162. Telegram From the Embassy in Hungary to the Department of State1

105. Subject: SecState Visit—Secretary-FonMin Meeting Jan 7. Uncleared Memcon of the Secretary’s Meeting With FonMin Puja.

Begin summary: The Secretary and FonMin Puja discussed emigration assurances and MFN; the favorable effect the return of the Crown will have on bilateral relations; and other current topics in bilateral relations (property settlement and cultural exchanges). The Secretary also briefed Puja on the Middle East and the two exchanged views on the Belgrade CSCE meeting, MBFR, and East-West relations in general. The Secretary invited Puja to visit him in Washington if Puja comes to New York for the Special Session on Disarmament. Puja extended an invitation to the Secretary for an official visit to Budapest. End summary.

1. Secretary Vance and FonMin Puja met for one hour Jan 7. Additional Hungarian participants: Deputy Minister Nagy; Ambassador Esztergalyos; Office Director Bartha, and American Desk Officer Revesz. U.S.: Ambassador Kaiser, Counselor Nimetz, Luers, King, and Wilgis.

2. The Crown: Puja thanked the Secretary for the important role he had played in the President’s decision to return the Crown. He said that it was a courageous step which would give further momentum to U.S.-Hungarian relations in that it eliminated a long-standing obstacle. Hungary is ready to develop bilateral relations, and the fact that it is a small country while the U.S. is a world power does not exclude good relations. Cooperation is not only possible, but a necessity, and will [Page 486] serve the cause of peace in general. The Secretary informed Puja that the press coverage of the Crown’s return in the U.S. had been both positive and extensive. The return is a real step forward in public perception of the state of bilateral relations. It will facilitate further steps, which the USG is prepared to take.

3. MFN: Puja referred to the Hungarian proposed language of Dec 16,2 as well as the Hungarian procedural proposal.3 From the U.S. reply it can be seen that both sides take a positive approach on the question of emigration assurances and the two positions are growing closer. As to procedure, the GOH agrees to exchange letters on assurances, as long as the exchange of letters deals not only with MFN but also with other issues. The GOH is prepared to table a draft, in which reference would be made to the Secretary’s visit and other issues. While the competent authorities still must be consulted on the question of publication of the letters, Puja personally had no objection. On the assurances themselves, Puja referred to the U.S. insertion of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) into the Hungarian language. Puja noted that this Declaration was adopted by the UN in 1948, when Hungary was not a member. Those Socialist countries who were members abstained. In light of this history, the GOH would prefer to refer to a more recent document, such as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Hungary has ratified and signed the Covenant; the U.S. has signed but not ratified. In that this Covenant refers to the UDHR, the GOH hopes its use would present a practical solution.

4. In reply the Secretary agreed that an exchange of letters between Ambassador Kaiser and the Foreign Minister covering the assurances would be an acceptable way to proceed. He personally thought that references to additional subjects would be satisfactory and he would [Page 487] favor publication. He would send instructions to Ambassador Kaiser concerning further discussions of this matter.4

5. On the language itself, the Secretary explained his initial reaction that reference to the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights would be an appropriate way to deal with the U.S. desire to refer to the UDHR. The U.S. would consider the Hungarian proposal and send instructions to Ambassador Kaiser.

6. The Secretary referred to the limited number of outstanding family reunification cases and expressed the hope for their early resolution. Puja replied that the GOH is studying these cases which were only raised recently, and would continue to maintain a liberal policy in these matters.

7. High level meetings: Puja then repeated a hope expressed by Prime Minister Lazar that the leaders of the two countries could meet soon.5 He then extended a formal invitation to the Secretary to pay an official visit to Budapest.

8. The Secretary accepted Puja’s invitation, with a date to be set at some time in the future. On higher level meetings, the Secretary said that he would discuss this question with the President and be back in touch.

9. Property negotiations: Puja referred to progress and expressed hope for resolution. The Secretary noted our pleasure at the progress [Page 488] which has taken place and said that a solution to this problem would be useful in light of our relations.

10. Cultural exchanges: Puja expressed the hope that the cultural agreement would be “filled.” He said Hungary follows an open door policy and is ready for exchanges. The Secretary replied that the USG feels strongly the importance of cultural exchanges and is pleased at the progress being made.6

11. Puja visit: The Secretary said he hoped Puja would come to the Special Session on Disarmament and that, if he did, he would come to Washington to meet with the Secretary.

12. Middle East. Puja requested a briefing on the U.S. view of the Middle East. The Secretary replied that Sadat’s visit to Israel was a major breakthrough in that it helped to remove distrust which has been a principle obstacle to negotiations. The Israeli reaction was real and spontaneous, and there has been a fundamental change in the perceptions of both sides. Difficult problems remain and must be solved by long and hard negotiations. The initial discussions have not dealt with the most serious problems. The upcoming meetings between Foreign Ministers and Defense Ministers will be a proper forum to carry on discussions.

13. The U.S. hopes to make progress through the establishment of a set of principles designed to create a framework for further negotiations.

A. Nature of peace: There is a difference of views on this principle, but it is a subject on which agreement can be reached.

B. Withdrawal from occupied territories: The Secretary did not discuss this principle other than to mention it.

C. Resolution of the Palestinian question in all respects: This principle is the most difficult. He referred to the President’s Aswan formulation to which we do not yet have the reaction from all parties. We have received privately generally positive reactions. Drafting is still ahead of us, but this new formulation is a start and can serve as a basis.

14. The Secretary said that during his upcoming 2–3 day visit to Jerusalem beginning Jan 15, he would press hard for a resolution of the above principles. He added that the U.S. believes that a comprehensive settlement is the only solution. A piecemeal settlement would not last long. We hope that a general agreement on the above set of principles [Page 489] would be sufficiently broad to allow those nations who presently abstain from the negotiations to rejoin them. The U.S. does not believe the forum of the ultimate discussions is a matter of great consequence. They can take place in Geneva or some other city.

15. Puja said the GOH sees the Arab world as split into two. He agreed that the Palestinian question is the most difficult one to solve. Hungary rejects extremist solutions, such as the Iraqi solution. The right to self-determination is the nucleus of the Palestinian problem. Hungary is interested in a global settlement because any complication in the Middle East leads to East-West confrontation.

16. CSCE. Puja noted the large number of proposals on the table and asked U.S. views on how to proceed. The Secretary replied that we believe progress has been made and that, through the constructive review which has taken place an important principle has been established. It is now important that we agree on a date for a follow-on meeting. A final document for the Belgrade meeting should be rather general in nature, thus taking care of many of the proposals.

17. Nimetz added that we believe Belgrade has been very successful. It is part of a longer term process; in the interim period bilateral exchanges of views and concrete steps have been and should be taken. The U.S. would like to conclude the meeting on schedule, mid- or late February. Specific proposals which cannot be agreed upon should be left to discussions in other forums. The tone of the final document should reflect the positive atmosphere of Belgrade, but should not hide our differences of views. In conclusion Nimetz said the U.S. delegation would return to Belgrade with instructions to seek a general and positive final document.

18. Puja said that Hungary wants to end the conference by mid-February and prefers a short and noble final document. The GOH will pursue proposals that remain on the table in bilateral channels.

19. MBFR. Puja referred to reports that the FRG is preparing a new proposal and asked for the Secretary’s views. The Secretary said it is important to make progress in MBFR, which has languished too long in a state of uncertainty. There are two current questions: Data exchange and the relation between Phase I and II. On data exchange, we hope to solve this question. Resolution would not only create a better atmosphere but it is important that both sides have facts about the other. The allies realize that the relation between the two Phases is a major concern to the Warsaw Pact. The Allies have not reached any conclusion about any new initiative, although this is under consideration.

20. Puja said the GOH believes some progress has been made in MBFR; that the negotiations are worthwhile and that both sides have made concessions. While there is a strong divergence of views on percentage reductions, the GOH believes this is the way to proceed. [Page 490] While the Socialist countries have stronger conventional forces in the reduction zone, the fire power and tactical nuclear weapons of the West must be considered in any reduction. Agreement on any initial percentage reduction would create confidence and provide a basis for further steps. At the same time, Hungary, as an observer, does not play an important role.

21. SALT: The Secretary said the U.S. believes that progress can be made on MBFR independent of SALT. In SALT, we believe we are making real progress and that it may be possible to reach agreement with the Soviets in the not-too-distant future. Puja underlined the importance of SALT for East-West relations in general and therefore, Hungary.

22. CBM’s: The Secretary expressed the hope for progress on CBM’s, noting their importance for the U.S. Congress. In this we feel that pre-announcement of maneuvers are particularly important, especially since troops from the USSR can be introduced into Central Europe quickly. Puja claimed that undetected large troop movements are not possible.

23. The meeting concluded with Puja reiterating appreciation for the return of the Crown. He said the road is now open to the solution of other outstanding problems.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780012–0202. Confidential; Exdis; Immediate. A summary of the return ceremonies was transmitted in telegram 228 from Budapest, January 13. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780021–1184)
  2. In order for Hungary to receive MFN, the administration sought to receive assurances that the Hungarian Government would continue to interpret its emigration law—considered strict in its letter—liberally. In telegram 4358 from Budapest, December 16, 1977, the Embassy reported that the Hungarian Government proposed changes to the U.S. draft statement. For initial instructions on MFN provided to Kaiser, see Document 149. Rather than the U.S.-requested promise that cases would be solved in a satisfactory manner, the Hungarian Government proposed the U.S. language be replaced with: “Concerning cases of emigration, both parties undertake to act in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770469–0765)
  3. In a December 16, 1977, conversation, reported in telegram 4358 from Budapest, Nagy informed Kaiser that, on procedure, “assurances should be made publicly in the form of a joint communique issued upon the occasion of a meeting at ‘higher level,’” later clarifying that to mean at the Foreign Minister level. (Ibid.)
  4. In telegram 15152 to Budapest, January 19, the Department informed Kaiser that, after reviewing the Puja proposals, it believed “that reference to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights likely to produce unhelpful controversy in U.S.” The cable instructed Kaiser to propose to the Hungarian Government that the language in the assurances statement provide “an obligation to ‘act promptly, constructively, and with good will’ concerning emigration cases” in the letter and spirit of the Helsinki Final Act. The telegram also informed Kaiser that the Department had no objections to the Hungarian Government proposal of also including other subjects in the letters. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780029–0464)
  5. In telegram 103 from Budapest, January 7, the Embassy reported Vance’s meeting with Prime Minister Lazar. The two discussed bilateral relations, the return of the Crown, and MFN for Hungary. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780012–0162) Vance also met with the President of the Hungarian National Assembly, Antal Apro, on January 6. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs: Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Hunter Subject File, Box 14, Hungary: Crown of St Stephen: 1/78) Discussions on a possible meeting between Vance and Kadar had taken place in late December 1977, and in telegram 4421 from Budapest, December 22, the Embassy reported that, despite using “oblique” language, the “message was clear: The GOH would appreciate the Secretary requesting a meeting with Kadar.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770477–0938) The Department replied in telegram 305669 to Budapest, December 23: “We do not repeat not wish to request a meeting between the Secretary and Kadar. Our strong inclination is to avoid such a meeting if possible.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770478–0850) The Embassy reported in telegram 4440 from Budapest, December 23, that the Hungarian Government understood and that “it is possible the Hungarians will let the matter stand that way.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770479–0823)
  6. In telegram 4293 from Budapest, December 12, 1977, the Embassy reported that U.S. and Hungarian negotiators reached an ad referendum agreement on textual changes to the “Agreement on Cooperation in Culture, Education, Science and Technology” for the 1978–1979 period. The agreement was signed by Assistant Secretary Hartman on April 6, 1977. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770463–0438)