356. Telegram From the Department of State to the U.S. Interests Section of the Spanish Embassy in the United Arab Republic1

290924. Subject: Arab-Israel Settlement.

Soviet Charge Tcherniakov called on Undersecretary Rostow December 19. Hart also present. Tcherniakov presented unofficial translation [Page 707] of Soviet document2 responding to November 8 remarks by Rostow to Dobrynin and outlining positive nature of UAR position, including reply to Secretary’s seven points. Text of document being transmitted separately.
Rostow read note quickly, said we welcomed it, and would be glad to continue exchanges on the subject. We would give document study and reply as soon as possible. In meantime, he had some preliminary comments
First comment was with regard to para. 1 of Soviet paper. Rostow wished there to be no misunderstanding between us on significance of reference to Armistice Agreements in Eban paper to Jarring.3 The Armistice Agreements clearly specified that Armistice Demarcation Lines were not definitive political and international boundaries, but could be changed by agreement as part of transition from Armistice to peace. FYI. These provisions inserted in 1949 at Arab insistence. End FYI. We believe GOI position as stated in Eban paper to Jarring is that Israel has no territorial claims as such, except for minor rectifications of Armistice lines and arrangements to guarantee security and maritime rights. But we cannot speak for Israel. And we wish to avoid any misunderstanding with Soviets such as occurred in summer of 1967.
Rostow’s second general preliminary comment was that Soviet paper made no reference to his questions to Dobrynin put on July 3 and on November 8 regarding UAR willingness to make peace and to enter into an agreement establishing peace, and equally to his suggestion of Nov. 8 for a practical negotiating procedure by UAR and Israel through Jarring to deal with issues of withdrawal, demilitarization of Sinai and guarantee of maritime rights. The prime interest of the US and USSR was in the establishment of peace, as set forth in the Resolution of November 22, 1967. This was the goal of the Resolution and of US policy from June 5, 1967. The UAR position in this respect was not clear and these questions must be answered before further progress could be made in implementing SC Resolution of Nov. 22, 1967.
Rostow said US recognized importance of problem of withdrawal. He cited with approval Dobrynin’s remarks on Arab distrust of Israel’s intentions in this regard, and on Israeli suspicions that Arabs do not intend peace, as the key to the problem. Eban had given a functional definition of Israeli policy towards withdrawal, and said that when the Arabs make clear their intent to make peace, Israel will go into more detail on withdrawal. The Secretary, in his November 2 conversation with Riad, had spoken of complete withdrawal from Sinai, [Page 708] putting the question of Gaza to one side for the moment, and saving the question of security arrangements and guarantees of maritime rights. Withdrawal would be subject to security arrangements, demilitarization and guarantees of maritime rights. Israel did not want to be put in a position of having to fight once more to regain those rights. Our position was that the Secretary had given Riad powerful assurances on withdrawal from Sinai. The guarantees on the other matters were not discussed by the UAR. We felt that we had taken a very big step in the Secretary’s talk with Riad, and that UAR had not responded on the issues of crucial concern to us.
The Israelis took position they did not have territorial claims as such but had legitimate interests under the Nov. 22 Resolution in questions of security and maritime rights, which could have territorial implications. Armistice lines were not final borders, but Dobrynin himself had said minor rectifications possible (Tcherniakov interjected that Dobrynin had said this was not quite what he had said, his words had been misinterpreted by Rostow. Latter however read from Para. 5 of State 2698274 reporting conversation in question and clarified his own recollection. FYI. We have also had report of conversation with Semenov in which he accepted idea of some border rectification.5 End FYI). In any event US position was clear. We had thus taken big step and UAR should make use of Secretary’s position and also come forward with progress on the other side of equation, namely peace and a procedure for reaching it.
Rostow said US could not take position with UAR that no agreement was possible until Syria came along. Syria had not even accepted Nov. 22 resolution.

We were unable to understand sentence in Soviet document to effect that Israel had not “accepted” Resolution. We thought debate on that topic was finished. Israel had said to Jarring that it accepted the Resolution. Rostow had given a copy of GOI statement in this respect to Dobrynin. As a matter of Soviet policy, was there anything wrong or insufficient in Israeli statement that it accepted the resolution and was ready to implement it by agreement? It was important that we clarify this question between US and USSR. For us, Resolution was not self-implementing. Under para. 3, implementation required agreement [Page 709] of parties. Did USSR agree? Did Arab position reported in para. 3 of Soviet paper mean that implementation required withdrawal first, negotiation later on other items in Resolution? Secretary had taken clear position on this with Riad.

Tcherniakov replied that he was not aware of public Israeli statement in form of Rostow’s formula. He did not directly challenge Rostow formulation, but said he knew of no public Israeli statement to that effect. Rostow undertook to provide him with series of texts. Tcherniakov said Arabs and Soviets worried by fact Israel had not accepted resolution while Arabs have. First step was for Israel to accept the resolution. The second was to implement it. The UAR had come forward with a timetable of implementation to which Israel had not responded. Rostow said the UAR timetable was not complete, and in any event could not be made a substitute for the agreement between the parties required by para. 3 of Resolution. We had never objected to a timetable as a way of carrying out agreement of parties. The first question was how the parties could reach agreement.

Tcherniakov asked why we doubted UAR willingness to implement the resolution. Rostow said it was because US had yet to get clear answers to its questions, either through Soviets or directly from UAR. From earlier Sov paper6 it was clear that a multilateral document was acceptable to Sovs as a means of embodying the agreement among the parties called for by the resolution, but UAR had so far not given assurances it would sign such a document. After experience of 1957, when US negotiated on behalf of Egypt, and latter broke agreement when it closed Strait of Tiran, Riad simply says he will give a letter to the Security Council. This would not suffice. We have said there must be agreement if we are to support withdrawal. We had no objection to a timetable if it was part of an agreement, but UAR proposal had made no reference to para. 3 of the Resolution nor answered Secretary’s 7th point.
Tcherniakov said that some form of “juridical document” could be worked out. Rostow said it would have to be signed by both parties. Tcherniakov said UAR in its timetable proposed that both Israel and Arabs deposit documents with the Security Council. Rostow said we had not insisted on a Treaty but suggested the Soviet-Japanese procedure as a model. Secretary, in his 7th point, had indicated that document establishing peace must be signed by both parties.
Tcherniakov said both US and Sovs agreed there must be legal, formal agreement, but there were several forms it could take. If UAR proposed a specific form, it did not mean it was rejecting concept [Page 710] of agreement. Rostow said this was a good point, but UAR had never proposed anything quite that clear to us. He cited the confusion regarding Riad’s remarks on signing the same document in his Nov. 2 conversation with the Secretary. A document was needed, as with USSR and Japan. We have had no answer from UAR as yet on this point. Israelis had taken important initiative, next step was up to UAR, which must define what it had in mind with regard to (a) peace, (b) security and (c) maritime rights. This could be done in a private meeting with Jarring, at which issues of withdrawal and security arrangements could be settled. With all the ammunition given to Riad by Secretary, UAR had not yet moved. We had given Egyptians the US position. This was a major step. We had expected a major step in reply, but Riad kept saying the only important question is withdrawal.
Tcherniakov said UAR position unequivocally recognized Israeli right to exist whereas the Israelis had not made their first step towards the Arabs. The Arabs had made the first step and had been more forthcoming than Israelis. Rostow said we would study document and give a formal reply. He asked for Russian original and was promised it for Dec. 20.
For Moscow. Suggest Ambassador may find a convenient occasion to review ground with Dobrynin, either at this stage or when fuller reply is provided. We should also appreciate Ambassador’s judgment of the significance of timing, tone, and content of Soviet reply in broader setting of Soviet policy.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Eugene Rostow, Hart, and Parker; cleared by Day (IO/UNP); and approved by Eugene Rostow. Repeated to Amman, Moscow, Tel Aviv, and USUN.
  2. Document 354.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 307.
  4. Telegram 269827 to Tel Aviv, November 9, reported on a November 8 luncheon conversation during which Eugene Rostow and Dobrynin discussed the Israeli and UAR positions in the Middle East peace process. Paragraph 5 reported Dobrynin’s understanding that Israel had no territorial claims on the UAR, but had raised territorial questions in connection with security problems and with the question of guaranteeing rights of passage through the Straits of Tiran. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 27 ARAB-ISR)
  5. See footnote 2, Document 310.
  6. An apparent reference to the attachment to Document 245.