23. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Battle) and James Birdsall1

Mr. James Birdsall called me on Wednesday, December 20, to report that he had received a call from Mr. Siddiqi who wanted to know whether Mr. Birdsall had been able to deliver the communication from President Nasser to President Johnson. Mr. Siddiqi had received a call from Mr. Hafiz in Cairo who indicated once again that he had spoken for President Nasser. Hafiz apparently had stated that Mr. Nasser was eager for a reply as soon as possible and intended to issue a statement praising President Johnson as a man of peace, assuming a favorable reply was forthcoming to the communication. It was suggested also (by whom was not clear) that Mr. Birdsall return to Cairo and give his reaction to President Johnson [ Nasser?], as well as convey any reply. Mr. Birdsall, while he repeatedly said that he wished to do whatever we wanted him to do, obviously would like nothing better than to make another trip to convey the message. I informed him that the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between two countries always required detailed negotiations, paperwork, etc., and it was also imperative that we get the matter, assuming agreement in principle, into governmental channels. Mr. Birdsall agreed and then made a series of arguments in favor of his own continued involvement. I told Mr. Birdsall that in view of the President’s trip to Australia he would not have an opportunity to deal with this matter for at least a week. Mr. Birdsall had already conveyed to the Egyptians that the President was away and that he (Mr. Birdsall) could not possibly make a trip before the early part of January. I agreed to be back in touch with Mr. Birdsall when we had had an opportunity to consider the matter further.

Mr. Birdsall said that he had informed the Egyptians that the President had received him warmly and that both Mr. Rostow and I had been very constructive in our approach to the matter. He also had told the Egyptians that he was sure a reply would be forthcoming and that it would be both polite and helpful.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, NEA Files: Lot 71 D 79, 1967–1968. No classification marking. Drafted by Battle.