35. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Arab Republic 1

197710. For Damascus, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, Jidda, Algiers: The following telegram is being sent to Cairo. You should make appropriate substitutions and deliver identical note to your government.

For London, Rome, Paris, Ottawa, Ankara, Moscow, Tehran: You should inform your host government of our action, and request that we remain in closest contact in light of reports of UAR decision to close Strait of Tiran.2

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For Cairo:

You should request urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Riad to convey following note verbale:
In recent days, tension has again risen along armistice lines between Israel and Arab States. We agree with view of Secretary General of United Nations that situation there is matter of concern to international community as whole. It is our earnest wish to support efforts in which he is taking lead to reduce tensions, and to restore conditions of stability and trust.
We have no reason to believe, in present situation, that any of parties to Armistice Agreements between Arab States and Israel has intention of committing aggression. Danger, and it is grave danger, lies in misadventure and miscalculation. There is risk that those in authority in area may misapprehend or misinterpret intentions and actions of others.
Three aspects of situation cause us particular concern. First is continuing terrorism being carried out against Israel with Syrian approval, and at least in some cases, from Syrian territory. This is directly contrary to the General Armistice Agreements which call on signing governments to assure that no warlike act or act of hostility shall be conducted from territory of one against other party or against civilians or territory under control of that party. We believe General Armistice Agreements remain best basis for maintenance of peaceful conditions along borders. We hope that UAR will join us as well as other governments in urging all parties to Agreements to observe scrupulously their provisions.
Secondly, we are concerned that a precipitate withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force may make the problem of maintaining peace along the UAR-Israeli border more difficult. In our opinion, the presence of UNEF has been an important aid in preserving basic security along this border. USG supports Secretary General Thant’s mission to Cairo and earnestly trusts that the UARG will explore fully with him possibilities for continued UN peacekeeping presence in some form along UAR-Israel border.
Third, USG considers it particularly important that the present cycle of troop build-up on both sides be arrested and reversed. We have noted statements of United Arab Republic and Israel indicating that their military movements are defensive in purpose and we would hope that both parties, as well as other states in the area which have taken military precautions, will return their forces to their normal dispositions. In doing so, they could perform an important service toward relieving the present tense situation.
We would also take this opportunity to reaffirm our continued adherence to principle of free access to Gulf of Aqaba for ships of all [Page 61] nations. The right of free and innocent passage of these waters is a vital interest of the international community. We are convinced that any interference whatever with these international rights could have the gravest international consequences.3
In present situation UARG, as well as other Arab governments can rely on certainty that USG maintains firm opposition to aggression in the area in any form-overt or clandestine, carried out by regular military forces or irregular groups. This has been policy of this government under four successive administrations. Record of our actions over the past two decades, within and outside the United Nations is clear on this point.
In conclusion USG expresses its sincere hope that UAR will join it as well as numerous other nations in their efforts, both within UN and outside of that body, to bring about a lessening of tension and restoration of area stability.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Bergus and Sterner, cleared by Atherton and Davies, and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem, Ottawa, USUN, Moscow, Ankara, Tehran, Rome, Algiers, and Jidda.
  2. Telegram 199773 to Baghdad, Kuwait, and Sanaa, May 23, sent similar instructions to those Embassies. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 199681 to Cairo, May 22, sent at 7:58 p.m., requested confirmation of an Agence France Press report that Nasser had announced that the UAR had closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli ships. It instructed the Embassy to convey to the UAR Government “our gravest concern” if this was true. (Ibid.) Nasser made the announcement in a May 22 speech to UAR air force officers, broadcast at 0400 Greenwich time on May 23. (FBIS Daily Report, May 23; Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. I)