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


  • Semyenov–Beam Meetings, July 31, August 8 and 11

The Soviets gave Ambassador Beam their comments on our counter proposals2 in meetings on July 31 and August 8 and 11. (You have already seen a memo on the July 31 meeting.) From the three meetings the following points emerge:

The Soviets want to hold the bilateral talks in Moscow. Beam did what he could to discourage this, but—especially with Dobrynin “ill”—we still have the problem of how to bring the action back to Washington. The Soviets don’t appear likely to give up easily and have arranged still another Middle East meeting with Beam.
The Soviets are doing their best to appear reasonable and forthcoming. Possible explanations for this are:
  • —They are genuinely interested in a settlement.
  • —It is useful to them with the Arabs to keep the talks going whether there is any practical result or not.
  • —They are trying to convince us that talks in Moscow can be more useful than talks in Washington.
We seem to have agreed—or nearly agreed—language on several points:
  • —They accept the general principles in the preamble, but they want a settlement between Israel and all the Arabs, not just the UAR. They also shy away from our language where it implies direct negotiations.
  • —They accept our definition of the kind of guarantees and conditions which will accompany a settlement except that they feel there is no need to include a reference to non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. (This is not really an Arab-Israeli issue. Interference in the area is mainly in the domestic affairs of our Arab friends by the Soviets’ Arab friends.)
  • —In some instance, they agree with what we say but disagree with the emphasis. For example, they have no objection to our references to a cessation of belligerency but they feel we have unnecessarily emphasized the point. On the other hand, they feel we should be explicit about the Arabs having no obligations in a settlement if the Israelis don’t fulfill their obligations. (These differences are only cosmetic as far as we and the Russians are concerned, but they are important for both of us in trying to bring along our clients.)
Despite all this, there are important differences remaining:
  • —They are still pressing for their specific plan for implementing withdrawal rather than our vaguer formulation. (The real problem here is that their plan would eliminate the direct negotiations the Israelis feel are essential.)
  • —They still don’t like our position on borders. (Our fallback position—return to the old UAR-Israel border—would meet their needs, but presenting this depends on their being more forthcoming on Arab post-settlement obligations.)
  • —The Egyptians are concerned—unduly in our view—about the Suez Canal. The Soviets say Nasser thinks we are plotting to take it away from him, but he may want our language changed so that he will have some legal basis for closing the canal if the Israelis don’t behave.
  • —The Soviets don’t appear able to modify their position that DMZ’s must be in Israel as well as the UAR. I suspect that this is because the Arabs are taking as stiff a line with Moscow for this position as the Israelis are with us against it.
  • —They still want Gaza returned to the UAR, although Semyenov said he was talking about Arab administration, not sovereignty.
  • —The Soviets are not willing to give Israel the kind of guarantees in the Strait of Tiran that the Israelis are demanding, although they do admit this is an international waterway. They will go as far as the great power guarantees with a UN force that Israel got in 1957 and lost in 1967. They seem to feel that gaining consent from Nasser for a UN force was a victory.
  • —They did not accept our refugee formula, but say they now recognize that Israel’s special concerns have to be taken into account. They want the refugee solution to be left to the parties to work out through Jarring. (This is an advance over their previous position that Israel would have to abide by the UN resolutions, i.e. let all the refugees return to Israel.)

Now that we have their full reply, Joe Sisco will review and return our comments in a week or two, trying to nudge us ahead on a few points. This has been useful in getting a more precise view of the Soviet position.

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Beam’s reports are at Tab A.3 Our paper is at Tab B4 for reference.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 650, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Negotiations, 7/69–10/69. Secret; Nodis.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 69.
  3. Attached but not printed are telegram 3946 from Moscow, July 31, in which the Embassy reported on Beam’s talk with Semyenov, and telegram 3435 from Moscow, August 1, containing Semyenov’s comments to Beam.
  4. Attached but not printed; See footnote 2, Document 69.