151. Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Renewed Dobrynin Talks on Mid-East—Recapitulation

Following is a recapitulation of the four recent meetings with Dobrynin on the Mid-East. The RogersDobrynin meetings of March 11 and 25 set the stage for two SiscoDobrynin meetings on April 1 and 6.

RogersSiscoDobrynin, March 11 [Tab A]2

In brief, Dobrynin indicated Soviet willingness to resume bilateral talks and to meet U.S. wishes for a more detailed formulation on the obligations of peace provided U.S. will be more forthcoming on the question of withdrawal, particularly re Sharm al-Shaykh, Gaza and Syria.

The key to reading the specific points Dobrynin made is to note that he is talking about modifications in the USSR’s June 1969 proposals3—not the U.S. October 28 document.4 In other words, the Soviets seemed to be wiping the slate clean of Sisco’s Moscow talks last July5 and Secretary Rogers’ New York talks in September6 which provided the basis for our October 28 document.

Against that implicit backdrop—later made explicit by DobryninDobrynin made these specific points:

  • —The USSR would be ready to supplement provisions in its plan on cessation of state of war by a provision on establishing, as a result of settlement, a state of peace.
  • —The USSR is prepared to meet U.S. wishes for greater detail on the obligations of the parties resulting from a state of peace “if the U.S. side shows due understanding of … those questions concerning the unequivocal recording of provisions for the withdrawal of troops.”
  • —The U.S. still has not indicated that it shares the Soviet view that sovereignty over Sharm al-Shaykh belongs to the UAR.
  • —The U.S. has given no assurances that Israeli troops are to withdraw from the Gaza sector and that this Arab territory is to be restored to its pre-June 1967 borders with the previous situation there re-established.
  • —The position of the Syrian government does not relieve us of the task of working out concrete aspects of a Syrian-Israeli settlement.

Secretary Rogers made clear that if we agreed to resume bilateral talks this would not signify acceptance of the Soviet proposals or willingness to go beyond our October 28 or December 18 documents.

RogersSiscoDobrynin, March 25 [Tab B]7

This was the meeting right after announcement of the U.S. decision on Israel’s arms requests. Secretary Rogers expressed concern over introduction of SAM–3’s into Egypt and stressed several times our concern over involvement of additional Soviet personnel there. Dobrynin was “not in a position to comment.” He maintained that U.S. expression of intent to maintain Israel’s superiority was not helpful to U.S.-Soviet efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement; it would be better if the two sides were equal militarily. The Secretary reminded Dobrynin that Moscow had not responded to U.S. proposals for arms limitation talks.

In replying to Dobrynin’s presentation of March 11, the Secretary made these points on the effort to achieve a settlement:

  • —We have no objection in principle to resuming talks soon. Chances would be improved if the Soviet Union could provide beforehand certain clarifications of its position.
  • —In saying that it is prepared to meet the U.S. wish for greater detail on the question of peace, does the Soviet Government mean that it would accept Point 2 of our documents [where the obligations of peace are spelled out]?
  • —We have made our position on withdrawal clear. As concerns the UAR, we have said Israel should withdraw to the old international boundary. There must also be agreement between the parties on practical security arrangements in the Sharm al-Shaykh area. These arrangements would have to provide an absolute guarantee of free navigation through the Straits of Tiran. It is not our intention that they should call into question UAR sovereignty over Sharm al-Shaykh.
  • —Gaza is a special case since the question of sovereignty there has never been resolved. The pre-June 1967 situation, which the Soviet Union wants restored, was based on the Armistice of 1949, whereas we are now seeking peace.
  • —Does the USSR still accept the language on the Rhodes formula agreed between the U.S. and USSR last September? If not, does the USSR have alternative language that would include both indirect and direct contacts?
  • —The U.S. position on Syria remains clear. Syria has rejected the UN resolution. There is no basis for developing guidelines for Jarring on the Syrian aspect.

SiscoDobrynin, April 1 [Tab C]8

Sisco and Dobrynin reviewed where the talks stand. While Sisco noted the appearance of greater oral flexibility, his inclination was to press for written counter language from the USSR. Ambassador Beam concurred and added his doubt that Moscow would move quickly to contribute new language. When Sisco suggested that Dobrynin offer changes in the U.S. October 28 paper, Dobrynin said he had instructions to talk only from the Soviet June 1969 paper.

The specific results of the meeting were:

  • —The Soviets continued unwilling to join in an appeal to the parties to restore the cease-fire but proposed working quietly in Tel Aviv and Cairo for a de facto cease-fire.
  • —The Soviets continued adamant against arms limitation talks.
  • —The Soviets are willing to consider a formulation on peace along lines proposed by the U.S. provided the U.S. is willing to commit itself to total withdrawal, specifically including withdrawal from Gaza and Sharm al-Shaykh. Dobrynin refused to agree to point 2 of our October 28 document but said the Soviet formulation is close to ours.
  • Dobrynin proposed a slight variant of the past Soviet proposal on the relationship between the timing of withdrawal and the entry into effect of peace obligations. This has the effect of advancing Arab de jure acceptance of peace.
  • Dobrynin refused to accept U.S. language on controlling the fedayeen but maintained the Soviets had language in mind that might approximate this.
  • —The Soviets no longer accept the present formulation on the Rhodes formula. Dobrynin’s informal alternative went something like this: The parties will have contact between themselves through Jarring with the understanding that he could use various forms.
  • Dobrynin insisted that there be specific reference to a UN force at Sharm al-Shaykh, its removal being subject to major power veto. He categorically precluded any Soviet troops being involved in such a force.

SiscoDobrynin, April 6 [Tab D]9

Sisco suggested that the Soviets submit in writing any formulation they have in mind on peace and negotiations if they find U.S. formulations of October 28 unsatisfactory. Dobrynin reluctantly agreed to put this request to Moscow.

[Page 471]

Dobrynin submitted a text calling for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, Sharm al-Shaykh, Golan Heights, Gaza and West Bank. The slight difference from the June 1969 Soviet proposal is that it calls for a UN buffer to be established by stages as Israeli forces withdraw.

Sisco pressed for Moscow’s reaction to Secretary Rogers’ expression of concern over introduction of SA–3’s into the UAR. Dobrynin refused to make any commitment.


The Soviets have reopened the dialogue by going back to June 1969. Sisco is pressing them to submit their views as emendations of our October 28 document which incorporated the results of the most constructive part of the U.S.–USSR dialogue last July–September. So far it is a stand-off. The ball is in the Soviet court to decide whether to submit views in writing.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 653, Country Files, Mideast, Sisco Mideast Talks, Vol. III. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates Kissinger saw it. Copies were sent to Haig and Lord.
  2. Ellipsis and all brackets are in the source text. See Document 141.
  3. See Document 58.
  4. See Document 98.
  5. See Document 69.
  6. See Documents 81 and 87.
  7. See Document 148.
  8. Tab C, attached but not printed, is telegram 47932 to Moscow, April 2.
  9. Tab D, attached but not printed, is telegram 51251 to Moscow, April 8.