146. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassies in Turkey, Greece, and Italy1

128496. Deliver Opening of Business Saturday, August 8.

FYI—In support of UAR-Israeli ceasefire and military standstill, which USG has just successfully negotiated, we have told Israelis we will provide high level aerial reconnaissance by U–2 aircraft to supplement their surveillance of ceasefire zone west of Suez Canal to help assure them military standstill being observed.2 Only a U–2 with oblique [Page 499] cameras can give coverage of entire ceasefire zone without overflight of UAR. This will be discreet but not repeat not covert activity.3 Even though no overflight of UAR involved, we have advised UAR of our intention and we shall shortly be advising Soviets. UAR reaction was that they do not much like idea and will QUOTE ignore it completely UNQUOTE. We take this as minimum Egyptians could say and relatively positive in circumstances. We are now urgently in process of arranging logistics of this operation, including specifically question of where U–2 aircraft will be based. Two U–2s are proceeding to Western European point tonight. END FYI.

1. At level Ambassador or Chargé deems likely to prove most effective, Embassy should urgently approach host government asking for basing and refueling facilities or, in event USAF facility used, agreement for U–2 aircraft to be used for surveillance from Israeli-controlled territory on east side Suez Canal. You may say this is part of operation to supplement Israeli means of ensuring against violations by UAR of ceasefire and standstill agreement and is known to governments of UAR and Israel. If queried re UAR reaction you may draw on FYI section above. You may also say we assume Soviets may want to do same for UAR. We view this as constructive effort in support of current moves toward peace in Middle East, and as operation with which we would hope other governments would be pleased to be associated. We will, of course, seek avoid publicity but cannot guarantee there will be no publicity, in which case we will acknowledge activity while seeking to protect country providing base facility.

2. Since Greek facilities would be of particular use, request Ambassador Tasca personally explain to GOG importance this project, which is important adjunct to assuring both sides that neither being placed at military disadvantage and contributing to atmosphere conducive to successful negotiations.

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3. We would hope to deploy to base selected not later than Sunday, August 9.4

4. FOR ANKARA: We would hope to use Incirlik.

5. FOR ATHENS: We would hope to use Thessalonika.

6. FOR ROME: We would hope to use Aviano or Sigonella.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1155, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Vol. II, July 24–August 8, 1970. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted on August 7 by Atherton, cleared in draft in EUR, and approved by Johnson. Repeated to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Moscow, and London.
  2. In telegram 128782 to Tel Aviv, August 10, the Department instructed Barbour to tell Israeli General Aaharon Yariv that the United States assumed a “common GOI–US intelligence objective” and wished to “work closely” with Israel on the U–2 missions, also known as Operation Even-Steven. In support of this objective, the United States would: 1) provide information on each flight a minimum of four hours before launching; 2) provide the times when the flights entered, turned-around in, and exited from the Sinai; and 3) process photographs “as quickly as possible” and make them available to a “designated representative” of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. (Ibid., Box 1156, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Volume III, August 8–27, 1970)
  3. Shortly before the cease-fire took effect, Rogers sent Bergus a telegram instructing him to tell Mohamed Riad that they would have to expect that the U–2 flights would eventually become public knowledge. The Secretary explained that, if they did, the U.S. Government would make this statement: “The United States, having taken the lead in proposing a standstill ceasefire and in working out details of this agreement, feels an obligation to assist in seeing that the terms of this agreement are fully carried out. We are from time to time conducting high level reconnaissance flights to help verify observance of the ceasefire. These flights are entirely limited to the zone east of the Suez Canal ceasefire line.” (Telegram 128247 to Cairo, August 7; ibid., Box 655, Country Files, Middle East, Ceasefire Mideast Vol. I)
  4. In cooperation with the British Government, the U–2s were based in Cyprus. The first two flights, which had not been coordinated with Israel, occurred on August 9 and 10. General Yariv protested these “surprises” and asked that future flights be postponed until the two governments could complete the work necessary to coordinate the missions. (Telegram 4285 from Tel Aviv, August 11; ibid., Box 1156, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Vol. III, August 8–27, 1970)