105. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

127656. For Ambassador. Pass following message urgently from Secretary to FonMin Gromyko:

“The USG notes the statement in the oral message of Feb. 282 that the Soviet Union stands firmly for a lessening of tensions in the Middle East, and for turning this area into a zone of lasting peace. We are in full agreement with this goal. In our view, the efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement in the Middle East have now entered a critical phase, in which the full support of the United States and the Soviet Union could be of decisive importance.

The United States welcomes the assurance in your message that the Soviet Government agrees under certain conditions to an exchange of views on limiting the delivery of arms to the Middle East. We are concerned, however, that the Soviet Government believes that such limitations need await settlement of certain other aspects of the conflict. Our message of January 223 emphasized the President’s concern at the extensive supply of weapons from the Soviet Union and noted the pressures on the United States Government to take similar action. We consider it highly desirable to agree upon limitation of arms shipments to the area as soon as possible. We are therefore prepared promptly to [Page 216] discuss with the Soviet Union in a positive spirit the establishment of limitations on arms shipments. Any progress we can make in this regard would hardly fail to facilitate the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

We are concerned that the Soviet Union still appears to adhere to the position that a peaceful settlement in the Middle East depends upon prior withdrawal of Israeli forces to the lines existing before June 5, 1967. We believe that your position, that such Israeli withdrawal must be the first and basic point, is not consistent with the Security Council Resolution of November 22. The Security Council Resolution clearly recognizes the interrelationship between Israeli withdrawal, agreement upon secure and recognized boundaries, the termination of belligerency, respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area, guarantees of freedom of innocent maritime passage, and progress in solving the refugee problem. There is nothing artificial about the interrelationship of these elements; it is in the nature of the situation and of the history of this conflict. The principles enunciated in the Security Council Resolution point the way from an uncertain armistice to a durable and stable peace. Taken together they form the basis for a lasting settlement. They reflect the policy publicly stated by President Johnson on June 19, 1967, explained personally to Chairman Kosygin at Glassboro, and more recently reaffirmed in detail by Ambassador Goldberg in his discussion with Ambassador Dobrynin on February 28. The essential aim of this policy is to replace the Armistice regime of 1949 with an agreed and accepted settlement assuring a just and durable peace.

The history of the Palestine problem makes all too clear the necessity for such an agreed and accepted settlement by the parties. The US, as you well know, was primarily responsible for obtaining withdrawal of Israeli forces in 1957. The international understanding, on the basis of which Israeli forces were withdrawn, was that the Straits of Tiran would be and would remain open to ships of all nations including Israel. The UAR last May asserted that this international understanding was never formally accepted by it, and therefore was not binding. Its repudiation of this international understanding, which led directly to the recent conflict, demonstrates the necessity for engaging and committing the parties directly in a settlement of the issues currently in controversy.

What is vital, in our view, is that the opportunities for peace opened up by the passage of the Security Council Resolution of November 22, 1967 and the appointment of Ambassador Jarring, should be constructively used. Ambassador Jarring has made limited progress, but the possibility now exists for advancing to a next stage in which [Page 217] the parties would carry on negotiations and discussions under his auspices on Cyprus. If the permanent members of the Security Council, and other states, give him unstinting support we believe the prospects for peace are good. For its part the United States Government is giving him such support. We have endeavored to persuade both sides in the dispute to move forward by negotiating, under his auspices, agreements on all the elements encompassed by the Security Council resolution.

We would hope that you would use your influence with the UAR to accept the idea of the 1949 Rhodes-type negotiations. We are confident that, if this pattern of negotiations can be accepted again, it will be possible to surmount the difficulties which have been involved in Ambassador Jarring’s conversations thus far, and permit the parties, at long last, to begin the substantive negotiations so essential for settlement.

We strongly urge that the Soviet Union, which has indicated its support of Ambassador Jarring’s Mission, use its diplomatic influence to persuade the Arab states to take this essential next step.”

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Sisco and Eugene Rostow, cleared by Battle, Walt Rostow, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs John M. Leddy; and approved by Rusk.
  2. The message was conveyed to Secretary Rusk by Ambassador Dobrynin on February 27; see Document 93.
  3. See Document 57.