141. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

36337. 1. Ambassador Dobrynin called at his request on Secretary morning March 11 and made detailed presentation, main thrust of which was that Soviets would like to resume US-Soviet Middle East talks and are prepared meet US wishes for more detailed formulation on question of peace providing US will be more forthcoming on question of withdrawal, particularly re Sharm al-Shaykh, Gaza and Syria.

2. Soviet Minister Counselor Vorontsov subsequently called on NEA/IAI Country Director Atherton with copy of Dobrynin’s talking points. Vorontsov declined leave text but let Atherton read it and take full notes, on which following paragraphs are based.

3. Begin Talking Points. Further aggravation of Middle East situation makes it urgent that energetic steps be taken to arrest increasing tensions in area. Soviet Government believes that, in addition to ending barbaric Israeli bombings of UAR civilian centers, there is need for new effort by major powers to achieve political settlement.

4. Soviet Government continues to believe that Middle East settlement should result in just and lasting peace, not just unstable and temporary armistice. Given tense Arab-Israeli relations, there is need for cautious, protracted and serious work to bring positions of parties closer.

5. Soviet Government intends to continue seeking settlement through exchange of views with USG, although US January reply was far from constructive. Just and lasting peace is possible on basis of earlier Soviet proposals but, to facilitate agreement, Soviet Government has additional considerations to offer.

6. Taking into account questions raised by USG, Soviets are prepared to discuss those questions, including establishment of peace, in bilateral talks. Preamble of Soviet plan recognizes need for just and stable peace in Middle East. USG has stressed that this question is of prime importance and has said that if Arabs show readiness to establish peace this would remove serious barriers to agreement. Soviet plan is sufficiently clear on this point. Nevertheless, with view to achieving understanding, Soviet Government would be ready to supplement provisions in its plan on cessation of state of war by provision on establishing, as result of settlement, a state of peace.

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7. Soviet plan has sufficient concrete provisions about obligations of parties resulting from cessation of state of war and establishment of peace. USG, however, seeks more detail on these points as is clear from its October 28 and December 18 papers.2

8. Soviet Government is prepared to meet US wishes on this question if US side shows due understanding of questions whose solution is of interest to Soviet side, first and foremost those questions concerning the unequivocal recording of provisions for the withdrawal of troops.

9. USG has still not indicated that it shares Soviet view that sovereignty over Sharm al-Shaykh belongs to UAR. USG has also given no assurances that Israeli troops are to withdraw from Gaza sector and that this Arab territory is to be restored to its pre-June 1967 borders with the previous situation there re-established. Soviet Government raised these questions in its December 23, 1969 document3 and USG has still not replied.

10. Replies on these points are important since Soviet Government is convinced that principal issue of settlement is withdrawal of troops and establishment of secure and recognized boundaries. Without exact formulations on these questions, there can be no possibility of moving on whole question of settlement.

11. In addition to agreement on withdrawal of troops from all occupied territories and status of peace, it would be useful to consider and agree on other unresolved provisions of UAR-Israeli settlement. Soviet Government proceeds from assumption that both our sides will strive to broaden area of agreement between them.

12. Question of Jordan-Israel settlement being considered by Four Powers in New York, but problem of Syria remains untouched in both Two and Four Power talks. Soviet Government notes that USG has avoided taking position on this question, citing as reason Syrian rejection of SC Resolution 242. In Soviet view, position of Syrian Government does not relieve us of task of working out concrete aspects of Syrian-Israeli settlement. If just solution found, Soviet Government is convinced difficulties stemming from Syrian position would disappear. Principal aspects of Soviet June 17, 1969, plan4 relate to all countries directly involved in conflict. Soviet Government expects USG to express concrete views on questions touching directly on problem of Syrian-Israeli settlement.

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13. Soviet Government wishes to raise another matter which it does not consider unimportant. Soviet Government expects USG to take measures to prevent leaks of information about confidential US-Soviet discussions, which adversely affect course of our consultations. Examples have been publication of text of Kosygin letter and Estabrook report in Washington Post of February 19 Four Power meeting.5

14. Soviet Government wishes to stress that it assumes USG will be guided by broad interests of international security and of development of relations between our two states. US and Soviet interests will be served by Middle East not becoming arena of unwanted confrontation. Soviet Government believes this can be achieved and will continue its efforts in this direction in hope USG will do the same. End Talking Points.

15. Secretary responded that we would study both the suggestion to resume bilateral discussions and the substantive Soviet proposals. He made clear that if we should agree to resume bilateral talks, there would have to be an understanding of what the resumption of those talks signifies. Our willingness to resume talks could not be interpreted to mean an acceptance of the Soviet proposals or that we were willing to make concessions going beyond our present position as reflected in the October 28 and December 18 documents.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 340, Subject Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger. Secret; Nodis; Noforn; No Distribution Outside Department. Drafted by Atherton on March 11, cleared by Eliot, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to USUN.
  2. See Document 98 and footnote 3 to Document 109.
  3. See Document 109.
  4. See Document 58.
  5. Reference is to a March 10 story in The Washington Post by Robert H. Estabrook entitled “France’s Mideast Optimism Challenged.” According to Estabrook “U.S. and British spokesmen took issue today with the statement by French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann that the Big Four’s Middle East discussions have moved into a thaw.” (p. A–14)