154. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in the United Arab Republic, the Embassy in Israel, and the White House1

138163. White House please pass San Clemente for Assistant Secretary Sisco. Ref: Cairo 1911.2

1. FOR CAIRO. You should seek appointment as soon as possible with Foreign Minister or if he is not available Muhammad Riad to say that we have studied FonMin’s presentation to you and in reply we wish convey following.

2. USG cannot agree with interpretation that ceasefire/standstill agreement3 permits relocation of missile batteries from one location to another within ceasefire zone. This is explicitly precluded by para C of agreement which stipulates inter alia: “Activities within the zones will be limited to the maintenance of existing installations at their present sites and positions and to the rotation and supply of forces presently within the zones.” In light of language just preceding it, word “rotation” cannot be taken to mean relocation of missile batteries from one site to another. Beyond this explicit language, it appears to us self-evident that movement of missile sites from one position to another is inconsistent with concept of military status quo. Unless there were some military advantage to be gained, why would UAR want to move missile batteries? Any forward movement within zone obviously confers military advantage, but even lateral movement, possibly from site to another more advantageous, could also be held to do so. USG must insist that paragraph C explicitly does not permit relocation of missile batteries within zone and that continued relocations by GUAR will place whole ceasefire/standstill agreement in grave jeopardy.

[Page 518]

3. “Rotation and supply of forces” in paragraph C of agreement clearly refers to rotation and supply within levels and types existing at time of ceasefire and cannot be construed to permit improvement or change in military dispositions. This would rule out, for example, conversion of dummy missile site into operational site, or replacement of SA–2 site with SA–3 site.

4. We also have serious problem with FonMin’s assertion that provision for maintenance in agreement would allow UAR to improve “weak” installation or to repair “destroyed” installation. Status quo means exactly what it says and precludes any action that improves military position of either side over that obtaining at time ceasefire/standstill went into effect. This precludes new construction at existing sites as well as construction of new sites.

5. We welcome FonMin’s categorical statement that UAR would not establish any new installations or sites in zone and that it is not constructing new sites. We hope that clarifications in preceding paragraphs which are based on clear and precise language of agreement itself, will remove any misunderstandings and that adherence to that agreement will enable us to close this chapter and devote our full attention to talks now opening in New York.

6. With respect to FonMin’s allegations of Israeli violations of standstill, you may reiterate to GUAR that we have already taken up question overflights and GOI has promised investigate and give us report. On other charges leveled by FonMin, we will proceed immediately to raise them with GOI. If they turn out to be well-founded, we will take same serious view that we have of UAR activity. We will inform GUAR of results of our inquiry.4

7. FOR TEL AVIV. You should tell GOI we have received response from UAR FonMin to our approaches on standstill violations. You should say that FonMin states categorically that UAR has not (sic) and will not introduce any new missiles or construct any new sites within 50 kilometer zone. However, GUAR claims it has right under agreement to relocate missile sites within 50 kilometer zone. USG does not agree and we are making this clear in immediate return approach. We are also informing GUAR of our firm view re limitations inherent in provisions for “maintenance” and “rotation of forces.” We are saying this cannot include such activity as converting dummy site into operational battery, or replacing SA–2 battery with SA–3.

[Page 519]

8. You should also raise with GOI UAR assertions of Israeli standstill violations in para 5 reftel. You should say sooner we deal with these charges and, hopefully, lay them to rest, more effectively we will be able to urge points in preceding paras upon GUAR. Since we are not photographing Israeli side of ceasefire line, we request that USDAO be allowed to visit precise locations specified by GUAR to look into GUAR charges.5

9. FYI. We see no useful purpose in prolonging debate about provision of military equipment to Israel and prefer to let this matter rest on points you made (para 13 reftel). If Riad presses this question, however, and you feel you must respond, point you should get across is that we are continuing to exercise restraint. It is unrealistic, however to expect that moves or activities to gain military advantage can be one-sided. This is essence of problem of escalation and is why we have so consistently favored talks on arms limitation. END FYI.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1156, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Vol. III, August 8–27, 1970. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Sterner on August 24 and approved by Atherton. Repeated to Amman, London, Moscow, Paris, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 1911 from Cairo, August 24, the Section reported Bergus’s conversation with Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad regarding U.S. accusations that the United Arab Republic violated the cease-fire agreement with Israel. (Ibid.) On August 19, the Department of State had released this statement on the issue: “We have concluded that there was some forward deployment of surface-to-air missiles into and within the zone west of the Suez Canal around the time the ceasefire went into effect; there is some evidence that this continued beyond the ceasefire deadline, although our evidence of this is not conclusive. With respect to additional information which the Israeli Government has brought to our attention concerning possible violations of the ceasefire, we will examine it and be in touch with Israel through diplomatic channels. We do not now anticipate making further public statements on this matter.” (Department of State Bulletin, September 7, 1970, p. 278)
  3. Document 145.
  4. On August 26, Bergus wrote: “I conveyed substance paras 2 through 6 of State 138163 to Mahmoud Riad at 1100 local this morning. He promised to pass our views along to highest authority soonest.” (Telegram 1927 from Cairo; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR) The next day, Bergus had another meeting with Riad, at which the Foreign Minister assured him that his presentation from the previous day “was before UAR military command where it was receiving intensive study.” (Telegram 1940 from Cairo, August 27; ibid.)
  5. The Deputy Chief of Mission presented the points in paragraphs 7 and 8 to Gazit on August 26. He suggested that the information from the second of the two paragraphs “be passed to military authorities for their consideration and possible action.” (Telegram 4619 from Tel Aviv, August 26; ibid., Box 1156, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, June Initiative Vol. III, August 8–27, 1970) On the evening of August 28, Barbour met with Meir, Eban, and other Israeli officials at the Prime Minister’s invitation. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the cease-fire agreement due to violations by the United Arab Republic and asked the Ambassador what the U.S. Government was doing to address the issue. Barbour replied that it was doing everything it could “to get other side to live up to agreement,” but Meir remained pessimistic, confessing that she “could not see a rosy road ahead.” (Telegram 4692 from Tel Aviv, August 29; ibid.)