365. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Jordan


  • Secretary Rusk
  • Foreign Minister Ahmed Touqan of Jordan
  • Ambassador Shubeilat of Jordan
  • Ambassador-designate Sharif Sharaf of Jordan
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Davies, NEA
  • Marshall W. Wiley, NEA/ARN

Foreign Minister Touqan referred to the traditional ties between the US and Jordan and to the ideals which were shared by the two countries. He said that Jordan had been criticized at various times for its pro-Western attitudes, and now other people are asking the Jordanians why their traditional friends were not helping them. The Arabs came to the UN with the attitude of “give and take” but there was a limit to how far they could go. Jordan had lost much of its territory but the Jordanians [Page 659] did not feel that they, the Arabs, had been totally defeated. They admitted they had lost a Battle but they did not admit they had lost the war. The Jordanians were not able to forget they were Arabs and they hoped the US had not adopted the theory that Jordan should now be isolated from the rest of the Arabs and pushed into accepting a settlement.

The Secretary said that there were three basic issues now operating in the Middle East.

Israel versus the Arab states. During his experience at the UN in 1948 he had tried to negotiate a stand-still agreement between the Arabs and Israelis at the end of the British mandate. He was aware of the deep roots of the Palestinian problem and the deep feelings which it engendered. He understood these feelings even though he did not fully share them. The US and the Arabs did have some differences in their attitudes towards Palestine and he hoped that both sides could put these differences to one side and get on with the business of living.
The struggle between the radical and moderate Arab states. The Secretary said that as he looked back over the history of US actions in the Middle East he was impressed by the extent to which we had supported the principle of territorial integrity and political independence for all nations in that area. We supported the UAR during the Suez crisis and acted to insure Lebanon’s independence at a somewhat later date. President Kennedy had sent a squadron of aircraft to support the independence of Saudi Arabia and we had, on several occasions, supported Libya against possible interference from the UAR. We had protested strongly against Arab subversion by infiltration into Israel and had also protested strongly to Israel after the unfortunate raid on Samu last November.
Soviet efforts to penetrate the area. The Secretary said that the Soviets were attempting to increase their influence in the area by shipping arms to certain Arab states. We had tried on many occasions to encourage the Soviets to tone down the arms race. He had personally talked about this with Gromyko but the Soviets were interested only in discussing nuclear weapons as a subject for limitation. He realized that Jordan was not responsible for the recent situation getting out of control. There were two things that had contributed directly to the development of the hostilities. First, the speed of the removal of the UNEF forces and second, Nasser’s closing of the Strait of Tiran. The closing of the Strait of Tiran had been more important than most people in the Arab world realized. It was not only a casus belli for Israel, but it also ran directly counter to commitments we had made in 1957 in order to get Israel out of Sinai. The UAR had not signed these commitments but had been aware of them. Nasser had based his action on the right of belligerency against Israel, but this cuts both ways. The Arabs are not consistent if they complain of Israeli aggression while simultaneously asserting belligerent rights against Israel. By his action in closing the Strait of Tiran Nasser had undercut our position with Israel. If [Page 660] we now ask the Israelis to withdraw they would say that they did so in 1956 on assurances from the US which had not been carried out in 1967.

The Secretary said that we attached great importance to the ending of the state of belligerency. We had no fixed formula but one useful precedent might be the formula used by the Soviets and Japanese to end the state of belligerence after WW II. They were able to do this without a formal peace treaty. He regretted that Jordan had been caught up in the hostilities since the major participants in the actions leading up to the fighting had been Syria, the UAR and Israel. He said he was not trying to lecture on this but he did wish that Jordan could have avoided the fighting. He had the feeling that apart from Jerusalem, which we all knew would be a “wrestle” the territorial problems involved in the settlement were not too serious. The basic and fundamental problem was the ending of the state of belligerency.

Foreign Minister Touqan said that the arms build up was not limited to the Arab side. On Jerusalem, he said that the US position should be the same as that of Jordan, i.e. unilateral actions by Israel were not acceptable. Jerusalem had a very special status with the Arabs as with all Moslems. It was false to say that Jordan had prohibited the Jews from reaching their Holy Places. The demarcation line which had ended the fighting in 1948 prohibited travel by both Israelis and Jordanians to the territory of the other. The Jordanians had had no desire to prevent adherents of the Jewish religion from reaching their Holy Places and, in fact, had allowed many Jewish tourists to enter Jordan.

The Secretary said we had our reasons for abstaining on the Pakistani resolution. The false UAR charges of complicity with Israel had made us very sensitive. Big powers had their sensitivities as well as little powers. These false charges had made several countries break relations with us. We would also have liked to have had an opportunity to negotiate the language of the Pakistani resolution prior to the vote, but we had not been given the opportunity. The Pakistanis had apparently felt that they had enough votes to carry the resolution so there was no need to negotiate with us. We also had not been happy with the Jordan vote on the Cuban amendment to the draft resolution, although our vote on the Pakistani resolution had not been directly linked to Jordan’s vote on the Cuban amendment.

Ambassador-designate Sharaf said that the Cuban amendment condemned Israel and Jordan automatically voted for any resolution condemning Israel. He also said that Jordan unfortunately had to vote first on the Cuban amendment before they had realized that some of the other Arab delegations would not vote for it.

Foreign Minister Touqan said that he had become very angry at the way Ambassador Goldberg had acted during the UNGA session. [Page 661] Ambassador Goldberg had tried to undermine every measure taken by the Jordanian delegation and had obviously used considerable pressure to reduce the number of votes for the non-aligned resolution. Secretary Rusk pointed out that the US could not tell other countries how to vote. The primary US interest was to find some way to bring about an Israeli withdrawal to a state of peace and not to a continuing state of war.

The Secretary asked the Foreign Minister what it was that the Jordanians had objected to in the Latin American resolution. The Foreign Minister replied that the resolution made Israeli withdrawal subordinate to too many other things. Secretary Rusk said it might still be possible to work out a compromise between the Latin American and the non-alignment resolution which would be acceptable to all.

Ambassador-designate Sharaf said that he wished to make two specific points. 1) The often reiterated US assurances on territorial integrity and political independence had been made without conditions. The Jordanians had been shocked to find that so many conditions were now attached to our commitments. 2) Jordan expected more from the US as a result of our past friendly relationship.

The Secretary said that there was one important difference between today and 1956. Nasser had completely undermined our position vis-à-vis Israel by closing the Strait of Tiran. If we were to ask Israel to withdraw now they would say that they had heard this before and our assurances on free navigation in the Strait had not held up. The Secretary then said that as far as Jordan was concerned if they were looking around the world for a friend in terms of Jordan’s independence, safety and well being, they could find such a friend in the US.

Ambassador Shubeilat said it would be impossible for Jordan to negotiate directly with Israel. Secretary Rusk said there was some flexibility on this. Working out the procedures of negotiation may be as difficult as agreeing on the substance. One possibility was the use of a UN representative as an intermediary. There were always other possibilities for unpublicized contacts. Ambassador-designate Sharaf said it was not feasible for Jordan to engage in open unilateral dialogue with Israel as Jordan cannot risk being completely isolated from the Arab world.

The Secretary said it was not necessarily true that Jordan should take the lead in the negotiations. It might be better if President Nasser or one of the other Arab states made the first move. It was difficult for us to talk to the Arabs because the Arabs themselves cannot seem to get together except on their opposition to Israel. It was always the extremist voices that were the loudest and which came to the front when we tried to talk to the Arabs. Secretary Rusk then asked if there would be some advantage for Jordan if the situation on the Syrian-Israeli border could be clarified before Jordan made any diplomatic move. [Page 662] Ambassador-designate Sharaf then said that a formal peace treaty was not possible and he hoped the US could understand this. It would be difficult for both Jordan and the US if Jordan were pushed in this direction since Jordan was well known in the area as a friend of the US. He said that in the Arab world form was very important as opposed to the US where people adopted a more pragmatic approach. The Secretary agreed that there were many ways to renounce belligerency. A Security Council resolution, for example, might be one possibility. The important thing was that the state of belligerency somehow be renounced.

Ambassador-designate Sharaf pointed out that the General Armistice agreement had neutralized the state of war and that the Israelis had undertaken aggression by violating the Armistice Agreement whether or not a state of non-belligerence had been agreed to by the concerned parties. The Secretary conceded that the accusation of aggression applied more to the UAR than to Jordan. The Secretary asked the Jordanians not to discount US support for the principle of territorial integrity. Although the question of Jerusalem was a difficult one the Jordanians can be assured that we intended to stick to this principle. We were interested, however, in seeing that Israel withdrew to international boundaries and not to armistice lines. We must find a way to end the exercise of the rights of war in the Middle East and to stop the recurrent outbreak of hostilities.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL JORDAN–US. Secret; Noforn. Drafted by Wiley and approved in S on July 20. The time of the meeting is from Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library)