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


  • The DobryninSisco Talks

You asked for a short summary of each of the SiscoDobrynin talks.

On March 4, Dobrynin suggested the US–Soviet talks to Sisco. (Tab A)2 Initial arrangements were made on March 8 by Secretary Rogers and Dobrynin. (Tab B)3

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First Meeting—March 18 (Tab C) 4

The meeting dealt mainly with points on which the US and USSR already agreed such as working for a lasting peace, no imposition of a settlement, achieving a settlement through Jarring, a package settlement, and an agreed settlement. There was some disagreement on whether the settlement would be agreed by or between the parties and on the method of setting borders and ensuring an Arab commitment to peace.

Second Meeting—March 24 (Tab D) 5

Sisco tried to draw out Dobrynin on a contractual peace and Dobrynin tried to draw out Sisco on withdrawal. Sisco presented the US working paper to Dobrynin.

Third Meeting—March 25 (Tab E) 6

Sisco explained the US working paper in detail.

Fourth Meeting—March 26 (Tab F) 7

Dobrynin discussed Soviet ideas on withdrawal and recognized the need for a package settlement. He suggested a system of declarations and phased withdrawal. He also asked some questions about the US working paper which he found somewhat one-sided.

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Fifth Meeting—April 2 (Tab G) 8

In answer to Dobrynin’s questions of the previous meeting, Sisco discussed US ideas on special arrangements for Sharm el Shaykh and Gaza, demilitarization, Jerusalem and a peace treaty.

Sixth Meeting—April 3 (Tab H) 9

Dobrynin said the USSR wants a permanent peace, asked about the talks with Fawzi,10 agreed that Arab and Israeli positions are hardening, and said the USSR has no interest in giving guarantees as part of the peace settlement. Sisco—speaking personally—thought it might be possible to work out a practical US–Soviet plan.

Seventh Meeting—April 11 (Tab I) 11

Sisco, again speaking personally, suggested that the US–Soviet talks be directed towards working out a preliminary US-Soviet agreement to be given to Jarring for the parties. Dobrynin again pressed for a clear US statement on withdrawal. They met again yesterday. I will give you a more detailed report on that meeting when we have the full record. But Dobrynin did seem to commit himself to the idea of a single document—in contrast to the earlier idea of parallel documents—such as the Israelis want.

Eighth Meeting—April 17 (Tab J) 12

Hal’s memorandum reviewing this latest meeting is at Tab J.

Ninth Meeting—April 22 (Tab K) 13

Memorandum reviewing this meeting is at Tab K.

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Tab J

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


  • Latest SiscoDobrynin Conversation (April 17)

Sisco’s April 17 discussion with Dobrynin was a concrete step forward, in contrast to the more nebulous exchanges in the past few meetings.

Dobrynin dropped the general discussion of the main elements of the UN resolution and came in with written answers to some of our earlier questions, indicating that they represented a decision made at the highest level of the Soviet government. In return, Dobrynin presented five written Soviet questions to us.

An analysis of the Soviet answers suggests some shifts in the Soviet position:

More important, the Soviets seem to be talking for the first time about a single document as the instrument for recording the final agreement. [Holding this out to the Israelis would make our job a little easier with them.]14
They seem to recognize the need to address such issues as boycotts and blockades in defining obligations. [These are the sorts of issues Eban addresses when he spells out what would be required if belligerency were terminated.]
They state flatly that they are not talking of “some kind of truce but of a complete cessation of the state of war and the settlement of all questions connected therewith.” [This is less than the commitment to “peace” Israel wants but it also looks like less than an effort to leave loopholes for later aggression against Israel.]

On the negative side, the Soviet answers specifically advise against raising the question of direct negotiations. We have been thinking that being able to provide a meeting under Jarring would make it easier for us to bring the Israelis along. They also envision smaller DMZ’s than we do.

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The Soviet questions try to pin us down on how much negotiating room we plan to leave the Israelis on where the boundaries are drawn, on what kinds of international guarantees we have in mind and on our specific ideas about Gaza, Sharm al-Shaykh and refugees.

Conclusions: The Soviets continue to move in our direction on procedural issues. This helps because these are important to Israel. The Soviets may be a lot tougher when we try to enlarge their view of DMZ’s or discuss what will amount to infringements or UAR sovereignty to police demilitarization or free navigation. In any case, we do seem now to be in a reasonable negotiation with the full engagement of the top echelons in the Kremlin.

Tab K

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


  • SiscoDobrynin Meeting on April 22

The latest SiscoDobrynin meeting was probably the least productive of the series, mainly because both were waiting for the decision on making our position more specific.

Joe opened the meeting by expressing concern at the firefights on the Suez Canal. He told Dobrynin we would discuss the matter with Israel and asked if the Soviets were prepared to talk to the Egyptians. Dobrynin hedged, but said he would take note of U.S. concern.

Most of the meeting was taken up by replies to questions Dobrynin had asked at the previous meeting. Before replying, Joe explained that his answers would not go beyond what we had said before but are not our last word. We were considering these questions in connection with a possible substantive document.

He made the following points, which you know by heart, in the answers:

We feel that the parties should accept the resolution and implement all its provisions. We put the emphasis on agreement between the parties.
We see two kinds of guarantees of a settlement. We feel that arrangements on the ground such as demilitarized zones are the most [Page 138] important, and that outside guarantees should be supplementary and cannot take the place of agreements between the parties.
We have reached no definite conclusion about the future of Gaza.
A refugee settlement must respond to the requirements for justice for the refugees, but must also take into account Israeli security concerns. Each refugee should have a choice among (1) returning to Israel to live under Israeli law, (2) compensation and resettlement in the country where he now resides, and (3) compensation and resettlement in other countries. Refugees from the 1967 war would return home. We feel that not many refugees would choose to live in Israel. We have no definite conclusions on the machinery to implement this plan.
Sharm al-Shaykh is important because of its location and is a difficult problem because the Israelis are unwilling to trust anyone else with keeping the Straits of Tiran open, and the UAR will not accept an Israeli presence there. We feel this has to be worked out by the parties, but are not ruling out any solution.

Because neither side was ready to add anything more, the date of the next meeting was left open.

You should be aware that State has informed the British Embassy of the possibility of a joint Soviet-U.S. paper on the Near East. It was necessary to do so to lessen British pressure for raising the idea of a multilateral document soon in the four-power talks. The British feel that this knowledge will allow the Foreign Office to slow the pace in New York.

Comment: We have exhausted the SiscoDobrynin channel unless we can come up with something more specific to say to the Soviets.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 725, Country Files, Europe, USSR, SiscoDobrynin Talks, Part I, April 1969. Secret; Nodis.
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is telegram 33865 to Moscow, March 5.
  3. Attached but not printed at Tab B is telegram 36425 to Moscow, March 8.
  4. Attached but not printed at Tab C is telegram 4215 to Moscow, March 19. On March 19, Sisco spoke twice on the telephone with Kissinger about his meeting the day before with Dobrynin. According to a transcript of the 12:45 p.m. conversation between Kissinger and Sisco, “K asked how meeting with Dobrynin had gone—S said it is a beginning and once K has seen cable, he would like his reactions.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 359, Telephone Records, 1969–1976, Telephone Conversations, 1969) At 3:50 p.m. the same afternoon, after Kissinger returned from seeing Dobrynin at a luncheon for the Czech Ambassador, Kissinger and Sisco spoke again on the telephone. According to a transcript of their conversation, “K said he had given Dobrynin no comfort at all but said whatever S did had his full backing.” Kissinger and Sisco then discussed Middle Eastern issues in general terms. Before hanging up, “S said we have to keep telling Dobrynin what it is we want and in every meeting with him S will hit the same theme. S said it was a very interesting discussion but he doesn’t expect any quick results.” (Ibid.)
  5. Attached but not printed at Tab D is telegram 46143 to Moscow, March 25.
  6. Attached but not printed at Tab E is telegram 46317 to Moscow, March 26.
  7. Attached but not printed at Tab F is telegram 47123 to Moscow, March 27. On March 26, at 5:45 p.m., Sisco and Kissinger spoke on the telephone about the former’s session earlier that day with Dobrynin. According to a transcript of their conversation, “S said this procedure will go on another couple of weeks then we will have to face decision—do we really then try to develop a more detailed ‘plan’ which we would try out on Israelis and then try out on Russians. K asked what S thought. S said he did not want to make any judgments—told K to think about it.” Sisco also told Kissinger that he hoped they could find at least 30 minutes each week to talk about the Middle East. Kissinger promised that he would have his secretary set aside the time. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 359, Telephone Records, 1969–1976, Telephone Conversations, 1969)
  8. Attached but not printed at Tab G is telegram 50983 to Moscow, April 3.
  9. Attached but not printed at Tab H is telegram 51229 to Moscow, April 3.
  10. The morning of April 3, Rogers met with Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, Nasser’s adviser on foreign affairs. According to telegram 51229 to Moscow, “Sisco said two principal topics [were] touched upon: (a) UAR desire to have Four Powers move ahead; and (b) indication that current UAR reaction to US working paper not as negative as public statement by Nasser on March 27.”
  11. Attached but not printed at Tab I is telegram 56630 to Moscow, April 13.
  12. Tab J is telegram 59898 to Moscow, April 18, summarizing the eighth meeting. Also attached but not printed is telegram 59897 to Moscow, April 18, which lists U.S. questions about the Soviet note on the Middle East of December 30, 1968; Soviet replies of April 17, 1969, to those U.S. questions; and Soviet questions of April 17 about the U.S. interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967.
  13. Attached at Tab K but not printed is telegram 62563 to Moscow, April 28, summarizing the ninth meeting. After this paragraph, Lawrence Eagleburger handwrote, “Tenth meeting being summarized. I’ll bring it to K[ey] B[iscayne] on Friday.” The summary of the meeting has not been found.
  14. Brackets in this and following two paragraphs are in the source text.