135. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State1

1697. Saw Nasser today in compliance with instructions contained Deptel 1999 and 2000.2 Nasser read carefully letter from Johnston after which I presented orally substance Deptel 2000.

Nasser said his views as to desirability of Jordan Valley plan had not changed. He in quandary however as to how early action could be managed in view of situation in other Arab states. None of the Arab states of course would want to give impression that they had been aroused to action because of open threats from Israel. He [Page 246] felt therefore he could do nothing until March 1 date had been safely (he hoped) passed.

I stated we in need his personal help on this matter. Did not know of course plans of Israel but he must realize their continued delay on this project was not unconnected with United States pressures upon Israel. If Israel again delayed project at our insistence, hoped he would use all his influence with other Arab states for forward move on their part in March. There was scheduled meeting of Arab League about middle of March. Could not Arab states, with his help, take action at that time? He said he would do what he could but it would be mistake for Egypt to inject matter into such a meeting without prior agreement that it would be on agenda so that delegations would be prepared. If matter raised now for agenda purposes it would become public knowledge amid charges Arab states being forced into JVP by Israeli threats.

He finally said he could not make up his mind until talking to Quwwatli here early next week.3 Situation in Syria he said was most confused and he did not know what, if any, commitments might have been made within Syrian domestic politics on this question.

Nasser was friendly and gave every appearance of desiring to be helpful. He spoke warmly of Johnston but repeated that under present conditions trip by him to the area just now would be very unwise and risk, he felt, setting matter back because of publicity that would be involved.

Trevelyan seeing Fawzi this afternoon. We are suggesting that he raise possibility that GOE might be prepared have Hasouna take initiative to get matter discussed in coming League meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.5322/2–2756. Secret. Received at 7:13 a.m., February 28. Repeated to Amman, Damascus, Beirut, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Baghdad, Jerusalem, and Jidda.
  2. Documents 119 and 120.
  3. Nasser was referring to the impending arrival in Cairo of President Shukri al-Quwwatli of Syria and King Saud of Saudi Arabia for a series of meetings.