148. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union 1

44154. 1. Following is the oral statement made by the Secretary in response to Dobrynin’s oral statement of March 11.2 Secretary and Dobrynin met on March 25 with Sisco and Vorontsov also present. Vorontsov took careful notes on the following. No paper was given. Separate cable being sent which reports additional comments.3

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“We have studied carefully the oral statement conveyed by Ambassador Dobrynin March 11 and would like to comment on it point-by-point.

“We agree that there is need for steps to arrest the increasing tensions in the Middle East. This was the purpose of our proposals for restoration of the ceasefire and for arms limitation talks, which the Soviet Government has not accepted. We do not share the Soviet Government’s one-sided view that an end to Israeli bombing would in itself be productive. The Soviet Government knows that it was the UAR which initiated a policy of nonobservance of the ceasefire. There can only be a decrease in the level of violence if observance of the cease-fire is reciprocal. We urge the Soviet Government to reassess its position both with respect to the ceasefire and arms limitation talks.

“We agree with the Soviet Government on the need for new efforts to achieve a political settlement. This is why we have urged the Soviet Union to take a more constructive approach to the proposals of October 28, in which we sought to reflect joint US-Soviet views, and to the December 18 proposals.

“We note with satisfaction that the Soviet Government has reaffirmed the need for a just and lasting peace which is, of course, the stated purpose of Security Council Resolution 242. We are also pleased that the Soviet Government has referred to the need to bring the positions of the parties closer. This has been repeatedly emphasized by us as an essential element of both the Two Power and Four Power talks.

“We also note that the Soviet Government wishes to continue exchanging views on a bilateral basis. We have no objection in principle to resuming the Two Power talks at an early date. The probability that such talks would prove fruitful would be enhanced if the Soviet Union could provide beforehand certain clarifications of its position. In saying that it is prepared to meet the wish of the United States for greater detail on the question of peace, does the Soviet Government mean that it would accept Point 2 of our proposals? The Soviet answer to this question will contribute to a clearer understanding between us about the basis for resuming our bilateral exchanges. In saying this, we clearly understand that Soviet acceptance of the language of Point 2 would be contingent upon agreement on all other points of difference between us. Major power agreement on guidelines for Jarring must be a package just as the final agreement between the parties themselves.

“We note that the Soviet Government wants us to show understanding on questions of interest to it including above all the question of withdrawal. This question is also of interest to the United States, and we have said many times there can be no peace without withdrawal. We have made our position on withdrawal quite clear. As concerns the UAR, to which the Ambassador’s oral statement referred, we have said [Page 454] Israel should withdraw to the old international boundary. We have also said that in our view there must be agreement between the parties on practical security arrangements in the Sharm al-Shaykh area. Such arrangements would have to provide an absolute guarantee of free navigation through the Strait of Tiran as called for in Resolution 242; it is not our intention that they should call into question UAR sovereignty over Sharm al-Shaykh.

“With respect to Gaza, our view is that it is a special case since the question of sovereignty there has never been resolved. The Soviet Government calls for the re-establishment in Gaza of the pre-June 1967 situation. That situation, however, was based on the Armistice Agreement of 1949, whereas we are now seeking a final peace. Re-establishment of the pre-June 1967 situation would be inconsistent with the view, expressed elsewhere in the Ambassador’s statement, that a settlement ‘should result in just and lasting peace, not just unstable and temporary armistice.’ In light of this consideration and of the unresolved question of sovereignty, we believe the disposition of Gaza is an appropriate subject of negotiations between the parties.

“We agree with the Soviet Government that it would be useful to consider other unresolved provisions of a UAR-Israeli settlement and that both our governments should strive to broaden areas of agreement between us. Among these unresolved provisions is the question of the method of reaching agreement, to which we attach importance and which must be considered in light of operative paragraph 3 of Resolution 242.4 The Ambassador’s statement did not refer to this question. Does the Soviet Government still accept the language on the Rhodes formula agreed between us in September? If not, does the Soviet Government have alternative language to propose which would make equally clear that the negotiating process under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices would include both indirect and direct negotiations at various stages as was the case when Dr. Bunche dealt with the parties in 1949.

“On the problem of Syria to which the Ambassador’s statement referred, our position is clear. Syria has rejected Resolution 242 and has not cooperated with Ambassador Jarring. In these circumstances, Jarring cannot carry out his mandate of promoting agreement on the Syrian aspect of a settlement since the process of reaching agreement requires the cooperation of both sides. There is thus no basis for developing guidelines for Jarring on the Syrian aspect. There is no other [Page 455] route to a settlement than Resolution 242 and the Jarring Mission. Once agreement has been reached and carried out between Israel and the UAR, and between Israel and Jordan, there should be no difficulties in the way of Syria’s taking the necessary steps which would make possible consideration of a settlement also between Israel and Syria.

“With respect to the question of press leaks, we assure the Soviet Government that we share its desire to avoid such leaks. Both of us must recognize, however, that in view of the deep interest in Middle Eastern developments, press contact cannot be completely avoided. As for the leak of the exchange of letters between Chairman Kosygin and President Nixon, we reconfirm our previous assurance to the Soviet Government that it is not our policy to publish such confidential correspondence with other heads of government, that we did not do so in this case, and that we regret these letters were made available to the press by others to whom they were entrusted.

“Finally, the Soviet Government is correct in assuming that the United States is guided by a desire to strengthen international security and to develop the relations between our two nations. We are pleased that the Soviet Government feels, as we do, that it would serve neither of our interests for the Middle East to become an area of confrontation between us.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 653, Country Files, Middle East, Sisco Middle East Talks. Secret; Nodis; Noforn. Drafted and approved by Sisco on March 25, and cleared by Hawley (S/S). Also sent to USUN. This telegram was attached to an April 8 memorandum from Saunders to Kissinger which is printed as Document 151.
  2. See Document 141.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. Paragraph 3 reads as follows: “Requests the Secretary-General to designate a Special Representative to proceed to the Middle East to establish and maintain contacts with the States concerned in order to promote agreement and assist effort to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement in accordance with the provisions and principles in this resolution.” (UN doc. S/RES/242 1967)