377. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

290. Middle East.

I met for over an hour this afternoon with Gromyko and Dobrynin at Sov mission “for tea”. Meeting held at Gromyko’s request in response to my suggestion he have dinner with me tomorrow. Sisco, Buffum and Pederson also present. Only other person present was Soviet interpreter.
I opened conversation pursuant to my telecon with Secty by conveying fol points to Gromyko:
Foster return from Geneva was to consult with technical experts and should not be taken as any lessening of interest in our part re non-proliferation agreement.
We wanted to continue to enlist their cooperation in the search for a peaceful solution on Vietnam.
We hoped there could be cooperation and parallel policies in Middle East. We noted USSR had expressed itself in favor of national existence of all ME states and of peaceful solution. We thought our policies coincided in many respects and hoped USSR would use its influence in interests of peace.

Gromyko replied:

Non-proliferation was now matter of control and of control system. USSR favored IAEA system.
He did not want to reiterate details of what Kosygin had said about Vietnam. USSR regretted US policy there and had pointed out to US the way out more than once.
On ME we had each expressed our points of view. If US wants peace there then our policies coincide. USSR is for peace. There was no question on Sov side about existence of Israel. We both shared [Page 689] responsibility for its creation. In Arab world there were extreme tendencies, essence of which was inclined not to recognize Israel as a state. Sov Union was not sympathetic to this, which was no secret to US.

US and USSR faced fol situation. There had been discussion in broad forum. Both had agreed on existence such a state and that other views were unjustified. Was it possible we could not settle prevailing situation and then preserve future peace?

Gromyko said he would not use strong words, though they were appropriate to Israel. What was way out? No doubt US can influence Israel, and on withdrawal of troops. USSR had its own influence on certain extreme tendencies. USSR does try to influence these extreme tendencies. He had noticed that in course of GA US had not tried to find way out but had created obstacles on way to normalizing situation in ME and created difficulties on possibility of USSR influencing extremist tendencies in Arab world. For example, he said that if we want to secure peace in region we must find in relation to belligerence a form of expression that would accomplish what you want and at same time temper and if possible put end to extremist tendencies in Arab world. On other hand such formula should be presented in form acceptable to other side. This was question of form, not of principle.

If we want peace and not war, and if we agree on principle, can’t we find an expression. Belligerence had become almost a cabalistic formula. Could we not find a formula possible even identical in meaning. Why not a new form with same ideas expressed in way acceptable to other side (Arab states). It was difficult to say right now revolve 180 degrees, not only difficult but impossible. USSR understands them on this. Why not combine withdrawal (nothing is possible without withdrawal) with a formula leading to peace on basis of respect of sovereignty of states in ME—-in its broad and deep sense—as expressed in Charter, with or without mentioning Charter. It should be deep enough to express what we believe. Form must be flexible enough to be acceptable to both sides. Too many suspicions had been raised on both sides. Maybe questions of form were causing a high wall to be raised.


I replied that I had not intended to burden him about non-proliferation but just to convey a message, and said we persevered in effort to reach an agreed solution. Had also mentioned Vietnam not to re-open discussions but to convey Secty’s emphasis on desirability of concerting our effort for peaceful solution. I said he knew our position which had been fully explained by President at Glassboro. We understood each other’s positions and obligations, and expressed hope our great countries could find way to peaceful solution.

[Page 690]

On ME I said I did not conceive there were wide differences in principle between us based upon Kosygin’s statement to GA 2 and what he had just said. US was devoted to peaceful solution in ME. Instability created great dangers in area and for world peace. We were prepared to use our influence wherever it was applicable in avoiding extremism and for moderation. There were no puppets in ME on either side. We were prepared nevertheless to use our influence and welcomed what Gromyko said about Sov’s use of influence against extremist points of view. There were problems on both sides, which was not unnatural in aftermath of war. Ever since our meetings here we had used our influence in direction of moderation and against extremism.

To be specific, when Amb Dobrynin had approached Secty and me over week ago first question he had asked was whether we were interested in peace. We had replied definitely yes. There was nothing good to come from lack of peace, and much good from an honorable, just, and peaceful solution. I did not disagree that it was not easy to turn around 180 degrees. His assessment of Arab problems in this regard was true of Israelis as well. This did not mean that we should not try. Our view was that it was important for us both to take position on principles we both could stand on and to agree upon a common expression of them in an appropriately worded res. We did not conceive that proper statements of such principles would necessarily be agreed right now to by either the Arab states or Israelis. We still thought they should be stated by us in the GA or SC and widely supported and that we could build on them for a peaceful solution. Gromyko had stated problems were those of form, not of principle. Between US and USSR I believed that was so, although not true of contending parties. We should continue to try, to make an effort to lead toward an acceptable formula under which we could each use our influence on both sides.

The word “belligerence” seemed to have become a red flag, or perhaps to FonMin of USSR we should just say flag. Recognizing this we had tried another formula. Week ago Sun,3 without consulting Israelis, we had sought another way, which I had suggested to Ambassador Dobrynin. This included a para on withdrawal of forces to previous positions. Other principle would be statement of recognition by Arab states of Israel’s right to maintain independent national state of its own and live in peace, and renunciation of all claims and acts inconsistent therewith. (Then read text exactly as previously given Dobrynin.)4 I [Page 691] observed that we used word “recognize” not in its diplomatic sense but in sense of “acknowledge”. Noted Indians, to whom we had not given the text, had told us Sovs had shown him text. He suggested there might be problem with “recognition”. If so we were prepared to modify it.

I observed these paras would be an affirmation of principles. GA could only recommend, and issue would be remitted to SC to work out how to effectuate them. I thought this was a statement that USSR could accept. Most of language in second para came from the Kosygin statement. We still believed this formula contained nothing inconsistent with Sov or US positions or with UN Charter. US had gone considerable distance with this formulation. It included withdrawal in terms desired by USSR. It eliminated word “belligerence”, and in our view we could proceed in SC to sort problem out in all its elements.

I said we did not believe it was in interests of either of us to resume sad warlike situation which had prevailed in area all these years. We thought this formula was an appropriate framework, because we thought we did not disagree on principles. To find a framework acceptable to both sides of the conflict, however, would be very difficult, understandably. We had hoped that at least we and USSR could get together and concert actively for overall peace in cooperation. We were still at loss as to why this formula not accepted by USSR. We understood difficulties of Arabs, and of Israel, but not for Sovs.


Gromyko replied that maybe we (USSR) had understood word “recognition” wrong. Said if it were just USSR it would be easier for us to talk. It was necessary for him to take into account events and moods there (Arab world). Formula should be definite enough to include peaceful existence and exclude repetition of military events there. On other side it should be flexible enough for Arab countries to accept from point of view of form, so that it would not be in sharp contradiction with mood of area. He was talking about form. For USSR it is certain we want peace there. Can we not have enough ingenuity to find a formula that would coincide with your goals, our goals, peaceful coexistence for all states there. What concrete language would you suggest? Perhaps a short res like LA text. We should avoid cabalistic word “belligerence”, but find a formulation that goes in same direction.

Gromyko said wording of formula I had given to Dobrynin was still too harsh. It mentioned Arab states and Israel. Maybe there could be formula meaning same but not mentioning either. This was test of ingenuity, search for flexible formula. On content he had nothing different in mind.

I replied we were indeed flexible and suggested para on withdrawal delete word “Israel” and substitute “by the parties to the conflict” and that the para on national existence delete reference both to [Page 692] Arab States and Israel and instead refer to “acknowledgment by all member states in area that each enjoys right to maintain etc.”
Gromyko replied that from Arab point of view second para might still give some difficulties, though we all agreed with it, and even common sense and also Charter supported it. Suppose we said: “that sovereign rights must be respected by all states in accordance with Charter of UN”. Sovereignty conveyed same idea in different form. Perhaps we could refer to sovereign rights, or to territorial integrity. Asked whether withdrawal to June 5 positions acceptable.

I replied that many claims had been made in name of sovereignty, for example blocking of Gulf of Aqaba, and that this language was not precise enough. Either tomorrow or later in SC we must have a solution. Perhaps fresh approach was needed, as Gromyko has said. That was why we had suggested this language. I said that if they could confirm that Aqaba was not involved we would not fuss about June 5 date. Gromyko replied that it was not involved. He then asked whether we did not have a still more flexible formula that all could accept.

I said I thought effort to get a res that all would accept was very difficult. We should aim for the one that both sides involved would not vote for, but that we jointly could support. Said there are also times when flexibility was exhausted. We did have one other suggestion, which I had put to Amb Dobrynin Monday, and which avoided word “belligerence”, which was that “termination of all states of war and any and all claims thereto is expected”. We could also add words “without delay” in both paras. I said we had undertaken study of Russian formulas about termination of belligerence, and that to best of our knowledge Sovs used same word for state of war and state of belligerence, noting translation Dobrynin had given us seemed to have no legal background.

Gromyko confirmed that there was no difference in Russian between state of war and state of belligerence. There was problem term had acquired among Arabs. I pointed out this was not a problem in Russian text but only in English and French versions, which could be met by change such as we had suggested. “Belligerence” was one of the states of war that would be terminated under this formula. I stated that with these proposals I had exhausted my flexibility and asked for some indication of flexibility on his side.
Gromyko said he needed some time to think the matter over. He would need to do some consultations. I said I did not think we could get agreement from parties now, but I did not see how they could take exception to such principles. Buffum added that perhaps it would be easier for them if principles were adopted by UN, to which they could later conform; we had some indications from moderate Arabs this might be so.
Gromyko then commented that words “without delay” fitted well in first para (on withdrawal) but not so well in second para, which dealt with complex policy questions while first one dealt with an act. He did not raise question of a different approach, but of acceptability, not a question of a change at expense of anyone’s interests.
I replied we felt there must be equality of principles. We could drop “without delay” from both paras or add it to both. (Gromyko clearly was only going through motions on this point.) I then noted that LA res might be more helpful in this regard. Words “is expected” were, according to our info, strong words in Russian, and could be used in both paras. Then made point I was discussing these two paras in context putting them in LA text.
Gromyko then said he wondered if we couldn’t get word “states” out without changing meaning. A UN member was a state. I interjected we could say that each member of the UN in the area enjoyed the right to a national state of its own. He then said he would think whole matter over. He did not see clear possibilities, but he would like time to think and study. He as FonMin could take decision for his govt but Arabs have definite instructions here. (I inferred he was saying his instructions were he could agree to anything Arabs would agree to.) He did not know how often they received them; perhaps this depended on urgency of situation. In any case consultations were required, and it would be difficult to conclude them by tomorrow. If he saw possibilities in these texts and needed another day or so he wondered whether we would be agreeable.
I said that we wanted to complete the GA, but that if USSR was seriously consulting about possibilities along such lines as I indicated we would be willing for GA to go over until Friday. Gromyko said he thought that would be enough time. Suggested US should consult own position as well. I repeated we had exhausted our flexibility. Hoped we could reach agreement soon either in GA or SC. Gromyko said it would be better in GA so we would not clash in SC.
In closing Pedersen pointed out Indians were already circulating procedural text5 to recess GA among other states for sponsorship. This had been discussed with us and we understood with them. Gromyko said they had told Indians they had no objections to their going ahead to prepare such text, for use if no substantive agreement possible, but without Sov commitment at this point. I told him we had substantially same position.
Afterward pursuant to press inquiries we agreed with Dobrynin that we would confirm meeting had taken place and that questions relating to GA were discussed.

Comment: I think it is unlikely Sovs will be able to move far enough away from radical Arabs (especially Algeria and Syria) to accept either of positions I gave him, though he seemed to be considering the first one. On other hand Gromyko was clearly interested in getting something more out of GA than Indian procedural res. Inasmuch as his emphasis was on persuading Arabs to accept something, and inasmuch as all our info indicates they have no intention of doing so, probability, though not certainty, is still return to procedural res Friday.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Moscow and the White House. Received on July 20 at 2:12 a.m. The telegram contains handwritten corrections based on a cabled correction. (Ibid.) Rostow forwarded a copy of telegram 290 to the President on July 20 with a covering note commenting that the essence of Goldberg’s report was that “the Soviets would like to find an agreed formula on the Middle East but they cannot bring around the extreme Arabs.” He added that Goldberg particularly wanted the President to read the cable. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt Rostow)
  2. July 9.
  3. See Document 348.
  4. Telegram 289 from USUN, July 20 (erroneously dated July 21), reported discussions concerning this proposed draft resolution. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR/UN)
  5. See footnote 4 above.