1. Briefing Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Luers) to Secretary of State Vance1

Cuban Initiative on Fisheries

The Swiss Ambassador in Havana, Etienne Serra, forwarded today a note handed him on January 26 by the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister. The note (informal translation at Tab 1 and Spanish-French text at Tab 2)2 offers to negotiate directly with the U.S. Government over issues arising from the establishment of a 200 miles U.S. fishing zone as of March 1, 1977.

This is the first time in our memory that the Cubans have taken the initiative, through official channels, to propose bilateral negotiations with us on any subject since diplomatic relations were broken in 1961. It was our action of establishing a 200 mile fishing zone which created the need for negotiations with Cuba. Thus, the offer itself is a signal, made explicit by the Deputy Foreign Minister’s comment that “positive resolution of this matter would be regarded as evidence of a new US political orientation toward Cuba.”

We shall send you an action memorandum at the beginning of next week recommending a reply to the Cuban proposal and on return[Page 2]ing the signal.3 This will include recommendations on how we should proceed on other action forcing events such as the expiration of restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba on March 15, the termination of the 1973 Hijacking Agreement on April 15, and on military overflights.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850170–1620. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Gleysteen; concurred in by L and OES/OFA/OCA. Vance initialed “CV” at the bottom of the page.
  2. Tabs are attached but not printed.
  3. In the February 8 action memorandum, Todman wrote to Vance, “You have decided to move ahead to propose exploratory talks with the Cubans on fisheries and the Hijacking Agreement.” When presented with a draft reply, however, Vance checked the disapprove option. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840146–1178) It appears some of the text of the draft, however, was transmitted to Serra for delivery to the Cuban Foreign Ministry; see Document 7.
  4. The Carter administration allowed both the travel ban and the 1973 Hijacking Agreement to expire and ended reconnaissance flights over Cuba.