176. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Middle East

PARTICIPANTS

  • For the United States:
    • The Secretary
    • G—Ambassador Bohlen
    • EUR—John M. Leddy
  • For the Soviet Union:
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov
    • Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin
    • Min. Couns. Yuri N. Tcherniakov

Kuznetsov, referring to the latest statements by the UAR and Jordan, said that the Arabs had now made forward steps toward a political solution: (1) They had agreed with the essence of the resolution of the United Nations Security Council of November 22. (2) The UAR had indicated its readiness to continue consultations in New York. And, (3) the UAR had agreed to consider the entire scope of the November 22 resolution. Therefore, the other side should not miss this opportunity. But the position of the Israelis is not constructive. And the US has demonstrated no desire to take even a quarter of a step toward resolving the problem. The US should do more to take advantage of this favorable moment. Present tensions could lead to even greater tensions.

The Secretary said that the agreement of the Israelis, the Jordanians and the UAR to have talks with Jarring was at least a step, even though small. President Johnson had reaffirmed American support for the Security Council resolution on the occasion of the recent visit of Tunisian President Bourguiba. The US will support Jarring in New York. We do not insist upon the Israeli position that Israeli-Arab talks at this point must be face-to-face. There was haggling going on between the two sides, each trying to gain. The Secretary said that the US was disappointed with Kosygin’s reply to President Johnson’s letter on the control of arms to the Middle East,2 which Kosygin had tried to condition upon Israeli withdrawal. The US feels that the Arabs must show restraint. We know that countries other than the Soviet Union are supplying arms to the Middle East, but US/Soviet agreement on this subject is probably necessary to bring this traffic under control. The job [Page 346] now in the Middle East is to get both sides to agree to get down to talks on the substance if progress is to be made.

Kuznetsov said that he had nothing to add to the Kosygin letter on the arms question. Regarding the Jarring Mission, the Soviets wished it success and would do their best to support it. The Secretary observed that we are somewhat disappointed that Jarring had proceeded so cautiously-so far he had not talked substance, only procedure. We hope for a better result from his activities in New York.

Kuznetsov said that the Soviets had given careful thought to the Middle East. They believe that the Israelis must now take a step and that the US must do something to pressure the Israelis.

Kuznetsov then referred to the proposal by the Security Council to establish a time-table for the achievement of a solution to the Middle East problem. The Secretary said that a time-table made sense only in relation to implementing a solution which had already been agreed upon. If a time-table is simply means for establishing pre-conditions, then all the same old difficulties would arise again. Therefore, it is important for Jarring to deal with the real issues.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Leddy and approved in S/S. The memorandum is “Part II of V.” The meeting was held in the Secretary’s dining room.
  2. For President Johnson’s January 20 letter, see Document 57. For Kosygin’s February 27 message, see Document 58.