443. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Middle East


  • Mr. Yuri N. Tcherniakov, Minister Counselor, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • Mr. Eugene V. Rostow, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Under Secretary Rostow lunched with Counselor Y. N. Tcherniakov at the latter’s invitation on September 20, 1967, at the Residence of the Soviet Ambassador.

The conversation concerned several topics, and is reported in separate memoranda of conversation.

After preliminary amenities, Mr. Tcherniakov asked what prospects we saw for a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Rostow answered [Page 839] that we thought the strongest base for going forward was a Security Council resolution based on the principles and ideas on which we had agreed at the end of the General Assembly. This had been the tenor of our recent talks with Tito and the Arabs, and with other governments. Mr. Tcherniakov said this was also the view of his government.

(At this point Mr. Tcherniakov switched the conversation to Vietnam. He led the way back to the Middle East at a later point.)

Mr. Tcherniakov enquired broadly about Israeli views on a settlement. Rostow commented that while we could not speak or negotiate for Israel, it was our impression that their official position on these matters had not changed in either direction—that the Israelis would make great sacrifices for a condition of peace. Both men agreed that at this point the parties were in a state of negotiating from a distance—making signals in their speeches and actions, and naturally quite strong ones. So far as Egypt was concerned, we did not think the problems of settlement should present serious difficulties, once the principle of the resolution on which we had agreed in July was accepted. There was the Gaza Strip of course, but that had never been Egyptian territory. Security arrangements would certainly be necessary. Nodding, Tcherniakov asked whether we thought a solution for Syria would be difficult. Rostow said we had originally thought not, but that the Israelis had been shocked by the fortifications they found on the Golan Hills. We were not clear whether demilitarization would be enough. Both men agreed that the armistice lines between Jordan and Israel would present serious problems.

Tcherniakov hoped that we would use our influence with Israel to obtain concessions in the process of peace-making. He said he was glad that both our governments were agreed that the starting point was to link troop withdrawals with an end of the claims of belligerency.

Rostow said he hoped we could begin on that general footing in the Security Council, and soon. The world was beginning to think that nothing could be accomplished through the U.N. It would be electrified if we sponsored a resolution together in the Security Council. Tcherniakov said that some period in the Assembly might be necessary, but he agreed that the nations had had a sufficient opportunity to express themselves on the Middle East in the General Assembly. “They have talked enough,” he said.

Tcherniakov referred to the Gromyko-Goldberg agreement between the two governments at least four times, and concluded, referring back to the conversation about Vietnam, that if we succeeded in acting together in one place, it could help elsewhere. None of these local quarrels in small distant countries, he said, were worth a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, but such episodes kept recurring.

[Page 840]

(Rostow decided not to press for greater clarification about whether the language of the July draft2 could be negotiated further. Instead, he sought reiteration of the basic point—that the agreement was still alive—and notice that we might have some drafting changes to suggest.)

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, USSR, Vol. XVI. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Rostow. Walt Rostow sent the memorandum to the President on September 22 along with the memorandum of the portion of the conversation concerning Vietnam.
  2. See Documents 380 and 384.