312. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US–UAR Relations


  • UAR
  • Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, Asst. to UAR President for Foreign Affairs
  • Mr. Hassan Sabri al-Khouli Adviser to the UAR President
  • Mr. Mohammed Riad, UAR Foreign Ministry
  • US
  • Ambassador Harriman
  • Donald C. Bergus, NEA/UAR

Mr. Harriman said that he was calling on Dr. Fawzi informally and in a personal capacity. The US Government was unhappy about the grave situation in the Near East and the false and unnecessary charges made by the UAR. The important thing was to ascertain whether our two Governments had any common objectives which they could support. He referred to President Johnson’s statement that all Near East countries had to recognize each other’s right to exist and our support of the territorial integrity and political independence of all. We wished to move in that direction. If Dr. Fawzi had anything to say, Mr. Harriman would listen. Mr. Harriman said he had not come to argue but to see if there were a possibility for useful discussions among men of good will. He referred to the Secretary’s high personal regard for Dr. Fawzi and his willingness to meet with him if this would be useful.

Dr. Fawzi said he appreciated this initiative. Ambassador Harriman was a good American; he tried to be a good Egyptian. This was a sufficient denominator. Neither had the right to feel peevish or to keep each other in a corner.

What we had to deal with was the outburst of June 5. Ambassador Harriman would appreciate the difficulty of asking people to give under threats of duress. Any gains secured by force and violence should not be allowed. He was not ready to talk about a broad settlement until we could agree on this preliminary.

Ambassador Harriman said it was in the U.S. interest to find a durable peace. This was a situation where both sides could be completely [Page 529] rigid. Suggestions had been made for some intermediary. He did not know who would be agreeable to the UAR. General De Gaulle had been mentioned but he, perhaps, was too much in the international limelight. Dr. Fawzi said the UAR had given no expression to this matter “in public.” It was keeping an open mind and exploring all means to get out of this situation. He considered that a mediator had to be carefully selected. He reacted against “volunteers.”

Ambassador Harriman wondered whether under present circumstances Dr. Fawzi would like to talk to Secretary Rusk. Dr. Fawzi thought that he and the Secretary could talk freely together, might talk usefully, but that “we might not be able to see matters crystallize through our first talk.” He reciprocated Secretary Rusk’s personal regard.

Dr. Fawzi continued that the UAR was open-minded regarding the method of resolving the present difficulty but would not cede on the basic principle. “We might at one stage find a good way to differentiate between form and substance,” he commented. Ambassador Harriman said that we had taken a position on the Gulf of Aqaba as a result of the 1957 discussions. We were also committed to support the territorial integrity and political independence of every country in the area. The U.S. had no commitment on any other aspect of the substance of the dispute. Ambassador Harriman said that the cease-fire gave us time.

Dr. Fawzi said that we must not overestimate the amount of time we had. Important matters such as the Suez Canal, interests in Arab oil including Egyptian oil, were at stake. The longer the delay the less chance there was for a renewal of serenity. Mr. Harriman said time also worked for the other side. Once people got used to roaming around newly-acquired territory, the harder it was to get them to move away. The Suez Canal was a two-way street. The UAR needed the tolls. We were not much involved, but the UAR’s friend India was very much involved. Dr. Fawzi admitted that the UAR needed every pound it earned from the Canal and felt sorry for the Indians. The UAR kept the Canal open to commerce on one sole condition, that it not be attacked.

Dr. Fawzi reiterated an interest in seeing Secretary Rusk. He planned to be in the United States for another week or ten days. He wanted to say that it remained the basic policy of the UAR to have good relations with the United States. He had told the British the same thing. The UAR also prized its good relations with the USSR with whom it had many ties. Dr. Fawzi appeared to indicate a preference that his meeting with the Secretary take place after a possible JohnsonKosygin meeting, but said he was at the Secretary’s disposal any time.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL UAR–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Bergus and approved by Harriman on June 30. The meeting took place at the Waldorf Towers during the Fifth Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly.