40. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1

7868. Ref: State 199710.2

Accompanied by DCM I have just spent hour and 45 minutes with FonMin Riad in frank, cordial sometimes forceful discussion current crisis.3
Will convey here key points and follow with more detailed summary.
In response Riad’s request for my views on situation after conclusion initial pleasantries incident my presentation copies letters credence and recall,4 Isaid that recent events have persuaded me of extreme seriousness of developments and I hoped it was not improper on this occasion to set forth frankly my govt’s views.
Giving Riad copy of note verbale reftel, I waited his reading of it and then said that four U.S. Presidents had been committed to act in support of measures to counter aggression overt or clandestine in Near [Page 67] East and to support territorial integrity and independence of all countries in the area. I hoped FonMin and his govt were fully aware of these commitments. Referring to Rostow’s talk with Amb Kamel last night (State 199731),5 I stressed UARG should fully understand USG would make every effort avoid war or stop one if started and that we were urging restraint with Israel. However, issue of freedom of passage through Gulf of Aqaba was issue of far-reaching importance and any violation of this freedom would, in US view, constitute aggression. Requested clarification UAR intent re Aqaba.
FonMin said UAR would stop Israeli ships and confiscate strategic cargoes all other vessels. UAR would not commit aggression but would resolutely defend itself against attack. We conclude US is thus in direct confrontation with UAR.
Very little flexibility in UAR position as stated by Riad. Only possible opening was his extensive references to MAC as device which might have worked had Israel supported it. Will report this in full separately.6
FonMin cordial, candid, resolute, position well thought out. Strong impression Egypt would carry through as advertised.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Received at 9:48 a.m. and passed to the White House at 10:10 a.m.
  2. Document 35.
  3. Nolte reported in telegram 7864 from Cairo, May 23, that he had given the President’s letter to Foreign Minister Riad and asked him to deliver it to President Nasser. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR)
  4. Nolte, a newly appointed ambassador, arrived in Cairo on May 21 and had not yet presented his credentials to Nasser.
  5. Telegram 199731 to Cairo, May 22, summarized a conversation that evening between Ambassador Kamel and Under Secretary Rostow. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR)
  6. Nolte reported the conversation in detail in telegram 7873 from Cairo, May 23. (Ibid.)