26. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

5388. Middle East Crisis.

I called on SYG and Bunche this noon right after release of announcement of his trip to Cairo. Told him I was pleased he was making trip and that I would say so publicly after meeting. On basis telecon with Under Secy Rostow, told him that while Israelis were playing situation cool, they were reappraising situation and now believe UAR had offensive intentions. Told him troop movements and dispositions of UAR forces indicated to them operations of offensive character. Bunche then said UN reports today were that there were heavy Syrian concentrations in Galilee area.
I told SYG we had a second concern which was UAR use of poison gas in Yemen. Said evidence included canisters with Cyrillic markings. Said we had grave apprehensions lest this gas also be employed in present circumstances, consequences of which would be grave. My own impression was that he would express apprehensions in Cairo on this point.
I also told him our current reports from AmEmb Cairo were alarming about mood now prevailing there. Told him I had spoken yesterday to El Kony (UAR), Tomeh (Syria), Fedorenko (USSR), all troop contributing countries, all members of SC except Keita (Mali), as well as reps of other Arab countries in area. Told him I had given El Kony and Tomeh solemn assurances that US was not involved in any steps in area in spite of anything Syrians were saying. Told SYG this applied to CIA as well as to other agencies of USG. There no CIA operation going on. There was nothing to it. Matter had been carefully reviewed with Director of CIA. Allegations were complete nonsense. Told him UAR line, elaborated in Al Ahram this morning, was alleging great plot, in which culmination would be establishment of UNEF on Syrian frontier after battle between Israel and Arabs.
Told SYG we were receiving confusing signals from Sovs. Noted I had obtained nothing really from Fedorenko except his statement USSR did not want war and that he would report to his govt. Also noted Ukrainian and Byelorussian reps yesterday had expressed satisfaction over current situation and noted UN ought to get out of peace-keeping business and that Fedorenko had said this demonstrated undesirability of UN force under SYG control. Noted for his private information only that in Moscow after Thompson had said US was using its influence against any kind of use of force no matter what the provocation was, Dobrynin said USSR would do no less. Added however that since that time Sovs appeared to be supporting stories of US involvement and even to have initiated them. (I also told SYG our approaches urging restraint upon Israel had been at highest levels.)
SYG said he going to area with some trepidation. He may or may not have any success. He had some ideas which he had discussed with Martin (Canada) which Martin fully shared. His basic idea was to enlarge the effect of UNTSO in area as well as on other frontiers. This would have to include enlarging of the units. He said first step already under way. He then read telegram from General Bull reporting from EIMAC Chairman that Egyptians had suggested EIMAC occupy three platoon camps in Gaza as observation posts. SYG said he had sent instructions to accept this immediately and he expected eleven UNMOs, transferred from other posts, to be there within two days.
SYG said that for 17 years Secretariat had exercised its initiative to augment or diminish observers, who had once totaled over 750. More recently Sovs had for first time questioned SYG’s authority to do this with respect to UNMOGIP in Oct 1965. In private Fedorenko had complained mainly about national composition of the observers, but in Feb he had also had confidential note from Fedorenko taking position he [Page 38] could not increase UNTSO without SC action. Thought it highly likely Sovs would raise this matter if he took any current steps and suggested that perhaps SC meeting would be wisest course in present circumstances. I replied that of course there was current opposition to SC meeting on the part of some members and that both Israel and UAR were against it. I said this could not be controlling. I noted that SC could not, for example, stand aside if fighting broke out. With respect to enlargement of TSO I said I thought current situation might be distinguishable from normal augmentation.
I asked him whether in request for UNMOs UAR had included Sharm el Sheikh. He said no but that he proposed to raise matter of Sharm el Sheikh in major effort in Cairo. (He did not elaborate on the context in which he would raise it, but he is clearly fully conscious of implications that would flow from stopping shipping.) Bunche said UAR and UN were currently in joint occupation of Sharm el Sheikh and that so far UAR forces had not sought to interfere with shipping which is going through the straits.
I noted that if UNTSO and IMAC operations were to be recommenced Israeli cooperation would be required. Told him I had already advised Rafael this morning of my personal view that Israel should re-examine its position on this matter and I had subsequently had confirmation this was Washington’s viewpoint as well.
I also suggested that inasmuch as Israeli cooperation would be required he should also consider extending his visit to include Jerusalem and Damascus. SYG replied he thought not now and that inclusion of Israel might jeopardize efforts. On basis of how matters developed in Cairo, however, visit to Israel would not be precluded. He said he planned to be gone about 2–1/2 days, returning to NY next Friday. I stressed again importance of having Israel on board in whatever his plans were. Urged him to tell Israelis in advance about UNMOs going into Gaza and desirability of refraining from any more public comment than necessary until matters worked out with all concerned. SYG said there were three stops on his plane trip to Cairo but he would not see press at any of them. I again offered to provide a jet if he needed it, painted with UN markings if he wished, but he said he thought his present arrangements for commercial travel would be satisfactory. We both agreed to touch base on Monday2 before his departure. I read him my proposed statement dealing with his report of this morning to the SC and he expressed approval of our statement.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Cairo and Tel Aviv. Received at 7:33 p.m.
  2. May 22.