347. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Middle East Discussion in UNGA


  • The Secretary
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin, USSR
  • Deputy Under Secretary Kohler

The Secretary received Ambassador Dobrynin at the latter’s request and had a conversation lasting roughly two hours and ten minutes.

The principal purpose of the Dobrynin visit and the main subject of conversation was the question of the consultations going on in the UN corridors with respect to a resolution on the Arab-Israeli crisis at this Special Session of the General Assembly.

Ambassador Dobrynin said that the Soviet Delegation had been consulting with other delegations in an effort to find a compromise resolution which could be approved by the General Assembly and which would cover the essential point of withdrawal of Israeli forces and at [Page 621] the same time cover other aspects and receive general acceptance. It did not seem possible to refer specifically to the term of non-belligerency because of Arab opposition. However, it would seem possible to turn this formula around and to meet the point by language which would perhaps in several paragraphs refer to non-use of force and necessity for a peaceful solution and the like. However, yesterday the Soviet Delegation had learned that the US opposed a compromise resolution and Gromyko had asked him to come to Washington to check with the Secretary very frankly about this.

The Secretary replied that we were not opposed in principle to a joint or compromise resolution. However, we would be opposed to a horse and rabbit stew, if the Ambassador understood that term. Our attitude would depend on what combination of language could be found. He felt that the position of the Arabs made it difficult to find a real compromise; we, for example, felt it important that we be clear on the subject of belligerence. Ambassador Dobrynin interjected that compromise language could refer to the non-use of force. The Secretary resumed, saying that we do not control the situation in the UN. For example, many of the Latin Americans have strong views of their own. As far as we are concerned, if some substantive points could be satisfactorily combined in a resolution, this would be acceptable to us in the General Assembly. If not, we felt it was better to get the matter back to the Security Council. The Secretary repeated that we are not opposed in principle, but he could not discuss detailed language. He knew that various versions had been put forward in consultations in New York, and he was not informed in detail.

Ambassador Dobrynin pressed his version that several points could be covered and that in their efforts to find a compromise the Soviet Delegation had in fact even got some ideas from the Latin Americans.

The Secretary commented that at the beginning of the Session a great effort had been made to separate out simply the question of Israeli withdrawal.

Dobrynin resumed to say the resolution they contemplated might refer to Israeli withdrawal and refer the matter to the Security Council for further detailed examination with specific reference to several points which had arisen during the discussion. The Secretary asked whether the Soviets had examined further the question of the formula that they had found to end their State of War with the Japanese which had arisen in his discussion with Foreign Minister Gromyko in New York. He commented in this connection that the term armistice in itself implies a continuing State of War. Dobrynin said that there could be phrases relating to a State of Peace. He then said they had not gone further in examining their formula with the Japanese.

[Page 622]

In reply to a question from the Secretary, the Ambassador confirmed that the Soviets had had a meeting yesterday with the Latin Americans, specifically with the Chairman of the group and with two other Ambassadors. He would not say that there had been agreement at that meeting, but the Soviets considered that the Latin Americans had advanced some reasonable thoughts.

The Secretary said that the main difficulty was that it would be hard to find suitable language if it were obscure on the question of a continuance of a State of War. There was a danger that a formula would be found which some members would say meant an end of belligerency, but this would be denied by the Arabs. He would repeat that we were not opposed to a General Assembly resolution from a doctrinaire point of view, but there must be some substantial meaning in such a resolution. It would be very difficult to have a specific call for action by Israel combined with only vague promises as to what would happen on the other side. The Secretary then inquired of Dobrynin as to who was most active on the Arab side.

Ambassador Dobrynin replied that Foreign Minister Gromyko was seeing UAR Foreign Minister Fawzi today, so he could not comment on UAR views. On the whole, none of the Arabs seem to be very “eager”. However, the Soviets felt that it was worthwhile to try to find compromise language. The Secretary interjected that we are prepared also to try. Dobrynin then repeated that Gromyko had been disturbed when he had heard that the US was opposed. The Secretary responded that we are opposed to a resolution which would be basically the Yugoslav-Indian resolution with a minimum amount of cosmetics applied. Dobrynin then said again that the Soviets were seeking a version which without mentioning the word belligerence would still in several sentences cover the point.

The Secretary said in principle we are prepared to look at anything. Basically, we are not only concerned with our interest of the Middle East situation itself, but we have some interest in not having the UN General Assembly come out with a zero.

The Secretary then interpolated that he had had trouble in matching his thoughts with Gromyko as to the position of UAR Foreign Minister Fawzi. Personally he had found Fawzi vague and very hard to get a hold of. It was not clear, for example, whether Fawzi was speaking with any authority; even on the question of free passage through the Strait of Tiran, Fawzi had said maybe something could be arranged secretly and the like, which was obviously impossible.

Ambassador Dobrynin commented that Fawzi was supposedly speaking as Foreign Minister and authorized to speak for the UAR Government. He then went on to refer to his approach to Ambassador [Page 623] Goldberg about the 48-hour delay and took some pains to explain this was all the Soviets had sought and that the week’s delay was strictly the work of the Assembly President Pshwak and not of the Soviet Delegation.

Concluding the conversation on this subject, the Secretary said that he would phone Ambassador Goldberg and make sure that he would be available and ready to discuss with the Soviet Delegation any possibilities of finding suitable compromise language.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Kohler and approved in S on July 10. Another memorandum covering the conversation was on the subject of arms limitation in the Middle East. According to this, Rusk raised the subject of the desirability of limiting the supply of arms to Israel and the Arab countries. He said the United States was not trying to freeze the situation as it was June 12 after the Arab arms losses, but thought it would be important if the Soviets, British, and French could agree not to contribute to a renewed arms race in the Middle East. He asked, “What are the Soviet Union’s real purposes in the area?” He noted that Moscow was supporting regimes they call “progressive,” in Algiers, Egypt, and Syria and asked if Moscow was “out to topple the conservative governments.” Dobrynin replied that the Soviets were prepared to sell arms to Jordan and Morocco. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB–ISR)