354. Note From the Soviet Embassy to the Department of State1

Note was taken in Moscow of some recent statements made by American officials in conversations with Soviet representatives in Washington and New York regarding the problems of a Middle East settlement, including observations made by Under Secretary Eugene Rostow, on behalf of the Secretary of State, in the conversation with the Soviet Ambassador on November 8 last. We welcomed the statement by the American side of its interest in continuing Soviet-American contacts and a regular exchange of views on the problems of a Middle East settlement. We, for our part, consider these contacts to be useful and are ready to continue them.

American representatives have put forward a number of considerations on the questions related to a settlement in the Middle East. These considerations are of definite interest, and we would like to express our opinion in connection with some of them.

1.
The Soviet Government notes with satisfaction the statement by the American side to the effect that Israel is now resting the whole territorial question on the Armistice Agreements of 1949, that is to say, in other words, that it has no territorial claims against the Arab States. It would be highly important that such a clear-cut and unequivocal statement be brought by the Israelis to the attention of Arab representatives as well (for instance, through Mr. Jarring). Such a statement, in our opinion, would undoubtedly facilitate progress in the cause of a settlement in the Middle East; it would lead to the development of a new and positive approach to this question.
2.
The American side expressed the view that Israel’s only territorial claim, so far as the UAR is concerned, concerns the question of guaranteeing freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran, since Israel raises the question of the necessity of stationing her forces at Sharm El Sheikh. Such a suggestion reveals once more the lack among the Israeli leaders of a realistic approach towards the problems of a settlement in the Middle East and their unwillingness to take the path of introducing reasonable and constructive proposals capable of advancing the whole question of settlement.
3.

In the conversation of November 8 the American side drew our attention to the two points in Eban’s document of November 4:2 that it is essential for the UAR to clarify its attitude toward a number of aspects of a settlement in the Middle East; and that the question of boundaries between Israel and the UAR could be discussed after the Egyptians have stated their readiness to establish a lasting peace with Israel.

As we see it, the UAR position is determined not only by the fact of its official recognition of the Security Council resolution of November 22, 1967 and by the statement of the UAR’s readiness to implement the provisions of that resolution, but also by the constructive response of the UAR government to the known “seven points,” outlined by Mr. Rusk. In that answer it is stated: “As to the termination of the state of belligerency, it will come into force on the Arab side as soon as Israel’s forces are withdrawn from the entire Arab territory occupied after June 5, 1967.”

At the same time, the Arab States have reasons to be dissatisfied with the fact that Israel, so far, has not made a clear and precise statement concerning recognition of this resolution and the readiness to implement it, that is, a statement similar to the corresponding statement by the Arab side.

Moreover, the UAR is known to have proposed drawing up a timetable for implementing the resolution, that is, for implementing all of its provisions, and has made specific suggestions in that connection. The Secretary of State has already had an opportunity to become acquainted with these suggestions. As for Israel, we know nothing about its attitude, not only toward these specific suggestions but even toward the very idea of drawing up a concrete program of measures to implement the resolution, which could lead to the establishment of peace and tranquillity in the Middle East. The American side, it seems to us, concurs in the necessity of a concrete approach to the questions of settlement. All the more valid, then, is the proposal of the Arab side regarding the necessity of working out a plan of concrete steps for the implementation of the Security Council resolution of November 22, 1967. It would seem proper for the American and Soviet sides to make efforts to assist the sides in working out such a plan. We would like to point out, in this connection, that we had already conveyed to the Secretary of State, on September 4 last, our views on this score.

4.
Moscow concurs in the idea of stepping up the mission of Mr. Jarring, who could, taking into account the positions of the sides known to him, himself make proposals that would help to bring these positions closer.
5.
We believe that the so-called seven points, enumerated by the American side, contain some constructive views. In particular, we noted that the first place among them is given to the question of Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories seized after June 5, 1967. Naturally, the attitude of the Middle Eastern countries to these proposals is of crucial importance. As it is known, the UAR Government has already replied to these American views. On the whole, the UAR leadership regarded the US “seven points” favorably, stipulating that the question can be that of the withdrawal of the Israeli troops from all the occupied Arab territories, i.e., not only from the territory of the UAR but also from those of Jordan and Syria.
6.
As for the proposal made by the American side regarding the demilitarization of the entire Sinai Peninsula, we do not believe that it will be acceptable to the UAR. In view of the incommensurability of the Sinai and the Negev, it would be feasible, in our opinion, to speak only about the possibility of creating separate demilitarized zones along the boundaries in this area.
7.
Now, as never before, there is a need for clarity and unambiguity in the positions of the sides. One cannot but admit that up to now efforts to obtain such clarity from the Israelis have been unsuccessful. While the Arab side has made a number of concrete and realistic proposals, which largely contributed to the development of some positive changes in the matter of a Middle East settlement, one cannot say this about Israel. Its position continues to be the main obstacle in the way of achieving a settlement in the Middle East.

Therefore, we hope that the US Government will exercise its influence upon the Israeli Government so that the latter may adopt a more realistic position.

The Soviet Government expresses its readiness for a further exchange of views with the American side regarding the problems of a settlement in the Middle East.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27-14 ARAB-ISR. Exdis. The text is a translation prepared in the Division of Language Services. The original of the note has not been found. A handwritten notation indicates that the note was handed to Secretary Rusk by Soviet Charge Tcherniakov on December 19. Telegram 290908 to Cairo, December 21, which transmitted the text of an unofficial translation of the note prepared by the Soviet Embassy, indicates that Tcherniakov gave the note to Eugene Rostow rather than Rusk. (Ibid., POL 27 ARAB-ISR) See also Document 355.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 307.