21. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Mr. Walt Rostow
  • Mr. James E. Birdsall
  • Assistant Secretary of State, Lucius D. Battle

Mr. Birdsall called on President Johnson at approximately 4:15 p.m. on December 18.

Mr. Birdsall presented to President Johnson a letter from President Nasser,2 a copy of which is attached. Mr. Birdsall also said he had an [Page 41]oral message for the President.3 President Nasser had asked him to convey expressions of the highest personal esteem for President Johnson. President Nasser also wished President Johnson to know that he regrets the break in relations between the United States and the United Arab Republic. President Nasser desires to resume relations and will endeavor to induce other Arab countries who broke with the United States to resume relations.

President Nasser hopes that President Johnson will use his influence to bring about an Israeli withdrawal. At the same time President Nasser would permit himself to accept a “state of nonbelligerency” between the United Arab Republic and the Government of Israel.

President Nasser hopes that after resumption of relations, President Johnson will make a gesture of friendship to the Arab nations. At the same time he understands United States relations with the Government of Israel.

President Nasser would appreciate an invitation to visit the United States.

President Nasser hopes that President Johnson will acknowledge the messages conveyed by Mr. Birdsall to President Johnson.

President Johnson expressed his gratitude to Mr. Birdsall and said he would consider the messages as well as what form an appropriate reply might take.4

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Harold H. Saunders, United Arab Republic, 4/1/66-12/3/67. Secret; Nodis. No drafting information appears on the memorandum, which is dated December 19.
  2. Document 12.
  3. In a December 14 memorandum from Executive Secretary Benjamin Read to Rostow, the Department of State recommended that Birdsall be encouraged to deliver the oral message to Rostow and Battle rather than directly to the President. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, United Arab Republic, Vol. VI, Memos, 8/67-7/68) On December 18 Rostow sent a memorandum to the President in which he stated that Birdsall felt obligated to deliver Nasser's message directly to the President. If he could not follow Nasser's instructions, Birdsall told Rostow and Battle that he would have to report to Cairo that he had failed in his mission. Rostow noted that Nasser would be certain to regard such a failure as a personal rebuff, and he therefore recommended that the President meet with Birdsall. (Ibid.)
  4. Birdsall supplemented his oral message with a 9-page memorandum, dated December 19, in which he detailed the background to his meeting with Nasser, as well as the meeting itself. (Ibid.)