410. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Yugoslavia 1

17945. Please deliver following message to appropriate level Foreign Office for conveyance to President Tito. Make presentation orally but leave copy for convenience Foreign Office:

“The President appreciates the willingness of President Tito at this time to take responsibility for trying to contribute to a peaceful solution [Page 761] of the crisis, and wishes him success in his mission to the Middle East.2 He wishes to assure President Tito that within the context of his statement of principle on June 19, we will use our best efforts to cooperate in every effort to find a just and lasting solution of the Middle East crisis.

The United States agrees with President Tito that a Middle Eastern settlement now should be realistic and long-term. The world cannot accept an indefinite continuation of the risks of the precarious armistice regime which exploded on June 5th. The United States agrees also that the settlement should not humiliate the Arab states, or require them to give up any rights or interests they may legitimately claim. President Tito may be assured that in approaching the problem of a settlement the United States will take fully into account the rights and interests of the Arab states, along with those of Israel and of other nations with interests in the Middle East.

The United States has long standing ties of friendship and interest in the Middle East. It wishes to have friendly and cooperative relations with all the nations of the region. Its concern for these fundamental factors in the situation, and its respect for the true long-term interests of the Arab states, led the United States from the outbreak of hostilities on June 5th to adopt the policy of seeking not another armistice, but a solution of peace.

In our view, the dispute over Israel’s right to exist is the root of the trouble in the Middle East. The United States agrees with President Tito’s comment that most of the countries represented at the United Nations accepted the legitimacy of the existence of Israel in the course of the recent session of the Assembly. This fact, as he rightly remarked, should now have its impact on the Arabs themselves.

While the United States agrees that the Arab States should not be humiliated, the United States does not feel that it can be regarded as unreasonable for one member of the United Nations to acknowledge the existence of another, or to state that it is not engaged in a war to destroy that state, or that it is not free to resume hostilities against that state at will. The continuance of the dream of destroying Israel has [Page 762] become a burden to world peace, and a threat to the interests of the Arab states as well. The Arab states can hardly claim rights of belligerency for themselves, and object if Israel exercises the same claims reciprocally.

The United States hopes that the Government of Yugoslavia agrees that the time has come for every member of the United Nations in the area to acknowledge that each enjoys the right to maintain an independent national state of its own, and to live in peace and security, and that all claims and acts inconsistent with this should be renounced.

There has been some misunderstanding of what the United States means by belligerent rights. In the view of the American Government, an abandonment of claims of belligerency would not require the United Arab Republic, for example, to extend recognition to Israel or to establish diplomatic relations with it, normal and desirable as both our governments regard this to be. It would, however, among other things, assure the right of all nations to use the Strait of Tiran and the Suez Canal, and eliminate any claim of a right to threaten or to use armed force on the part of one Middle Eastern state against another.

There are many ways in which a movement towards peace can begin. In view of the United States, one simple first step would be for the United Arab Republic to accept the Draft Resolution upon which the Soviet Union and the United States reached agreement during the final days of the General Assembly. This Resolution would have broad support in the Security Council. It could become the basis for a general settlement which deals constructively with all the other elements of the problem mentioned by President Johnson in his speech of June 19: the tragedy of the refugees, the protection of international rights in Jerusalem, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces to agreed and secure national boundaries.

In this process, there can be no substitute for the responsibility of the states of the region. Others can help. But these problems cannot be solved unless they take responsibility for dealing with them directly and realistically.

The Yugoslav delegation to the United Nations has discussed with American representatives the possible appointment by the Secretary General of a prominent individual who could undertake the important process of mediation between the parties, within the framework of the principles mentioned above. The United States hopes President Tito will explore this possibility in the course of his trip since the United States believes the appointment of a mediator could be a constructive next step towards a durable and stable peace in the Near East.

[Page 763]

The United States notes the concern of President Tito about any attempt on the part of Israel to extend the territories it now occupies. In this connection, the United States considers it essential that the ceasefire be respected by both sides and that every member of the United Nations support General Bull’s efforts to this end until such time as conditions of peace are established that permit a permanent withdrawal.

The United States Government is giving careful study to President Tito’s thought that the great powers of the Security Council undertake direct responsibility for guaranteeing the agreements reached by way of settlement, including a possible guarantee of Israel against future attack.

President Tito’s suggestion is worthy of most serious consideration. In the first instance, however, it would be necessary to consult the parties directly concerned, and, subsequently, other parties in interest. The United States Government knows that President Tito appreciates that for any security arrangements and guarantees to be effective, they must not only reflect undertakings by both Israel and the Arabs, but must be in the context of durable and stable peace in lieu of the state of war which has existed in the past.

The United States Government is not in accord with a statement about arms shipments made by President Tito in his talk with Ambassador Elbrick; the United States Government does regard Soviet arms deliveries in the Middle East with concern. These arms deliveries since 1955 have been on an excessive and provocative scale. While it is true, as President Tito remarked, ‘arms do not fight by themselves,’ there are many Arab leaders who say they wish to resume hostilities in one form or another. Therefore, the risk remains. The United States considers an effective practical agreement on arms limitation in the area as an important aspect of any plan for durable peace in the region.

The United States notes with approval and agreement President Tito’s determination to make every effort to help the Arab countries economically. The United States deplores the state of affairs whereby economic gains labored for by Arab leaders are being dissipated. With the state of belligerency removed and a permanent peace established, the United States would foresee economic progress quickly resuming in those countries. Since the end of the second World War, successive United States administrations have pledged their support for economic progress and for the political independence and territorial integrity of all states in the Middle East. This position has not changed. The United States will do its part in any such effort.

The United States Government wishes to emphasize the importance it attaches to mutual understanding between the United States [Page 764] and Yugoslavia, and its appreciation for President Tito’s initiative in behalf of peace.”3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow; cleared by Battle, Sisco, Harriman, Stoessel, Meeker, and Walt Rostow; and approved by Katzenbach. Repeated Priority to London, Tel Aviv, Moscow, and USUN.
  2. Ambassador C. Burke Elbrick met with Tito at Brioni on July 29 and delivered a message from President Johnson, which stated that the U.S. position on the Middle East was based on the five principles Johnson had announced on June 19 and centered on the conviction that each nation of that area must accept the right of its neighbors to peaceful and secure existence. It also expressed the hope that the United States and Yugoslavia could work together in the interests of a just and durable settlement in the Middle East. (Telegram 13567 to Belgrade, July 27; ibid.) Tito discussed the Middle East situation with Elbrick and told him that he expected to visit the UAR, Syria, and Iraq after the middle of August and would do everything possible to work toward a peaceful solution. (Telegram 292 from Belgrade, July 30; ibid.)
  3. Telegram 421 from Belgrade, August 9, reported that the message had been delivered to Acting Foreign Minister Dimitrij Vosnjak that morning. (Ibid.)