266. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Views of the United States Government Regarding the Communication Presented by the Government of the USSR


  • The Under Secretary
  • His Excellency Anatoliy Dobrynin, Ambassador of the USSR
  • Lucius D. Battle, Assistant Secretary, NEA

The Soviet Ambassador called on Mr. Katzenbach, at the latter’s request, at his residence on Sunday, September 29, at approximately 8:15 p.m.

[Page 523]

Mr. Katzenbach handed to the Soviet Ambassador the attached paper which the Under Secretary described as the views of the United States with respect to the recent communication presented by the Government of the USSR to the United States.2 Mr. Katzenbach emphasized that the paper contained the views of the United States and did not represent the views of the Government of Israel or any other country in the area. Mr. Katzenbach pointed out that Ambassador Jarring has worked long and hard and that he has a chance in the weeks ahead with the Foreign Ministers present to make progress under the resolution of November 22, 1967. The United States expects to exercise all influence possible on the situation and hopes to get substantive discussions underway in what will be an important period. It is particularly important, Mr. Katzenbach emphasized, for all pressure possible to be placed upon the countries concerned and in particular the UAR, Jordan, and Israel. The longer there is no move toward peace, the greater the difficulty, and the United States hopes very much that progress will be possible during the New York meeting.

The Soviet Ambassador asked what the main point was of the communication. Is it merely to assist Ambassador Jarring?

The Under Secretary replied that this was the main point and that the United States was making every effort to support him in his efforts.

The Ambassador asked what was new in the paper. The USSR considers that there must be concrete proposals if there is to be progress.

Mr. Katzenbach replied that we considered proposals for a solution should be advanced by Jarring in an effort to promote agreement of the parties. One of the most difficult points would be to arrive at a definition, for example, of agreed and secure boundaries.

Ambassador Dobrynin said that the Soviet Union agrees that adjustments in these lines are the business of the parties and not the business of the Soviet Union. However, he felt that it was necessary to make concrete proposals and that the Soviet Union, while wishing to help Jarring, considered that its more detailed suggestions had been a move in that direction. The USSR did not wish to press its paper. If the United States does not like the Russian proposal, the Russians would welcome steps by the United States to offer its own plan. France has a practical approach, and other countries must be equally practical.

Mr. Katzenbach replied that the question of timing was an important element. We consider it important to get the parties down to discussion of issues and substance. We believe that we have a common purpose with the Soviet Union of getting a settlement and ending a [Page 524] dangerous situation. We are reluctant, however, to tell Ambassador Jarring what to do. He must make that decision.

Dobrynin replied that Jordan was, he understood, depressed and may give up. What can be done that is practical and will help? The USSR is not trying to impose a settlement because of the Czech situation. It, too, wished to help Ambassador Jarring.

Mr. Katzenbach said that he had not brought up the Czech matter, that the Ambassador had mentioned it first.

There was general talk of the problems of the area with Mr. Katzenbach emphasizing that the Arabs primarily wanted withdrawal while the Israelis primarily want peace arrangements based on recognition of their existence and a permanent arrangement. The United States, of course, is aware that a peace treaty would be difficult, but there were other forms of settlement that could accomplish the same goal.

The Ambassador agreed to present to the Government of the USSR the views contained in the memorandum.


The United States Government has noted the views of the Soviet Government concerning a Middle East settlement presented by Ambassador Dobrynin to Secretary Rusk on September 4, 1968.3
The United States takes the view that peace in the Middle East is not the concern only of the countries of the region and that the persistence of tension in that area, and the absence of peace, threatens the general peace.
While sharing Soviet concern over the situation in the Middle East, the United States cannot accept the description contained in the Soviet document of the causes of that situation and the positions and actions taken by the parties since the cessation of hostilities. Moreover, it must reject as totally unfounded the allegation that the United States Government has supported a negative and deliberately obstructionist policy on the part of the Government of Israel. This statement is unwarranted and untrue. On the contrary, it is the view of the United States Government that the level of the flow of arms from the Soviet [Page 525] Union into the area has been a major factor in obstructing meaningful peace negotiations between the parties.
The views of the United States have been set forth by the President and other senior U.S. Government representatives on a number of occasions and are well known to the Government of the Soviet Union. The five principles enunciated by the President in his address of June 19, 1967, as reiterated by him on September 10, 1968, remain the basis for United States policy concerning a Middle East settlement.
Since the adoption of the Security Council resolution, the United States has given its full support to the efforts of Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring to fulfill his mandate “to promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles” in the Council resolution. The United States Government believes that its primary effort, along with that of the Soviet Union and other governments, should be directed at supporting Ambassador Jarring and in doing nothing that would in any way detract from or interfere in his activities. This attitude is reflected in the Security Council’s resolution of September 18, 1968,4 to which both the United States and the Soviet Union gave their support.
The United States, on its part, will make a renewed effort to encourage the parties to engage in the fullest and freest exchange of substantive proposals under his auspices and to accept such procedures as he may suggest to promote agreement as required by the resolution. It is hoped the USSR will do likewise. Just as we have felt that insistence upon direct negotiations as a pre-condition to serious substantive exchanges is unrealistic, so we believe the view that no joint talks can take place under Jarring’s auspices is equally unrealistic. We hope the USSR will give this critical point the serious attention it deserves; for it is most difficult for us to conceive that stable peace can be achieved in this area without negotiations involving the parties at some stage, given the complexity of the issues.
The Soviet document requests the views of the United States Government concerning steps which in its view must be taken for a prompt settlement of the Middle East problem. In response to that request, the United States Government would like to seek certain clarifications and present the following observations, which inter alia could be explored in future consultations:
The Soviet document refers in paragraph (a) to the readiness of the parties to implement the Security Council resolution of November [Page 526] 22, 1967. The United States wishes to point out that an essential part of the obligation to implement the resolution is the obligation to cooperate fully with Ambassador Jarring in the carrying out of his mandate as set forth in paragraph three of the resolution to promote agreement among the states concerned. It does not regard the Security Council resolution as self-implementing. It believes, on the contrary, that under the resolution the parties must take responsibility for an agreed settlement and that a settlement cannot be imposed upon the parties by others. The United States would welcome further clarification of the Soviet views on this point.
The United States notes with interest that the Soviet document refers in paragraph (a) to the possibility of consultations “through Jarring or in some other form.” The United States believes that consultations involving the parties will be essential to the development of agreement on a peaceful settlement envisaged by the November 22, 1967 Security Council resolution. Does the Soviet Union share this view?
The United States agrees that it may be desirable for United Nations forces to be employed to assist in the carrying out of the terms of a settlement agreed by the parties and notes in this connection that the Soviet document makes a number of suggestions in this regard. While not being able to accept some of the concepts reflected in these suggestions, the United States would be prepared to discuss with the Soviet Government the idea of use of United Nations forces in connection with an agreed settlement.
The United States further notes that paragraph (b) 5 of the Soviet document provides that the declarations of the Arab countries and Israel on the cessation of the state of war and the establishment of peace would become effective “either through the instrumentality of the Security Council or through the signing of a multilateral document.” The United States believes that the peace must be based upon arrangements which directly bind the parties. Is this what is intended by the reference to a “multilateral document”? The United States believes that a document signed jointly by the parties is the most desirable, if not the only, means of obligating the parties to carry out the agreement worked out in accordance with the resolution of November 22, 1967. It believes, also, that Security Council endorsement of the terms of a settlement agreed by the parties could serve a useful purpose. The United States is not clear what a Four Power guarantee would add to such a Security Council endorsement of the agreement of the parties, but it is willing to examine the possibility at the appropriate time.
Concerning the above point on the cessation of the state of war, does the USSR share the view of the United States that a termination of the state of belligerency would mean that there would be complete [Page 527] freedom of passage through international waterways, including the Suez Canal, for all vessels?
The Soviet document comments at some length on the desirability of a plan or timetable for implementation of the Security Council resolution. The United States has no objection to the concept of a plan under which the steps required for carrying out the peace settlement agreed to by the parties, and the timing of those steps, would be spelled out. It may be that the parties would find such a detailed plan necessary since, as the Soviet document also notes, the actions to be taken by the parties in carrying out their agreed settlement would inevitably be interrelated and in some degree interdependent. It is in light of this interrelationship that the United States firmly adheres to the view that all elements of a settlement must be dealt with in arriving at the terms of a settlement. It is the understanding of the United States, moreover, that the parties, including the UAR, all recognize that the Security Council resolution requires a “package” which would settle all the problems left open for negotiations by the resolution, whatever the chronology for implementation on which they might agree. In our view this position represents a proper interpretation of the resolution.
There is one specific aspect of the program outlined in the Soviet document which in particular merits comment: the idea of Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 5 line. The essence of the United States policy since June 5, 1967, has been and remains that the state of armistice among the parties must be replaced, as the resolution of November 22, 1967, states, by a condition of peace. The armistice agreements of 1949 called for a transition to peace and specifically contemplated the possibility of agreed changes in the armistice lines of 1949 as part of that transition. The Security Council resolution calls for withdrawal of Israeli armed forces to secure and recognized boundaries, free from threats or acts of force, but does not specify that those boundaries should be precisely the lines held prior to June 5, 1967, or on any other date. In view of the complexity of this question, the United States believes that this is a matter which requires the priority attention of both the parties and Ambassador Jarring.
The United States believes it important that the Soviet and United States Government continue to consult on all possibilities for a settlement of the Middle East situation. It expects to be in contact with Ambassador Jarring in the days immediately ahead and, of course, there will be further opportunity for the two governments to exchange views during Minister Gromyko’s forthcoming visit to New York during the General Assembly session.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Battle on September 30 and approved in U on October 9.
  2. The attached paper was summarized in telegram 254018 to Tel Aviv, October 11. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  3. See Document 245.
  4. On September 18 the Security Council adopted a resolution reaffirming the principles of Resolution 242, urging the fullest cooperation with the Jarring Mission, and stipulating that the cease-fire ordered by the Security Council in several resolutions be respected. (UN doc. S/RES/258 (1968))