18. Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Posts1

51229. Sisco and Dobrynin had working lunch April 3 on Middle East in which following principal points emerged:

1. Dobrynin said he wished to state explicitly and categorically that Soviet Union wants peace in Middle East not simply an armistice. In response to Sisco’s query, he did not elaborate on content of peace nor did he give any indication of USSR willingness to press UAR to make a binding commitment on peace. After expressing hope that we could make some progress, Sisco said there are some who believe that the USSR is not interested in real peace in Middle East. In support of this thesis is view that Soviet influence has not been on wane in the area and that all-out Soviet support for Arab cause is serving present Soviet interest. Sisco asked why should Soviets therefore want peace in the area when it may believe that it has things going for it? Dobrynin said this was a fair question, and he would answer it in this way: (a) Soviet Union does not like unstable situations. In Middle East, if another war were to occur, it could cause difficulties between us and we would once again have to be on the hot-line to see what the two of us could do. Situation in Middle East is beginning to look like it did in months before June [1967] war. Soviets think situation is too risky. (b) Soviets want to make progress because bilateral discussions between US and USSR on Middle East are first serious talks between Soviet Government and new Administration. We therefore believe it is important for progress to be made in the interest of overall US–USSR relations. Sisco took opportunity underscore point he has made at previous meetings with Dobrynin; namely, that unless Soviets can bring UAR around to make commitment [to] peace with Israel on basis of a binding agreement, it will be most difficult, if not impossible for US to influence Israelis to withdraw its forces to secure and recognized borders.

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2. Dobrynin, who was aware of Secretary’s appointment with Fawzi this morning,2 asked if anything emerged from this talk. Sisco said two principal topics 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 27.3 Sisco said Fawzi found some good elements in paper as well as others which he did not like.

3. Sisco said he had impression that position of both sides had hardened somewhat, citing GOI Foreign Minister’s emphasis on direct negotiations and peace treaty and Nasser’s emphasis on Khartoum formula, i.e., no negotiations, no peace, no recognition.4 Sisco said our impression of Israeli position is that they flexible on question of form provided undertakings are reciprocal and binding between parties. On negotiations, we continue to believe that indirect method can be pursued further but, we do not see a settlement being achieved unless Arabs at some point agree to direct discussion. Sisco stressed direct discussion procedure was an important element of Israeli thinking and reflected Arab recognition of GOI right to live in peace and security. Dobrynin agreed that position of both sides had probably hardened. He feels that there is some flexibility in form of settlement on Arab side, though he continues to shy away from any indication that Arabs would be willing to assume direct binding obligations to Israel. He continues to talk in terms of declarations deposited with the Security Council and obligations in relation to the Council and not between the parties.

4. Most interesting statement came from Dobrynin on the question of guarantees. He said plainly USSR has no interest in guarantees. If [Page 63] Eban does not want Soviet Union to join in any guarantees, this is perfectly all right with them. He said positive reference to guarantees which Soviets have made have largely been in deference to US views. Soviets would be prepared to join in a Security Council endorsement, but if Soviet involvement in political guarantees gives Israelis any difficulty Soviets would not insist on being included. As far as they are concerned, important guarantees are practical arrangements on ground. In this connection, he expressed interest in possible UN role in Sharm-al-Sheik, Gaza, and in small demilitarized zone on both sides of international boundary between Egypt and Israel. He continued express very strong opposition to concept of demilitarization of entire Sinai.

5. Dobrynin was at great pains to explain that if the practical procedure for withdrawal which Soviets have suggested in December 30th Plan5 is not acceptable, they are prepared to entertain alternative suggestions we might have.

6. Looking ahead, Dobrynin asked how US and USSR could be most useful. Sisco said speaking personally, once we have explored in detail specific points in Security Council resolution, we will want to take a look at Soviet position in totality to determine whether and how much movement has been made and where there are elements of agreement and disagreement. As we explored this, Dobrynin said, based on instructions from Moscow, he would be prepared to try to work out some new QTE practical plan UNQTE based on our combined thoughts. He asked Sisco what he meant when he said he speaking personally. Sisco said this is his own line of thinking and that whether we would want to try to put together a US/USSR QTE piece of paper UNQTE will depend on whether there are sufficient areas of agreement between us to make this a worthwhile exercise. Sisco expressed hope that this would be the case; but when he said he was speaking personally he was indicating that no such decision on a next step had been taken by the U.S. Government. This judgment would be made after we had compared our respective positions on all points. Dobrynin said his instructions go beyond merely exploring, but include objective of working out something with us. Sisco said that, too, is our objective. At same time Sisco stressed that one of things we will keep in foreground of our thinking on whether QTE combined thoughts UNQTE should be developed will be whether such ideas take sufficiently into account views of principal parties in area. If there was a reasonable chance that a common piece of paper would be a vehicle for helping to bring parties along, this might be worthwhile endeavor. We attach great importance to US–USSR talks on ME. Basically, this would mean USSR capacity to bring Egyptians along, and we to influence Israelis. We are not [Page 64] interested in a propaganda exercise which would find us taking a position in disassociation from parties in the area; that would not be helpful in promoting a solution.

8 [sic]. Dobrynin asked if there had been any new development re US resumption of relations with UAR, making clear Soviets have no objections. Sisco said matter stands where it has been; our attitude is positive and we ready to discuss when UAR is ready.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 653, Country Files, Middle East, Sisco Middle East Talks, April-June (1969). Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted and approved by Sisco. Sent to Moscow, London, Paris, Amman, Tel Aviv, USUN, and Cairo. All brackets are in the original except “[1967]”, “[to]”, and “[sic]”, added for clarity.
  2. Telegram 51470 to Cairo, April 4, reported Rogers’s April 3 meeting with Fawzi at which the two discussed “general questions relating to Arab-Israel settlement.” The Secretary “pointed out necessity of UAR convincing rest of world it prepared recognize and live in peace with Israel by saying so explicitly.” Fawzi was “unwilling say so even privately but said that UAR readiness recognize Israel’s borders and renounce belligerency was sufficient proof of peaceful intentions.” He added that if the United States “had some formula to propose on question recognizing Israel which would be short of formal, diplomatic recognition, UAR would be prepared to consider it.” While the “withdrawal question was lost in shuffle,” Rogers affirmed that the U.S. position on refugees “was consistent with UN resolutions on the subject, which “satisfied” Fawzi. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 UAR)
  3. In his March 27 speech, Nasser criticized the U.S. working paper and said that the Arabs would never agree to an “imposed settlement” by the Four Powers. (New York Times, March 28, 1969, p. 7)
  4. In a resolution adopted by the Arab League heads of state at a meeting in Khartoum August 29 to September 1, 1967, the heads of state “agreed to unified efforts at international and diplomatic levels to eliminate the consequences of aggression and to assure the withdrawal of the aggressor forces of Israel from Arab lands, but within the limits to which Arab states are committed: No peace with Israel, no negotiation with Israel, no recognition of Israel and maintenance of the rights of Palestinian people in their nation.” (Ibid., September 2, 1967, p. 1)
  5. See Document 1.