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

3592. Subj: Meeting with Gromyko on Middle East. Ref: A. State 102700;2 B. Moscow 3589.3

I spent ninety minutes June 29 discussing our ME initiatives with Gromyko. He was accompanied by MEA USADiv Chief Korniyenko. Although Gromyko seemed somewhat tired, he listened carefully through my presentation. He put his remarks and questions to me in a direct, serious, and non-polemical manner.
Following my presentation, based on para 2(a) through (j) of reftel a, and subparas 6(a) through (g) of State 102616, Gromyko said he wished answers or clarifications to several questions. First, the US says it would not be good if the Arabs and USSR put forward as a preliminary condition for negotiations the demand that Israeli forces must withdraw from all, he said, occupied territories. Is the US against this demand as a general thesis or only as a preliminary condition? It was, Gromyko added, very essential to have an answer to this question.
I said we would oppose the demand if it were a preliminary condition for negotiations, simply on practical grounds. In any event, it would not be attainable before negotiations could take place since boundaries and the modalities of withdrawal were to be the subject of [Page 539] negotiations themselves. If the Arabs insisted on their demand as a preliminary condition, there would be little prospect of a political settlement either through Jarring’s mission or through major-power talks. I pointed out that the principle of withdrawal and non-acquisition of territory is set forth in UNSC Res 242, which we support. That res, however, does not specifically stipulate withdrawal to the June 5, 1967, line.
To seek a formula which goes beyond the wording of the Res, I said, would delay the start of talks under Jarring and slow down progress in the major-power talks. Meanwhile, there would exist the danger of military escalation and further reduction of our ability to be helpful as a result of this delay. I added as final comment that the US is already on record in its Oct and Dec documents as envisaging no substantial changes in June 1967 lines, and that we endorsed total Israeli withdrawal from UAR territory.
Gromyko asked if we intended to submit our proposals to the four-power talks in NY. I replied that since all the appropriate parties had been apprised of our proposals, I assumed they would be discussed at NY although I was not certain as to how this would be done.
Gromyko then asked if the USSR could expect a clear answer to the latest Soviet proposals put forward in our bilaterals and tabled in the four-power talks.
I said I was certain the Soviets would receive a reply. I went on to say that what we were now proposing was an emergency procedure to get talks started between the Israelis and Arabs. If they are started, the two- and four-power talks would continue, aimed at working out detailed instructions and bringing pressure and influence to bear for the purpose of narrowing the gap.
Gromyko said the USSR was pursuing its study of our new proposals, and could give no final answer now, particularly since Moscow had not yet received detailed analyses of the US proposals from appropriate Arab govts. He added that in general Moscow knew their viewpoints.
Gromyko then asserted that the US proposals lack clarity on certain major questions. For example, on the question of withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories, he repeated his question, does the US oppose this demand as a preliminary condition or as a general thesis? The question of withdrawal of forces and the establishment of peace are major questions to which clear US explanations are required, he said.
Furthermore, Gromyko continued, the US advocates continuation of the Jarring mission—as does the USSR. The question arises of what will Jarring be guided by in carrying out his contacts with both sides. He needs detailed guidelines. However, apart from the general provisions of UNSC Res 242 and a temporary ceasefire, the US proposals [Page 540] contain nothing concrete, no detailed instructions. Gromyko went on to suggest that if the USG did not wish to work out guidelines for Jarring in our bilateral channel, the USSR still felt guidelines were necessary and that they could be worked out in the four-power talks. Moscow would accept any form for working out instructions so long as they lead to positive results.
Finally, Gromyko said, Moscow still has not received reactions from Washington on some other Soviet ideas, which perhaps were under study by the US. He then reiterated that his preceding remarks were aimed at eliciting clarification on a number of unclear points in the US proposals and that his remarks had been of a preliminary nature. He would return to a final assessment of the US proposals.
I said we would take note of his questions and in the meantime I would reply on the basis of information available to me. I went on to say that the purpose of our proposals was to start the two parties negotiating under Jarring’s auspices. No one could dictate. Jarring was there to launch the negotiations, to mediate to the best of his abilities. If both sides could, without qualification, accept UNSC Res 242, they could meet indirectly under Jarring’s mission. Meanwhile, if Jarring needed assistance and guidance, this could be provided by the two- and four-power channels.
The essential thing, I stressed, was that the two sides be brought together in a negotiating stance even if it is impossible at the outset to give Jarring instructions. It was also our view that the problem will become clearer more quickly once talks begin. The danger is that while we wait for agreement on instructions in the two- and four-power talks, the situation on the ground is likely to get worse and military pressures on both the US and USSR will increase.
Gromyko asked if Israel had given its reply to our proposals, to which I answered I knew of no such reply to date.
He then remarked that the US takes the position that the sooner the talks start the better. However, he went on, experience shows that if there is no agreement on guidance for Jarring, there is no progress. The Soviet Union does not want to put the damper on Jarring, whom it supports. However, while Moscow wants the start of negotiations, it sees no point in starting just for the sake of starting. Is it our goal, he continued, to have Jarring go to the area and return without anything? Gromyko emphasized that among the govts which share major responsibility there must be understanding and agreement regarding the major tasks and questions. Otherwise there can be no positive results.
I replied that if the USG could get Israel to accept UNSC Res 242, indirect negotiations, and the principle of withdrawal, this would be a great step forward in contributing to the start of negotiations. As regards the Arabs, I referred to my initial presentation which pointed [Page 541] out that under the US proposals we are asking them to do no more than they themselves have earlier they were prepared to do. Our proposals ask more of the Israelis than of the Arabs. What we are proposing, I said, was an important procedural step to break an impasse; an urgent initiative of this type was called for. I added that the the two-and four-power talks could at the same time deal with substantive questions.
After asking us again to reflect on the questions he had posed, Gromyko returned to suggesting that we should give Jarring clear instructions regarding withdrawal and the establishment of peace. I replied that the first thing was to get the parties together in negotiations which would clarify the substance of the issues.
At the end of the meeting I commended to Gromyko’s attention the very carefully drafted presentation the Dept had given me to put before him. (At Fonoff request the text is now being checked by Polansky with the Soviet interpreter.)
At reception last night for visiting Mayor Washington Korniyenko made it clear that the two major points the Soviets will hammer away at are (1) absence of instructions for Jarring, and (2) failure to deal with “the Arab demand for total Israeli withdrawal.” Since the Soviets frequently offer lack of response as an excuse for doing nothing, I suggest we again try to tie these questions down as best we can.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL US–USSR. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 102700 to Moscow, June 28, provides instructions for Beam’s talk. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 3589 from Moscow, June 29, provides a brief summary of Beam’s talk. (Ibid.)