57. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

201585. Subj: Four-Power Meeting on Middle East.

Lucet came in to see Undersecretary Rostow this afternoon to propose a quadripartite meeting of Ambassadors to the UN. Paris is making similar approaches in Moscow and London.
Lucet’s instruction said that situation has sharply aggravated in the past few days, particularly following Egypt’s announcement to close straits. Whatever the different points of view, it read, question now is to preserve peace and to make sure that no party is contemplating any action which might endanger it. Nothing can be attained unless four great powers agree on necessity of maintaining peace. Therefore they should meet together to examine what to propose and undertake and particularly to be sure that none of the parties concerned engages in any operation of force. Subsequently the four powers can take up discussions of various modus vivendi. In the immediate future, the four Ambassadors to the UN should meet in New York. Very fact of their meeting should have a calming effect.
Rostow replied that the US has been trying to arrange such a meeting but Soviets have been unwilling. Goldberg on instruction again expressed this afternoon hope that the four meet.2
Real problem, Rostow said, is not whether you meet but whether you can agree. French statement says in effect that no one should make the situation worse. Does that mean that the Israelis should refrain from challenging blockade or that Arabs should desist from their claim? US has taken very grave responsibility of asking Israel to refrain from sending a ship down from Gulf of Aqaba. But that is not a position that can be held indefinitely. Israelis might well have moved to strike yesterday had it not been for US intervention. They will not hold off for long unless Cairo gives assurance it will not exercise their claim. Any number of formulas can be found but basic point is that there is no way to compromise on free passage through straits.
Rostow outlined British proposal for declaration by maritime powers and said we thought well of it. Lucet had no reaction from Paris to our earlier queries.
Rostow also raised report we have had that Egyptians are trying to buy wheat in France and urged French to delay. This is no time, he said, to slacken pressure on Nasser.
Rostow asked about resupply position for French equipment in Israeli armed forces should war break out. Lucet said he would look into the question.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Eugene Rostow’s Special Assistant Thomas O. Enders and approved by Rostow. Also sent Priority to London, Moscow, and Paris, and to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Damascus, and Amman.
  2. Goldberg said this at the conclusion of a statement to the UN Security Council on May 24; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 12, 1967, pp. 871–873.