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John F. Kennedy Administration:
Telegram on Johnson Mission and the UNRWA Debate

(October 12, 1961)


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This telegram illustrates the U.S. government's thanks for Johnston's work, further discussion of the outcome of the Johnson mission, and how that progress could be useful in establishing the U.S.'s position at the upcoming UNRWA debate.

Washington, October 12, 1961, 11:13 p.m.

902. Reftel 1116./2/ Dept gratified by success which has attended Dr. Johnson's efforts thus far. While realizing that much can be attributed to initial courtesies, Johnson seems have developed valuable rapport with Arabs and Israelis. He also appears to have instilled a consciousness of seriousness and sincerity of PCC (and USG) endeavors.

In view of foregoing, Dept favors long-term continuation of SR efforts and hopes current UNGA will so resolve. Progress which SR will be able to make will, however, depend considerably upon SR's freedom of maneuverability. To preserve this freedom, and in fact to preserve possibility that UNGA will endorse continuation of SR, it is in Dept's view important to avoid to extent possible providing Arabs or Israelis with specific issues or specific proposals which could become bones of contention, particularly during forthcoming UNGA UNRWA debate. Thus Dept would prefer no published substantive report by Johnson. However, we understand he feels committed. If he makes public report, we would hope it would be relatively unspecific and as non-controversial as possible. He might if he felt impelled to do so make a more detailed and substantive confidential report, preferably orally, only for use of PCC. We do not wish to open Pandora's box. It is Dept's impression that as of present Arabs and to lesser extent Israelis are considering forthcoming UNRWA debate with some equanimity and with an expressed desire not to stir up troubles unnecessarily. If this disposition could prevail through the forthcoming UNRWA debate we would be more than pleased.

As long as present Arab moderation continues Dept believes threats re possible cessation of UNRWA should be avoided. At same time, it is too early categorically to commit USG to UNRWA's extension. In any case, before this done full approval must be obtained from various interested parties within USG.

Tentatively, Dept believes best tactic would be for Johnson tell Arabs that he would be prepared press USG to agree appropriate extension of UNRWA if they would support longer range mandate for a special representative, would sincerely cooperate with him, and would not press controversial issues in GA which could prejudice atmosphere conducive to constructive progress on this question.

As regards PCC report scheduled be released fifteenth, we are satisfied that present language should go long way deny either party basis for contentious statements. We will wish consider carefully whether a further PCC report will be desirable just prior opening of GA debate. Any final judgment on this matter must be deferred pending completion present phase Johnson mission and reaction of parties. Assuming that Johnson's findings are received reasonably and favorably by parties concerned, there may be advantage to following up this report with second PCC report which would contain recommendations for continuation of Special Representative on long-term basis, and call for continuation of international assistance to Arab refugees (without specifying UNRWA).

If we can proceed on this basis, we may perhaps be able this year to achieve reasonably non-contentious and non-recriminatory debate with action moving along above lines. This will depend, of course on whether all-out campaign for such concepts as custodianship can be avoided.

Re Syrian factor, Dept understands SAR being informed by appropriate UN authorities of Johnson's mission and his availability for discussion. Unless Kuzbari on own initiative requests Johnson come to Damascus Dept prefers his contacts be made with SAR reps at UN.

In its contacts with Johnson, USUN should continue make clear to Johnson Dept's deep appreciation for his good work to date and express hope that his proven talents will continue to be available for this challenging task.

Ball

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/10-661. Confidential. Drafted by Meyer and Sisco (IO/UNP), cleared by Strong and Talbot, and approved by Cleveland who initialed for Ball.

/2/Telegram 1116 from USUN, October 6, reported that, according to Moe of UNRWA, Joseph Johnson was very encouraged by recent conversations with Takla and Fawzi in New York and planned to meet on October 9 with Israeli Foreign Minister Meir. He would then meet again with Fawzi, Takla, Meir, and a Jordanian representative before writing his report for the PCC. The telegram also reported that Johnson said that his most urgent and important request was for the United States to agree to a 2-year extension of UNRWA. (Ibid.)


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.

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