109. Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Posts1

211994. Subject: Soviet Response to U.S. October 28 Proposal.

Ambassador Dobrynin at his request called on Secretary Rogers December 23 to convey Soviet response to October 28 formulations on Middle Eastern settlement. Sisco and Dubs also present.
Dobrynin said that while this reply was in form of oral statement, he was giving Secretary a Soviet language text and an informal Soviet Embassy translation of his statement.2
Secretary stressed at outset that US documents on UAR-Israeli aspect and Jordanian-Israeli part of settlement represented firm US Government positions. Secretary underscored this is as far as US is prepared to go. We believe that two documents provide framework within which parties can and should begin negotiations. Four Powers should get parties to negotiate on basis Rhodes formula, otherwise no progress can be made.
Dobrynin said that Secretary knew that Soviet side had no specific objection to Rhodes formula. Nevertheless in view of comments made by various parties regarding formula, Soviet side now felt Rhodes formula should not be used. Soviets feel Rhodes formula would not help very much in present state of affairs. Although Moscow is doubtful about any specific use of this formula, it is prepared to find something similar.
In response to Sisco’s query, Dobrynin confirmed this represented a change in Soviet position. Sisco characterized this as a definite setback. Secretary had indicated in his discussions with Gromyko in New York US believes great use can be made of Rhodes formula, that it is constructively ambiguous, leaving it to each side to interpret formula in terms of its own policy.
Dobrynin replied that ultimately it might be possible to find some procedure involving Jarring which would be close to Rhodes formula; using this formula now would mean trouble from the start.
Secretary asked Dobrynin whether Soviets felt Arabs are really ready to start negotiations and whether USSR is ready for such process [Page 330] to get underway. Dobrynin did not respond directly but said USSR wishes to find more precise formulations regarding some of the issues at stake. He recalled that US had suggested possibility of finding neutral language on some questions, but reiterated that Soviet view is that more precise language should be found on such questions as DMZs, passage through waterways, and security provisions.
Secretary said he again wished to make clear that US has gone as far as it can go. We feel strongly that parties should begin process of negotiations. After the negotiations get underway, Four Powers could help in making suggestions and in encouraging parties directly concerned to reach agreement. We cannot overemphasize importance we attach to getting parties to negotiate.
Dobrynin asked what US proposes to do with respect to Jarring. Secretary said we continue to feel that best way to get Jarring started would be for Four Powers to agree on our two documents since they represent a sound framework for negotiations and are totally consistent with the Security Council Resolution. Secretary said we must get parties directly concerned negotiating and thereafter Four Powers could help prod the parties from behind the scenes while Jarring is making his efforts. He stressed that any more precise formulations would suggest that we are attempting to impose a settlement. This we cannot do.
Dobrynin said that Soviet statement notes that Jarring may also share view that it would not be useful to use Rhodes formula at this time because of the differences of view that have been expressed by parties regarding its interpretation.
Sisco said that United States feels Rhodes formula is neutral. It makes possible all sorts of diplomatic contacts, direct and indirect. It, therefore, meets main requirements of situation. Soviet change on Rhodes formula is a retrogressive step. Secretary Rogers recalled that Riad had himself raised question of the Rhodes formula during discussions in New York and had accepted it. Dobrynin suggested that Riad had accepted the formula on condition that any talks would be indirect. Secretary said let them call it indirect if they wish. We see no problem on that score. Dobrynin said that basic Soviet position is that an attempt should now be made to go beyond neutral formulations where possible in an attempt to find more precise language on elements of settlement. After this is done a formula providing for use of Jarring might be found to bring about negotiations. Dobrynin asked whether it is the United States position to give Jarring papers and to let him proceed from there in an effort to start negotiations. If this were the United States position, he doubted whether Jarring could be successful.
The Secretary noted that if the parties accepted Rhodes formula, they could interpret it as they desired. He reiterated that the [Page 331] United States firmly believed that a settlement could not be imposed. We do not believe that documents can be given to the parties on a take it or leave it basis. Once parties agreed to negotiate with the United States papers as a framework, Four Powers could provide guidance and encouragement subsequently on specific points not covered by these documents.
Dobrynin asked whether the United States proposed to give Jarring all three papers, that is, the United States, French, and Soviet, that are available with respect to Jordan. Secretary Rogers said that we continue to believe US papers offer best basis for Jarring to proceed—they contain fair and equitable positions.
Sisco noted that United States October 28 proposal had not been formally tabled at Four Power meetings since we were awaiting a Soviet reply. He underlined that the United States October 28 proposal along with the US paper on Jordan3 are the documents we believe should be transmitted to Jarring. Other papers that have been presented on Jordan, in our view, do not represent a real basis for negotiation.
Dobrynin noted that there were now two documents on the UAR and three on Jordan. He would hesitate to say that the United States paper on Jordan, for example, should be the central document. He assumed that any paper on Jordan would be of a joint nature.
Secretary said that we had hoped that our October 28 proposal would represent a joint US-Soviet paper since it took Soviet views into account. US does not want to consider October 28 proposal and our paper on Jordan as beginning points for negotiation among the Four Powers. We feel that we have gone as far as we can. We believe US papers provide Jarring with what he needs; they are a fair and equitable framework for negotiation.
Sisco said we will obviously study Soviet document carefully in an attempt to arrive at a conclusion as to whether it makes any sense to proceed any further in bilateral and Four Power talks. Principal focus in the Four Power discussions is, of course, Jordan. Depending upon the reaction to our paper on this subject, we will also wish to make a judgment regarding whether further discussions in Four Power context are useful. Soviet statement which we received today seems a reflection of its position back in June;4 discussions of last six to seven months therefore have not carried us very far.
Secretary again asked Dobrynin whether there is a genuine interest on the part of Arab nations to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Secretary also asked whether the Arab countries are interested in a process of negotiation or whether they are simply interested in getting Israelis to withdraw and only afterward to begin negotiation process.
Dobrynin again refused to answer directly. He said this question was too broad and that there was no simple answer. He noted, however, that there has been some transformation in Arab thinking. For example, in past some Arab leaders had no desire to recognize existence of Israel. Subsequently, Arab leaders have indicated that they have changed their position on this score. With respect to Israelis, one difficult question was how to handle Fedayeen problem. This was difficult issue to articulate on paper. This appears to be question which could be handled satisfactorily. Soviet Union and US appear to be very close with respect to refugee problem. At same time Dobrynin said he did not understand US reluctance to mention the UN Resolution on refugees. Nevertheless, some agreement could be reached on that issue. Furthermore, Egyptians seemed willing to accept some formulation regarding the Strait of Tiran. Question of providing guarantees is a more difficult one. Soviet Union believes that guarantees could be provided by Security Council, where US and Soviet Union have veto power. UN troops under control of Security Council might, for example, be stationed at Sharm al-Shaykh. The Soviet Union cannot, however, accept the stationing of Israeli troops there as the US evidently has proposed.
Sisco said that US has not proposed in Moscow that Israeli forces be stationed at Sharm al-Shaykh. Soviets had conveyed this impression to Arabs, and we have spent some weeks correcting this interpretation. In Sisco’s conversations with Gromyko, number of options discussed but no proposals made. Sisco recalled that it was because Israel could be expected to press an Israeli presence and Arabs a UN presence, that he came up with idea of neutral formulations prejudicing neither side’s position.
Sisco then said he had completed a preliminary and rapid review of the text of the oral statement left by Dobrynin. His view is that it is unresponsive and not constructive. Dobrynin said lamely he would report this. Conversation concluded by reaffirmation of intention to give document thorough study and to respond in due course.5
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Dubs on December 23; cleared by Brown (S/S) and Okun (S); and approved by Sisco. Sent to USUN, USINT Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Jidda, Kuwait, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Moscow, Bucharest, Rabat, Tunis.
  2. The official translation of the Soviet text of December 23 was transmitted in telegram 212662 to Rogers in Key Biscayne, Florida, December 26. (Ibid.)
  3. On December 18, the United States presented a proposal for a Jordan-Israel settlement similar to its October 28 and December 9 plans; see Documents 98 and 104.
  4. See Document 58.
  5. Printed from an unsigned copy.