheiks, Nasserites—were competing for influence with President Salih. As a result of Iraqi intervention in ending the fighting with the South, there has been an [Page 870] increase in Baathist influence. President Salih tries to satisfy all of the competing groups and therefore it is often not clear in which direction the YAR is heading.
6. YAR–Saudi relations
Al-Kibsi stressed that Saudi Arabia must be patient in its relations with Yemen. He had said this to Prince Sultan and asked that the US also make this point to the Saudis. The Saudis should concentrate on the major issues and ignore minor irritants. The major issues are domestic stability in the YAR and the future of YAR–PDRY relations. The Saudis should not press their border dispute with the YAR, since no YAR leader could agree to a solution without being accused of having sold out to the Saudis.
7. YAR–PDRY relations
In response to a query from Saunders, al-Kibsi said that no one in Sana, including President Salih, wanted the unity talks to succeed. However, the constant public references to unity could make it difficult to draw back from unity. Al-Kibsi explained that eight joint committees had been formed to consider various aspects of unification. Most of these committees had begun their work by reviewing the agreements reached in 1973 during a previous period of unity talks. Most committees had made some progress although they had not reached complete agreement. However, in the political joint committee, the PDRY had refused to begin with a review of the 1973 agreement. Aden claimed that because the political agreement had been endorsed in 1973 by both the PDRY and YAR Presidents, it could not be changed. The YAR delegation objected to 15 of the 18 articles in the 1973 document, including that describing the Soviet Union as the “only friend” of Yemen. Therefore there was a deadlock in the political committee.
In view of this impasse, the next steps would be crucial. Al-Kibsi noted that PDRY Prime Minister Ali Nasser Mohammad was currently in Sana. This visit was unexpected and had caused the YAR Prime Minister to cancel a long-planned visit to the UK. Sana did not know the purpose of Soviet Premier Kosygin’s recent visit to Aden. If the PDRY insists on rapid progress towards unity, there is a danger that border fighting could break out once again.