122. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Chatti


  • Tunisia
  • Foreign Minister Habib Chatti
  • Ambassador to the UN Driss
  • Ambassador the US Hedda
  • U.S.
  • The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Atherton
  • Robert Oakley (NSC), Notetaker
  • Alec Toumayan, Interpreter

The Secretary: Do we have an interpreter for this meeting?

Mr. Atherton: Yes, Alec is here.

Foreign Minister Chatti: I am very happy to be here.

The Secretary: It is a pleasure for me to see you again.

Foreign Minister Chatti: Shall we discuss our bilateral relationship first and then international issues, especially the Middle East and where we go from here.

The Secretary: That is fine with me.

Foreign Minister Chatti: I would like to talk about our economic relationship first, especially the Joint Commission. It is very important for us and we are pleased that you are sending an important delegation for the first meeting which will take place in Tunis on October 20. We very much hope Assistant Secretary Atherton can come as part of your delegation.

The Secretary: Roy, are you going?

[Page 345]

Mr. Atherton: I have told the Minister that I very much want to come and I will be there unless I am tied up with the Middle East negotiations. That is one reservation I have made on my attendance. In any event, Under Secretary Robinson will be there as the head of our delegation.

The Secretary: Don’t show him a port. He is a fanatic on ports and if you show him one he will immediately give you a plan for rebuilding it.

Foreign Minister Chatti: We need two things from the U.S., greater cooperation in meeting our defense needs and with economic matters. The defense questions will not come up in the Joint Commission, but the economic matters will. I hope your delegation will have precise instructions so that we can discuss with them just how much assistance we will be able to get from the U.S.

The Secretary: We will be sure they are instructed to give you precise answers as to what we can do for Tunisia and that they will have the answers at the time of the Joint Committee meeting. Is that what you want?

Foreign Minister Chatti: Yes. I also wish to raise the defense questions with you. You are giving us loans but they are on commercial terms. Therefore, they are not too favorable for us and we would like to improve the conditions. Perhaps if part of the credit which you are giving us could be in the form of grant rather than loan it would enable us to lower the interest rate on the total amount and ease our problems.

The Secretary: Do we have any MAP for Tunisia?

Mr. Atherton: We have not had any for two years.

The Secretary: Why is this?

Mr. Atherton: It is due to our Congress which has been steadily cutting back the overall amount of grant military assistance available for the whole world. It has nothing to do with Tunisia, per se.

The Secretary: The idea of the Foreign Minister about our giving some part of our military assistance credits as a grant in order to reduce the overall interest rate is a good one. Can we do something about it?

Mr. Atherton: We have already been discussing this suggestion with the Tunisians and we understand it. However, it is going to be tough to get Congressional approval.

Foreign Minister Chatti: We should not go into detail on our economic relationship but our collaborators should be able to do this when the Joint Commission meets.

The Secretary: That is very good. You instruct your collaborators and we will be sure that our position is fully elaborated and that our delegation has precise instructions for the meeting in Tunis.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Foreign Minister Chatti discussed U.S.-Tunisian relations. Chatti asked for greater cooperation in meeting Tunisia’s economic and defense needs.

    Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 277, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File, September 1975. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Robert Oakley; and cleared by Atherton. The meeting took place in room 35A at the Waldorf Astoria. NSDM 278 Joint Cooperation Commissions, October 22, 1974, sought guidance from the NSC Under Secretaries Committee on the terms of cooperation agreements with several countries, including Tunisia. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSSM and NSDM, Box 1, NSDM File, NSDM 278—Joint Cooperation Commission) Kissinger and Chatti announced an agreement to begin discussions on a commission between Tunisia and the United States, on November 9, 1974. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Institutional Files, Box 10, NSDM 278—Tunisia)