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John F. Kennedy Administration: U.S. Discussion of the Palestinian Conciliation Commission and Refugee Issue

(December 25, 1961)

This telegram is from the Department of State, and recounts the events that transpired during the U.N.G.A. meeting in relation to the continuation of the PCC proposed resolutions, and U.S.'s position concerning the Arab refugee issue.

Washington, December 25, 1961, 3:52 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/12-2561. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Thacher (NEA) and Palmer (IO) on December 24; cleared by Cleveland in substance and by Talbot; and approved by Thacher who initialed for Rusk. Also sent to Beirut, Cairo, and Damascus and repeated to Baghdad, Ankara, Jidda, Tel Aviv, Paris, Khartoum, Rabat, Tunis, Tripoli, London, Taiz, and USUN.

210. Department concerned over indications that in wake GA rejection Arab proposals for PCC reconstitution and "protection refugee interests" in Israel,/2/ Arab governments might reach hasty decision refuse cooperation with possible further mission by PCC Special Representative.

/2/On December 19, the United States submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly's Special Political Committee that requested the PCC to intensify its efforts under previous specified General Assembly resolutions concerning the Palestinian refugees and urged member states to increase contributions to UNRWA. A majority of the Special Political Committee adopted the draft resolution with two amendments, proposed by Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Pakistan, that would increase the size of the PCC from three to five members and would request the PCC to take measures to protect the rights, property, and interests of the Palestinian Arab refugees. During the General Assembly vote on December 20, however, the two amendments failed to gain the requisite two-thirds majority and the original U.S. draft resolution was adopted without change as General Assembly Resolution 1725 (XVI). The United States voted against the two amendments.

In general Department satisfied we have come through GA consideration refugee issue without bitter aftermath of kind that followed XV GA debate. In comments to USUN Israelis have expressed mild satisfaction. Arab reaction varied from appreciation US willingness vote against Israel-inspired direct negotiations resolution/3/ to annoyance at GA rejection Arab amendments and particularly at US unwillingness vote for or abstain on these proposals. Several Arab delegates asserted rejection PCC reconstitution in particular would make it difficult if not impossible Arab governments continue consult with PCC Special Rep should Johnson or someone else continue this function. Arabs claim they can have little faith in UN sub-body of which France a member. Arab League SYG Hassouna specially critical in this regard, foresaw little hope for further Arab cooperation with Dr. Johnson or any other special rep.

/3/On December 19, the Special Political Committee rejected a draft resolution, sponsored by the Central African Republic, Chile, Congo (Brazzaville), Costa Rica, El Salvador, Gabon, Guatemala, Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Niger, Sierra Leone, Upper Volta, and Uruguay, calling among other things for direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab states, particularly on the Palestinian refugee question. The United States voted against the resolution. The defeated draft resolution was subsequently referred to as the Brazzaville resolution, after its primary sponsor.

Member UAR delegation gave Amb Plimpton rundown Dec. 23 on Arab meeting following GA approval of US resolution./4/ Arab dels agreed their govts should consider in near future question further cooperation with PCC special rep. UAR spokesman said all expressed reservations but Jordanians (whose senior members are themselves refugees) more vehement than others in indicating they would advise their govt not agree meet further with Special Rep. UAR spokesman noted UAR had been outvoted by those who were negatively inclined towards cooperation with present PCC. Several senior delegates, including Hassouna, have already or will proceed their capitals within next few days. However UAR informant did not expect any significant Arab decision before "week or so".

/4/Reported in telegram 2237 from USUN, December 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/12-2361)

Dept is, of course, most anxious take fullest possible advantage modest opportunities offered for quiet diplomacy by Special Representative concept. Johnson has informed us confidentially he believes he can accept re-appointment provided: a) parties indicate positively they want him; b) he will have easy access to FonMins and chiefs of state as required. Other PCC members agreed ad referendum Johnson should be asked continue strive for positive steps forward.

To deter possible early Arab decision unfavorable to Special Rep concept, action addressees requested approach host governments soonest along line suggested below and at highest level required assure effective impact:

1. USG sincerely hopes host governments share its feeling deep satisfaction at temperate atmosphere which prevailed throughout informal Arab-US discussions during recently-concluded GA session. US noted with keen interest Arabs abstained rather than voting against US resolution. US trusts this augurs well for cooperation towards realistic progress, and that Arabs will on reflection not take onus of stymying PCC initiative. Throughout GA session US del adhered firmly to posture of impartiality toward refugee proposals sponsored by others, concentrating instead on concept which we convinced offers best prospect of serving refugees and enhancing area stability. US concept ultimately secured GA approval.

2. PCC will have soon consider most appropriate steps for carrying out GA directives for implementation Para 11, Res. 194 (III). PCC will wish give most careful consideration to variety problems and alternatives including, of course, possible re-appointment PCC Special Representative. US continues believe opportunities offered for quiet diplomacy by latter concept should be explored to fullest as soon as possible.

3. It may, however, be several weeks before PCC can determine precise nature further action to be taken. Thus US will wish in due course discuss with govts concerned possible further PCC activities.

4. In interim USG sincerely hopes host govts may be able give careful consideration further cooperation with Special Rep and that in any case they will refrain from judgments or actions tending foreclose further useful efforts by Special Rep.

You may also draw on following as appropriate: Arabs and many other dels expressed full satisfaction with Johnson personally. However, he has not yet decided accept re-appointment. Arab decision withhold further cooperation would inevitably affect his ultimate decision. US does not regard present PCC membership as sacred but believes that extensive pressure for reconstitution might well require US own resignation, contrary perhaps wishes some Arab leaders who believe US can make useful contribution to amelioration existing Near East problems. Finally you might make your Arab contacts aware that should they scuttle present initiative, US could not be counted on continue energetically seek progress in implementation Para 11.

For Amman: You should seek ascertain definitively whether extreme views of Palestine Arabs on Jordanian del represent considered views HKJ./5/

/5/On December 27, King Hussein told Ambassador Macomber that he was unaware of the views being taken by the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation and would look into them. (Telegram 288 from Amman, December 28; ibid., 325.84/12-2861)


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