24. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Middle East

PARTICIPANTS

  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • The Secretary
  • Malcolm Toon, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
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The Secretary briefly described the President's trip to Europe2 and told Dobrynin that the Middle East problem had been one of the principal subjects of discussion, particularly with the British and the French. In response to Dobrynin's specific inquiry, the Secretary said that the French position initially had been a piecemeal approach but it seemed now to be closer to our own position in the sense that the French now recognize the need for working out an overall settlement before Israeli withdrawal.

The Secretary said that we felt it would be desirable to have quiet bilateral talks with the Soviets, and it was his view that we should begin these talks in Washington and perhaps at a later date they could be continued in Moscow.

Dobrynin said that the Soviet preference, of course, would be Moscow, but he felt that his Government would agree with the Secretary's suggestion. After some discussion it was agreed that Mr. Sisco would meet with Ambassador Dobrynin on Friday, March 14.

The Secretary suggested that the talks might proceed on the basis of the Soviet December 30 plan3 as well as our own proposals which are now in the process of preparation. The Secretary pointed out that these private bilateral talks should not be considered a substitute for Four-Power talks in New York. It was his feeling that such talks among the Four Powers might begin the following week. As the Secretary saw it, the principal purpose of the Four-Power talks should be to provide support for the Jarring mission since there seemed to be general agreement among the Four Powers that it was essential that Ambassador Jarring continue his efforts to bring the parties directly involved together. The Secretary felt that Four-Power meetings in New York should be private, and this was also the view of the British and French. Dobrynin said that the Soviets also would favor private talks, and he felt that there would be no objection to the timetable set forth by the Secretary.

There was a brief discussion of the Soviet December 30 plan, with the Secretary pointing out that some points needed clarification. For example, it was not clear from the text of the plan that the Soviet position on freedom of navigation extended to the Suez Canal as well as the Gulf of Aquaba. Dobrynin said that he felt that paragraph 2 of the Soviet plan was a clear statement of the Soviet position, and the subsequent specific reference to the Gulf of Aquaba, did not mean that the Soviets did not favor freedom of navigation in Suez for all parties as well.

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The Secretary made clear that we cannot persuade Israel to enter into any agreement which would not provide the Israelis with the security that they seek. While it is true, as Dobrynin pointed out, that the Soviets stand for the continued existence of the State of Israel, the Arab position is much less clear. Arab leaders continue to state publicly their desire to destroy Israel, and so long as this attitude persists it is not likely that the Israelis would be prepared to withdraw their forces from areas they now occupy.

Dobrynin pointed out that there can be no peace in the Middle East so long as Israel insists rigidly on its own requirements. A peace settlement must respond to the interests of all parties. So far as Israel's security is concerned, this could be satisfied by a Security Council guarantee or a Four-Power guarantee. Dobrynin pointed out that the Soviet position is flexible on this question.

It was agreed that these and other points of substance could be explored more thoroughly in the private bilateral talks which would begin Friday, March 14.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, E 5405, Records of Joseph Sisco (Lot Files 74 D 131 and 76 D 251), Box 27. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Toon. The memorandum is part I of IV. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 11.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 1.