115. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Bennet) to Secretary of State Vance 1

SUBJECT

  • Your Testimony before the House International Relations Committee on the Panama Canal Treaties, October 20—Supplemental Briefing Memorandum on Treaty Interpretations

Panamanian negotiator Romulo Escobar Bethancourt held a press conference in Panama yesterday, read the Statement of Understanding agreed to between the President and General Torrijos last Friday, October 14 (attached at Tab A),2 and commented upon the Statement in a way which supported our assertions that both countries had always interpreted the Neutrality Treaty similarly. The full transcript of Escobar’s press statement is at Tab B.3

You may wish to read Escobar’s statements in anticipation of questions by HIRC members tomorrow.

Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz appeared this morning before an open session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss the Statement of Understanding. The meeting was attended by Senators [Page 327] Sparkman, Case, Church, Javits, Percy, Clark, Glenn, Sarbanes and Stone.

All of the Senators expressed positive reactions to the Statement and referred favorably to Escobar’s press conference. They commented generally that the Statement was an important step forward toward treaty ratification and that it should help resolve the doubts which had arisen over the question of interpretations.

Senators Church, Case, Javits and others asked whether or not formal reservations or understandings should be attached to the treaty, based on the Statement. Ambassador Linowitz noted that the Statement made it clear that both countries had intended the same meaning in the Neutrality Treaty, and that, for this reason, no additional formality should be necessary. Senator Javits said that he understood why there would be an objection to a reservation, as this could modify the treaty or reopen negotiations, but felt there should be no adverse consequences in the Senate’s approving the treaty with an understanding identical to the October 14 Statement. Senator Church said that he would prepare an Understanding for consideration by the Committee.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770168–2028. Unclassified. Vance’s initials are stamped on the bottom-right of the memorandum.
  2. Tab A is not attached. See footnote 7, Document 106.
  3. Tab B is not attached. In telegram 7509 from Panama City, October 18, the Embassy reported on Escobar’s press conference and summarized his statement. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770383–0403)