87. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State1

Secto 68/3276. Discussion of Middle East at RogersGromyko meeting September 26.

[Page 264]
Secretary met alone with Gromyko last evening for about 45 minutes before dinner and about one hour and fifteen minutes after dinner.
In conversation before dinner Gromyko opened conversation by asking what Mrs. Meir agreed to about the Middle East. Secretary responded that Mrs. Meir did not agree to do anything: that she was very firm in her position that Arabs must make it completely clear that they intend to seek a lasting peace with Israel and to renounce their previously stated goal of eventual destruction of Israel. Gromyko said he was certain this could be accomplished but that he thought the United States should do more to make Israel agree to responsible terms. Secretary explained that we are not in a position to force Israel to accept a settlement. Secretary then asked Gromyko if Soviet Union in a position to force Arabs to do things against their will. Gromyko replied with a smile, “well, we can bring them along some.”
Gromyko inquired about Rhodes formula2 and whether Mrs. Meir had shown any interest in such a procedure. Secretary stated that the United States felt that it might provide a way of getting more active negotiations underway and that Mrs. Meir did not oppose suggestion when it was discussed with her. Secretary pointed out, however, that Mrs. Meir said she would want to know more about framework for negotiations before agreeing to formula.
Gromyko then mentioned that Riad had told him he thought Rhodes formula might provide a way of getting negotiations started and he knew Riad had talked to Secretary about this possibility.
Secretary then suggested to Gromyko that Amb. Dobrynin and Sisco meet beginning Monday3 to attempt to agree on a document dealing with the UAR-Israeli aspects of the settlement. Purpose of meeting would be to work toward a common Soviet-U.S. position paper on basis of following elements: (1) a binding commitment to a durable and permanent peace; (2) acceptance of principle of choice for refugees based on an annual quota to be repatriated and an understanding on an overall limitation; (3) freedom of passage through straits of Tehran [Tiran] and Suez; (4) parties would be expected to negotiate on basis all options open on following items—(a) security arrangements in Sharm El-Shaikh; (b) final disposition of Gaza, and (c) arrangements of [Page 265] demilitarized zones; (d) it would be understood that Soviet Union and United States would encourage parties to negotiate on (a), (b) and (c) on basis of Rhodes formula and under auspices of Jarring.
Gromyko asked Secretary how he thought the matter should proceed from that point on. Secretary said that if this procedure could be agreed upon between Soviet Union and United States it would then be forwarded to four powers for their consideration at a meeting toward end of October and that thereafter four powers would attempt to arrange for beginning of negotiations based on Rhodes formula sometime in November, Gromyko agreed that this an acceptable procedure seriously to consider.
Gromyko then asked questions on specific issues. He asked if proposal Secretary made suggested that border between Egypt and Israel would be pre-1967 border. Secretary said he not in a position to make that commitment but thought something along those lines might be worked out, assuming Sharm El-Shaikh issue and other aspects above could be satisfactorily resolved. Gromyko then repeated Soviet position on Sharm El-Shaikh to which Secretary replied that he thought that was a matter which should be thoroughly discussed in negotiations between the parties.
Gromyko also asked reasons for our opposition to reference to Constantinople convention. Secretary set forth our reasoning stating that he saw no reason to make reference to another document in agreement and, furthermore, it might be construed to be an indirect way of giving UAR unilateral right to close canal to Israel at any time it thought it might be in interest of their national defense. Gromyko said he had worked matter out very carefully with UAR and that express language in the treaty provides there could be no discrimination. He felt that it provided a stronger basis for assurance to Israel than otherwise. Secretary told Gromyko we could exchange views on legal aspects but if Soviet position was that Israel could have free passage through Suez Canal on same basis as all other nationals without any possibility of discrimination he felt sure a formulation could be worked out.
Gromyko raised refugee question again and a fairly extended discussion took place with a suggested ceiling of 100,000 over a ten year period. Secretary under impression that from standpoint of Soviet Union they felt some solution could be worked out along those lines although this was not explicitly stated.
When Gromyko raised the question, Secretary indicated that subject of West Bank also a matter that should be left open to negotiation between Israel and Jordan. Gromyko did not oppose the suggestion.
Secretary said that it position of United States that Jerusalem should be a united city and that question of her sovereignty should be a matter of negotiations between parties at a later date. Secretary [Page 266] indicated that Israel’s position was that it would be unwilling to relinquish all or any part of its claimed sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Secretary told Gromyko that discussion they were having was of a tentative nature and that no final agreement could be reached between Soviet Union and United States until matter reduced to writing so that there could be no possible misunderstanding between them. Secretary pointed out that in interest of our future relations it is quite important that before any agreement is reached that we clearly understand exactly what is involved. Gromyko said that he agreed with that and would be pleased to meet with Secretary again before he leaves New York with idea of discussing in specific detail the suggested course of action.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 292, Agency Files, Rogers Bilateral Talks at UN, 9/15/69–10/7/69. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Repeated to Moscow, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, and Tel Aviv. On September 29, Nixon received this telegram as part of the President’s Daily Brief. (Ibid., Box 11, President’s Daily Briefs)
  2. Reference is to the negotiation of armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab states January–March 1949. The negotiations took place at Rhodes with Ralph Bunche serving as UN Acting Mediator. The negotiations involved separate meetings on substantive items between Bunche and each delegation until discussions reached an advanced stage, whereupon joint informal meetings were held.
  3. September 29.