450. Memorandum of Conversations1


  • Middle East Crisis: US–UAR Relations


  • Mr. Mohamed Riad, Counselor, UAR Foreign Ministry
  • Mr. Hassan Sabri al-Khouli, Personal Representative of the President of the UAR
  • Donald C. Bergus, Principal Officer, U.S. Interests Section, Cairo

I lunched for two hours with Mohamed Riad at the Waldorf. He was eager to know the results of my consultation in the Department. I reviewed various conversations and said it all boiled down to the conclusion that the United States Government hesitated to play a more active role in seeking a resolution of the crisis as long as the Arabs were unprepared to face up to the problem of belligerency. He was keenly disappointed at this.

The conversation continued but we kept coming back to this point. He said that the US attitude made it hard for those in Egypt who were doing their best to improve US–UAR relations and cited his efforts on behalf of the American University, Cairo American College, etc. I said that the future of these institutions and other cultural relations would be meaningful only if they were jointly recognized as worthwhile. He agreed.

He was not responsive to questions as to how far the Arabs intended to push the Tito proposals. He waffled as to current Arab and Russian attitudes toward the Dobrynin-Goldberg resolution. He did say that as a result of his recent visit with his boss to Moscow he could assure me that the Soviets were not interested in continuing the present situation. They had made it clear that they would like a settlement. The conversation ended on a friendly but rather mournful note. Mohamed was sure that his government would be very disappointed.

I then repaired to USUN where I reported the foregoing to Ambassador Meyer and Mr. Thatcher. Ambassador Meyer asked me to accompany him to the General Assembly. In the Delegates’ Lounge we encountered several members of the UAR Delegation including Ismail Fahmy and Hassan Sabri al-Khouli. Ambassador Meyer talked with Ismail Fahmy. I had a fairly lengthy private discussion with Hassan Sabri.

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Hassan Sabri said that Mohamed Riad had briefed him about our luncheon conversation. He would not pretend to be pleased but neither was he particularly disappointed. He recognized that it would be a long time before the Middle East crisis was resolved. He said that the Israelis could occupy Sinai for months, years, even decades. He felt that over the long run world public opinion would turn against Israel as it continued to expel people, blow up Arab houses, etc.

Hassan Sabri returned to his theme that US–UAR relations were more important than the Arab-Israel problem. He said he wanted normalization as quickly as possible. He said he had full authority from President Nasser to work for normalization and that I should not hesitate to raise any problem with him in this regard. He said that Nasser’s victory over the forces headed by Field Marshal Amer would facilitate the improvement of relations. He said that relations among peoples overshadowed political crises. He cited in this connection the lasting impact that Ambassador and Mrs. Battle had made on the Egyptians. He said the UAR wanted the return of dependents, resumption of TWA flights, and as much cultural exchange as possible. For the first time since the crisis, he spoke favorably about a resumption of diplomatic relations. He came as close as an Egyptian can to requesting assistance in arranging a meeting between the UAR Foreign Minister and Secretary Rusk.

I said that in Washington I had had a couple of meetings with an Israeli friend. The Israeli position was that while they would insist on recognition of Israel’s rights as a full-fledged member of the Near East, they had no desire to humiliate Egypt. They would not accept a settlement which did not include their right to use the Suez Canal. They felt that in direct conversations with the Egyptians, modalities could be worked out whereby this could be done without threatening the existence of the Cairo regime. The Israelis had no fear about their capability for defending themselves from their Arab neighbors. At the same time, they were tired of war and wanted something better. Hassan Sabri asked regarding the source. When I said it was the Minister-Counselor, he said, “Why not the Ambassador?” I said the Ambassador had a slipped disk. Hassan Sabri said that improved US–UAR relations were essential to creating confidence between Israel and the UAR.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27 ARAB–ISR. Confidential. Drafted by Bergus.