64. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Foreign Minister Benhima
- Ambassador Senoussi
- The Secretary
- Assistant Secretary David Newsom
- Mr. Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
- Mrs. Sophie Porson, Interpreter
- US-Moroccan bilateral relations; Maghreb regional security problems; Spanish Moroccan relations; Arab-Israeli dispute
[There was a brief photo opportunity at the beginning of the meeting.][Page 171]
Benhima: Mr. Secretary, I know that your time is even shorter here than it used to be in Washington. I appreciate being able to see you. I won’t keep you very long. I want to convey the greetings of my Government, of His Majesty, and my own.
We know that your arrival at the Department of State is an important event for the world, and we expect the same quality of work as we saw in the post you already held.
US-Moroccan Bilateral Relations
As for relations between Morocco and the United States, since my useful meetings with you and Secretary Rogers in March, relations have been satisfactory between our two countries. Nevertheless, I understand there are certain difficulties.
Kissinger: Which? PL 480?
Benhima: It has to do with economic assistance. We understand the problem on the part of Congress. If Congress doesn’t permit an increase in aid through the normal process, then we hope that the question of the leased bases on our soil will be reassessed, perhaps favorably.
Kissinger: [to Newsom:] Is that possible?
Newsom: It is possible. We have already made use of that in sustaining the levels. We’re very conscious of the link between the two, and so is the Congress.
Benhima: Morocco is now in the process of a Five-Year Plan, a very ambitious one.
Newsom: We have given the Government of Morocco a figure on economic aid at the current level. The Minister of Planning is coming here. Before going to the Congress, we will be able to review the Minister’s plan and do what we can.
Benhima: I ought to indicate to you that it is still possible to do other things.
Kissinger: We attach great importance to our relations with Morocco, as I told you last time. Whatever is humanly possible, we will do. We will look at it again when your Minister comes here.
Newsom: One problem is PL 480. We are short, and this is a problem for every country.
Benhima: We have been seeking grain on the open market but cannot get enough. We need about one million tons, and can only get 600,000.
Maghreb Regional Security Problems
On security, progress in our cooperation between Washington and Rabat is very good. There have been some military missions. These have enabled Morocco to consider its regional and domestic problems.[Page 172]
There are two small particular problems. We have a very critical situation with Algeria. We don’t want to bring the US into a quarrel with our neighbor, but we think you should be informed because of our friendship. We want to call this to your attention. I will leave a detailed document with you. [Tab A] In March we stopped a group of people passing into Morocco with arms, Russian arms, from Libya carried through Algeria, to be given to subversive elements. They were Russian arms from Egypt to Libya.
His Majesty had wanted to call the attention of Boumediene to this transit of arms. Boumediene professed to desire good relations with Morocco but we could not believe they were unaware of this transit. We gave all our information to him. He promised to make an investigation. But no reply or comment was ever received. We then asked Bouteflika to come, and told him the same information, but with the same result. The first group was captured, tried and executed. Two weeks ago, we found the same type of arms—the same bags, etc., and the same itinerary.
His Majesty wrote a letter to Algeria. He said that we had resolved the border conflict in order to help avoid big-power involvement. We didn’t want a big-power confrontation. This was our sacrifice, in the interests of not making the Mediterranean a crisis area. But now the Russians are at Mers el-Kebir. We had never allowed people to pass through Morocco who were hostile to Algeria. We want to resolve problems locally, to preserve stability in the region.
We don’t know what this means. Our relations had been satisfactory. But Algeria is next to Libya. There seems to be a rapprochement between Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, without us, which may be a problem for us. We don’t want you to solve it, but we want you to be informed. We don’t understand why Algeria is doing this. It may be that they want to woo Qaddafi away from Egypt. But I don’t see the point, because the Egyptians don’t want him anyway.
Kissinger: What could we do if we wanted?
Benhima: You could perhaps speak to them. You could congratulate Morocco and Algeria for solving their local problems, and signal to Algeria that you want the region to be a region of peace. Although we don’t want to compromise our economic development, we could be forced to turn to arms. If they seek arms from the East, we will seek arms from the West, and then they will seek arms, and so on, if an arms race starts.
Kissinger: Your impression is that Algeria will pay any attention to what we think?
Benhima: They’ll at least pay some attention to friendly advice.
Kissinger: You say Rush is going to Morocco?[Page 173]
Newsom: No, but he is going to Tunisia. If we have any influence it’s with Tunisia. And they’re very active.
Newsom: Because their Foreign Minister sees prospects of encouraging Maghreb unity.
Kissinger: That has nothing to do with arms shipments.
Newsom: Right, but if we have influence, it’s with them.
This last shipment was during the Algiers Non-Aligned Conference?
Benhima: No, after.
Kissinger: When did we get the information?
Benhima: It’s here [in this paper]. I think your agencies have it.
Newsom: I spoke with Bouteflika in April. I have the impression that Algeria listens to us on economic matters but not on political.
Benhima: We’d like to go straight ahead with the Five-Year plan. We are at a serious take-off stage.
Newsom: Have you ratified the frontier accords with Algeria?
Benhima: No, not yet. They have no Parliament.
Another point I want to raise: We have friendly relations with Spain, and cooperation. Morocco and Spain have some problems now. We have hoped that relations would develop in the interests of global and regional security. But there are certain problems. We are preoccupied with the [Spanish] Sahara. Spain seems to be thinking now of independence for it. We ask, why should it be independent? It is a country of 45,000 people, two-thirds uneducated. It controls the sea routes. I don’t want you to think that Morocco wants it for itself. We asked Spain what its intentions were. They were not clear.
Kissinger: Why do they do it?
Benhima: They are obliged to be for decolonization—because they need the support of Africans against the United Kingdom on Gibraltar. Spain is saying it should be independent. We are against all liberation movements; we fear infiltration. We would prefer the status quo, but Spain wants to act quickly. We won’t participate in this liberation movement. We have told Spain that the security of the Western Mediterranean is indivisible. Spain has said to us that security in the northwest Mediterranean is separate from security in the Atlantic. I think it’s in the middle of the question of the security of the region.
It is a question of whether we can concentrate on economic problems or the questions of arms. We don’t want to compromise our [Page 174] efforts by again placing priorities on buying arms. We don’t want to be forced to change our policy.
Newsom: The problems are related. Algeria, Mauritania and Libya are pressing for liberation of the territory.
Benhima: If this goes, it will be the first place between Oslo and the Cape on the Atlantic that is not pro-West. Algeria wants access to the Atlantic. Morocco doesn’t want to be isolated or encircled, as the French did against Algeria.
Kissinger: That is an interesting point.
[Omitted here is discussion of the Arab-Israeli dispute.]
Summary: Kissinger and Benhima discussed U.S.-Moroccan relations, security in the Maghreb, and the Spanish Sahara.
Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 271, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File, October 1973. Secret; Exdis. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf Towers. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors.↩