132. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Tour d’Horizon Between Secretary Shultz and UN Secretary General Perez de Cueller


  • United Nations

    • UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar
    • William Buffum
      Under Secretary General for Political and General Assembly Affairs (notetaker)
  • United States

    • The Secretary of State
    • Lacy A. Wright, Jr.
      Executive Assistant, IO (nonetaker)
  • After 15 minutes joined by

    • Jean Ripert
      Director General for Development and Int’l Economic Affairs
    • Brian E. Urquhart
      Under Secretary General for Special Political Affairs
    • Virendra Dayal
      Chef de Cabinet
    • Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
    • Gregory J. Newell
      Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs

The Secretary apologized for being late, explaining he had been called away by the President who was making a short statement on arms control matters to the press.2 The U.S. had just made some managerial changes among its arms control negotiators, and the press had put a bad interpretation on the changes.3 So the President had decided [Page 511] to make a statement on television to express his determination to achieve a strong arms control agreement.

The Secretary General replied that everyone was happy that the Secretary had been given overall responsibility for arms control matters since these were so important. It was obvious that “our Soviet friends” were making strong efforts to portray themselves as having the initiative in this area. The Secretary General said he himself attached great importance to disarmament, but he was careful always to give the same weight in his public statements to conventional as to nuclear arms since conventional arms were so extremely dangerous.

Secretary Shultz agreed, calling it an important technological fact that conventional arms were now so powerful and so accurate that they were an overwhelming menace. He also noted that in the post-war era no one had died from nuclear arms.

Perez de Cuellar said that his own country, Peru, was buying arms in a wild way. Conventional arms purchases were one of the main reasons for the economic difficulties of the developing countries.

The Secretary stated that one of the tragedies of Cuba’s transmittal of arms in Latin America was that historically, despite the violence there, arms transfers had been less prevalent in that region than in others.

Perez de Cuellar said it was his intention to test the many Soviet statements indicating a desire for a solution in Afghanistan. When he had gone to Moscow in September,4 for example, Brezhnev had for the first time raised Afghanistan in a public statement, to support “my efforts.” In the Prague Declaration, too, there was a special paragraph on Afghanistan mentioning UN efforts.5 Therefore, the Secretary General said, it was his responsibility to test Soviet intentions.

At the same time, Perez did not intend to be a screen behind which the Soviets consolidated their hold on Afghanistan. He had sent his own man to the region in this spirit. If there were no constructive response, he intended to tell the Soviets—when he visited them March 28–29 [Page 512] in Moscow—that he was ending his efforts.6 He felt it necessary to get down to substance as soon as possible, and he would press the Soviets to this end.

As the Secretary knew, said the Secretary General, the Pakistanis were genuinely interested in a solution. They were burdened with 2½ million refugees, and they had been very forthcoming. Still, he did not know what we could get from the Soviets. He thought Pakistan would be willing to deal with the Afghan Government if there could be some changes in it. He said he had been bold enough to tell Gromyko that the Soviets had to show some changes in the government. Gromyko had objected, but he, the Secretary General, had made the necessary point. It would not be easy for the Soviets to effect such a change in the Karmal Government. The opposition was divided into lots of rebel groups. The situation was different from that in Kampuchea, where there was now a coalition to deal with. At any rate, the Soviets must consider getting rid of Karmal and getting a different facade. The Secretary General concluded that he would not let himself be used to play games. He added that he was prepared to ask Diego Cordovez to come to Washington to discuss the results of his meetings in Islamabad when those had ended.

The Secretary asked about Central America and what the Secretary General thought was going on there.

The Secretary General said he realized the U.S. was in a difficult position, with the situation getting worse and worse. Nicaragua would soon be under the complete control of the communist wing of the Sandinistas. Something had to be done.

As he had told the President, however, the Nicaraguans did not now intend to try to make a case in the Security Council, and that was a positive element. Moreover, last week’s Panama Communique (on the situation in Central America) was fairly reasonable.7 It opposed intervention in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, which was unobjectionable. At the same time, he repeated, the Sandinistas were taking over and that was very negative. Costa Rica and El Salvador had to defend themselves—to stop infiltration from Nicaragua and intervention by Nicaragua in their affairs.

[Page 513]

But it was hard to say how to do this. Perez said he knew the Nicaraguan Foreign Minister8 well. He was a priest, and the Secretary General sometimes chided him by saying he blessed with the left hand. He had told the Foreign Minister during their last meeting that now that Nicaragua was on the Security Council, it had the opportunity to show it was truly non-aligned and not under anyone’s control. Perez repeated that he did not see what could be done to check Nicaragua’s activities but something must be.

In El Salvador, the Secretary General continued, the situation had improved quite a lot. The Government was attacking the real source of its difficulties, the social and economic structure of the country. This was the only way to counteract communist infiltration.

The Secretary General noted that Grenada and Suriname were also threatened.

So far as the OAS was concerned, said Perez, he tried to respect its jurisdiction. The OAS did not, however, want to deal with Nicaragua but rather to pass the problem to the UN.

Bolivia’s decision to resume relations with Cuba, said the Secretary General, had been unexpected. Perez had warned the President of Bolivia9 of the risks here, reminding him that Che Guevara had gone to Bolivia because of its political importance. It would be good if other Latin American nations warned Bolivia on this score as well. Perez said he was dining tonight with the Peruvian Prime Minister,10 a very sensible man, and would speak to him on the subject.

Secretary Shultz asked whether there was anything the United States should be doing in the world that we were not.

Perez replied that the UN provided the United States with a useful mechanism for resolving conflicts, and that the U.S. had a special responsibility in the UN because it was the UN’s founder and creator. (NOTE: At this point, the other participants entered the room.) Turning to those who had just arrived, the Secretary General said he was trying to sell “my commodity” (i.e., the UN) to Secretary Shultz. Perez continued that the United States should take more advantage of the UN. He said he was a completely independent Secretary General who would play a full role in acting out his prerogatives and responsibilities. He wanted to prevent differences from becoming conflicts. Under Article 99, the Secretary General could bring to the Security Council matters which threatened peace, but this was not enough.11

[Page 514]

The Secretary replied that Perez’s remarks were most welcome. At times, he said, we had thought that what we needed was a ceasefire from UN resolutions. During the recent period of troubles in the Mid-East, there had been two Security Council resolutions a day and it was distracting. We wanted to support the UN. We had tried to send good people there, and we had at the moment an outstanding representative, but we felt we must say what we believed and not go along with what we often thought was nonsense. That was a considered judgment on our part. We hoped the UN would respect our stance just as we respected the Secretary General’s own candid statements.

Another concern of ours, said the Secretary, at which we were very upset, was the politicization of entities whose mission was technical. The outstanding example was the IAEA, which did critical work. A politicized agency would be worse than no agency at all. The Secretary hoped that the IAEA situation was coming together, and said he expected that it was. We would be very firm on that. He thought it was healthy for the UN to be brought up a bit short on these things. The Secretary concluded that we were much in support of the UN and that the positions we took against the presumed majority were in reality supportive of the UN as an institution.

Perez replied that it would be wrong to give the impression that relations between the U.S. and the UN were not good. If one looked at it closely, there was no problem. It was wrong to think that the UN majority was automatically against the U.S., as witnessed the votes on Israel’s expulsion, Puerto Rico, Afghanistan and Kampuchea. It was only on Mid-East questions that the majority stuck together against U.S. positions.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick added that South Africa was another such issue.

Perez insisted that the examples he had cited showed that the General Assembly supported the United States in many instances. It was very harmful to spread the idea that there was a quarrel between us. It hurt the United States, and it made it seem like the UN was becoming weaker and weaker. The United States was a key country. The best way for the U.S. to support the UN was to use it as a mechanism to solve disputes. It was sometimes in the interests of big powers to take advantage of the UN. “In a way it protects you.”

The Secretary General assured the Secretary that the UN was always ready to help; on Namibia, for example, the UN was, as it were, behind the door waiting for the parties to agree. Perez said he would visit [Page 515] Africa soon and wanted to give nations there reason for hope.12 He would be pleased in this regard to convey to the Africans the views of the Contact Group nations. Raising his voice slightly, Perez said he was “so worried” about Namibia. He feared Southern Africa would become another Middle East, and he said that a solution in Namibia would be a tremendous step in the region.

The Secretary assured Perez of the United States’ willingness to appropriate large sums of money to enact the UN plan if it came into being. From talking with the South Africans and others, however, the former were not going to go along with a settlement as long as the Cubans, which they regarded as Russians, were sitting next door. So there must be some program for getting the Cubans out. That was only reality. The Secretary said it was our impression that the last meeting between the South Africans and the Angolans had been very good. We had thought we were heading for a solution in the late fall, but that did not prove to be the case. But we were not giving up.

The Secretary said that in Namibia and all around the world we were trying to be constructive—not to create problems but to solve them. Many problems were, however, being created for us, and we got exhausted following them around. One way in which we were being constructive was in coming to the aid of debtor nations in South America and holding the economic system in some coherence. The IMF had been superb on this score. The Secretary General could, therefore, feel assured that we were trying to be helpful and constructive.

Perez raised Iran/Iraq. The Secretary said we had little ability to do things there although we did have some contact with Iraq. Perez said he thought that two main points needed working on: first, the status of the 1975 Algiers Treaty,13 and secondly, the problem of reparations, which was very important for Iran. Prime Minister Olaf Palme14 had been kind enough to retain his Iran/Iraq brief although, at this stage, Perez thought it wise not to send him there since there was nothing he could do. Today, Palme was receiving a visit from the Foreign Minister of Algeria.15 Algeria was trying to mediate, and the two were assessing [Page 516] the situation. Perez himself had contracted the President of Algeria.16 The Algerians saw reparations as the main problem.

Perez himself wanted to mention two problems. First, there was the danger of an Iraqi attack on Kharg Island, which would expand the conflict. Perez said he had been trying to warn Iraq away from this. Secondly, Chirac had told Perez in New York that he was worried about Israeli aid to Iran, which he said was sizeable.

Secretary Shultz said that Chirac had mentioned this to him to well.17 Chirac had said that Israeli Defense Minister Sharon had announced a $300 million arms contract only a few weeks ago. The Secretary did not think this was correct but promised to check.

Ambassador Kirkpatrick said she had raised this point with Shamir a few weeks ago, and he said there had been no arms transactions with Iran for some time.

The Secretary said that Israel’s help to Iran had begun when Iraq was the aggressor. Since the tables had turned, however, he thought that Israel had not done much in this regard, but he would check.

Turning to the Mid-East, Perez said he was happy that Lebanon and Israel had agreed on an agenda. Regarding a UN role, “We are always ready.” He expected the Security Council to agree to a UNIFIL extension. Brian Urquhart had just returned from the area, where he had contacted the parties.18 Urquhart said that that included Morrie Draper.

The Secretary said that the extension of the UNIFIL mandate was the right thing to do. The negotiations now seemed to be moving. We were pressuring the parties forward. When a plan for Israeli withdrawal had been agreed, that would still leave Syria and the PLO. Syria had made a forthcoming statement, but the Secretary did not know whether they would leave, and Israel would not depart without a commitment from the other two. If all three left, that would be a good omen since it [Page 517] would demonstrate to the Arabs that their suspicion that Israel would refuse to depart was wrong. With regard to UNIFIL a new mission for it would evolve if things progressed, and there was no sense in trying to define it now.

As the meeting came to a close, Ambassador Kirkpatrick said there was serious concern at high levels in our Government on two personnel matters. They were important because they bore on the question of confidence. One concerned Mr. Dneprovsky, whom all the world knew was a KGB agent and who we understood was being extended in his position for another three years. The other was Undersecretary General Wyzner, who we understood was a candidate for Chairman of the Appointments and Promotions Board. Secretary Shultz said that the Wyzner job did seem to be an important one.

Perez said there must be some mistake. The person in line for that job as far as he knew was Margaret Anatee. In any case, Mr. Wyzner had only been with the UN three months, and thus could never be appointed to such a job. With regard to Dneprovsky, the Secretary General said he did not think any decision had been taken. William Buffum interjected that he thought that it had.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, George Shultz Papers, Official Memoranda (01/14/1983); NLR–775–27A–14–3–3. Secret. The meeting took place at Blair House. Drafted by Wright on January 15; cleared by Newell, Feldman, and Hill. Newell did not initial the memorandum. A typed notation on the first page of the memorandum reads: “Distribution appv by S, 2/18/83.” A stamped notation indicates that it was received on February 20 at 2:26 p.m. In telegram 20600 to USUN and the Mission in Geneva, January 22, the Department reported on the meeting. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830039–0832)
  2. The President spoke at 1:35 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. For the text of the President’s remarks and a question-and-answer session, see Public Papers: Reagan, 1983, Book I, pp. 50–54.
  3. On January 12, at Reagan’s request, Rostow resigned as ACDA Director and Ambassador Richard Staar resigned as the U.S. representative to the MBFR negotiations in Vienna. Reagan also indicated that Shultz would coordinate U.S. arms control policies. For reporting on these developments, see Bernard Gwertzman, “Arms Control Job Is Lost by Rostow; Wider Shultz Role,” New York Times, pp. A1, A8, and Michael Getler and Walter Pincus, “Reagan Fires Rostow In Shake-Up of Top Arms-Control Aides,” Washington Post, pp. A1, A22; both January 13, 1983.
  4. Pérez de Cuellar and Cordovez met with Brezhnev on September 9, 1982. Pérez de Cuellar was in Moscow on an official visit; Cordovez was there to conduct talks between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Ahmed Naik and Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Maltsev concerning the situation in Afghanistan. See Dusko Doder, “Soviet-Pakistani Talks on Kabul ‘Friendly’,” Washington Post, September 11, 1982, p. A20.
  5. Reference is to the communiqué issued by the Warsaw Pact’s Political Consultative Committee, which met in Prague, January 4–5. The paragraph regarding Afghanistan reads: “The participants in the meeting positively appraise the initiation of talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan through a personal envoy of the U.N. secretary general.” (Documents on Disarmament, 1983, p. 13) For the full text of the Warsaw Pact Communiqué, see ibid., pp. 2–18.
  6. Following the two days of talks with Andropov and Gromyko in Moscow, Pérez de Cuellar reported that the talks “have left him feeling ‘encouraged’ about prospects for resolving the Afghanistan problem.” (Dusko Doder, “U.N. Leader ‘Encouraged’ by Talks in Moscow About Afghanistan,” Washington Post, March 30, 1983, p. A18)
  7. The Foreign Ministers of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela met on Isla Contadora, Panama, January 8–9, and issued a declaration regarding the ongoing situation in Central America. On January 11, the Government of Panama transmitted to the United Nations information concerning the meeting. For additional information, see Yearbook of the United Nations: 1983, p. 195.
  8. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann.
  9. Hernán Siles Zuazo.
  10. Fernando Schwalb López Aldana.
  11. Reference is to Article 99 of the UN Charter, which permits the Secretary-General to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion might threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.
  12. Pérez de Cuellar embarked on an eight-nation tour of Africa in early February. At a news conference following a meeting with Mugabe on February 6, Pérez de Cuellar advocated “a ‘prompt solution’ to the problem of independence for South-West Africa.” (“U.N. Chief, in Africa, Urges Namibia Solution,” New York Times, February 7, 1983, p. A5) See also “U.N. Chief Rejects U.S. Namibia Policy: Says Withdrawal of Cubans in Angola Cannot Be Tied to Region’s Independence,” New York Times, February 9, 1983, p. A8.
  13. On March 6, 1975, at an OPEC meeting in Algiers, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Saddam Hussein signed a joint communiqué containing an agreement to resolve several issues, including border disputes and navigation rights in the Shatt al Arab. (“Iraq and Iran Sign Accord To Settle Border Conflicts,” New York Times, March 7, 1975, pp. 1, 7)
  14. See footnote 7, Document 63.
  15. Ahmed Ibrahimi.
  16. Chadli Bendjedid.
  17. Chirac met with Shultz in Washington on January 13. In telegram 18878 to Paris, January 21, the Department summarized the meeting: “In response to Chirac’s request Secretary reviewed situation in Lebanon and Middle East. Chirac expressed deep concern about Iran-Iraq war. He urged U.S. make effort to prevent Israel from supplying arms to Iran. He also said Saddam Husayn would welcome contacts with the U.S. and is potentially supportive of the Reagan peace initiative. The Secretary noted the fact that Iraq harbors terrorists which makes improvement in U.S.-Iraq relations difficult. Chirac and the Secretary also exchanged views on international economic developments. Chirac expressed pessimism about French economy.” (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, [no N number])
  18. In telegram 12 from USUN, January 5, the Mission indicated that Urquhart planned to visit Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, and the UNIFIL command in Southern Lebanon, January 14–17. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, Electronic Telegrams, D830005–0057)