196. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in the United Arab Republic1

6930. 1. Please deliver the following written message from the Secretary to FonMin Riad, stressing that this is a private communication between them:


Dear Mr. Minister:

Reflecting on the present situation in the Middle East particularly in the light of Mr. Bergus’ report of his talk with you yesterday,2 it occurred to me that if circumstances only permitted it would be very worthwhile for us to sit down for a thorough and frank discussion. As the next best thing, in the spirit of the warm and personal relationship which has developed between us, I am sending you this private message.

You indicated to Mr. Bergus, after outlining your proposals, that you would welcome any thoughts that I might have on an alternative course of action. I would like, therefore, to respond to this thoughtful suggestion. In doing so, let me again say that our only objective is to assist in any way we can in bringing about a peace in the area that is permanent and to do this in a way which is pursuant to and totally consistent with the Security Council Resolution.

Let me start by saying that I am much concerned from what you said to Mr. Bergus that at the very time when negotiations under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices have finally begun and we may be on the threshold of success that a situation is developing which would result in failure. What do I mean by this? For the first time—and many have worked long for this result—the Israeli Government has put forward a proposal in indirect negotiations under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices3 which is substantive in content and carefully avoids setting up procedural roadblocks or difficulties. This is an Israeli proposal which was not rpt not made known to us until after it had been communicated to Ambassador Jarring. Obviously it does not contain—nor could you [Page 699] have expected—all you seek in such an initial proposal. But it is a serious beginning. This judgment is shared by Ambassador Jarring. Indeed many of the points are within the framework of what we have understood is UAR policy. Certainly it could be the basis for a counterproposal by your government which could lead to further meaningful substantive exchanges and this, of course, we are pledged to support and facilitate.

Without presuming to advise you on how you should reply, I would only suggest that it is important to look not only at what the Israeli proposal says but at what it does not say as well. Viewed in this way, I believe it will be apparent that nothing in the Israeli proposal forecloses the position of your government on any aspect of a settlement. In this connection, I wish to reaffirm to you that the U.S. position remains that contained in the documents of October 28 and December 18, 1969.4

A positive reply by the UAR would have many advantages. It would be taken as directly responsive and reflective of a serious intention to negotiate; a move to the Security Council on the other hand will be taken as diversionary—and in fact would be diversionary. It would offer further opportunity to focus in even more specific terms in the immediate and more active next stage of the talks on the key questions of withdrawal, borders, demilitarized zones, and practical security arrangements. It would provide Ambassador Jarring the opportunity to make a brief public report that serious talks were underway, that he believed progress was being made and that the ceasefire should be renewed for an additional period.

I fully understand your view that the ceasefire should not and must not become a basis for an indefinite prolongation of the status quo. However, I see no rpt no better way to move toward a peace settlement which will change the status quo than for you to engage the Israeli Government in a meaningful and substantive negotiating process. I am convinced the opportunity now exists for such negotiations for the first time since the June war. As you know under our initiative Ambassador Jarring is given the authority to hold discussions between the parties under his auspices Innerquote according to such procedure and at such places and times as he may recommend, taking into account as appropriate each side’s preference as to method of procedure and previous experience between the parties. End innerquote.5 Thus, I believe he has considerable freedom of action in formulating the next stage of the negotiating process.

[Page 700]

It would be a tragedy to miss this opportunity. As I understand it, your idea of pressing for action by the Four Powers and the Security Council was developed before Ambassador Jarring’s recent discussions with the Israeli Government. I assume that you might have expected that the Israelis would emphasize procedural matters in their talks with Ambassador Jarring. In fact they have not done so, and I firmly believe that to ignore this new factor in the situation and to press for major power intervention or through the Security Council would be a serious setback. Such a course could, in my considered opinion, constitute a fatal blow to our own efforts to help move the situation toward implementation of Security Council Resolution 242.

I appreciate your wish to cooperate with us in the Security Council. I fear, however, that with the best will in the world we would find ourselves in disagreement because of factors inherent in the situation which are well known to both of us. It is not merely a question of how a Security Council debate is managed. The problem is more fundamental than that, since we are persuaded that the whole concept of this approach is the wrong way to go about helping Ambassador Jarring promote agreement between the parties as he has been charged to do in Security Council Resolution 242. Certainly there is nothing that could be said in a public forum that had not been said hundreds of times before or since November 1967.

On the other hand, if negotiations can be pursued privately and quietly under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices, I believe we can look forward to the early development of a situation in which not only can my government play an increasingly helpful role but the Four Powers in concert can begin to make a meaningful contribution with particular reference to the question of guarantees and peacekeeping arrangements. I want to assure you that we have noted the new emphasis of your policy on this key aspect of the settlement, to which we also attach high importance.

I have set forth my thoughts, Mr. Minister, in the hope that we can see the present situation in the same light and to persuade you of our determination to move forward quickly along the course charted in the proposal which we made and the late President Nasser so courageously accepted in June.6 I cannot stress too strongly my conviction that we are at perhaps the most critical and at the same time hopeful point since the passage of Resolution 242—a point where your government’s decisions will be a major factor in determining whether 1971 [Page 701] is to be the year in which a just and lasting settlement is achieved or the Middle East set on the path toward a continuing and costly conflict.7


William P. Rogers

End quote.

2. For Amman: Would like your judgment as to whether it will be helpful for you to draw upon the above as means to encourage a positive Jordanian reaction to GOI paper. We hope GOJ will see advantage in letting UAR take lead in responding.8

3. For USUN: You are authorized to show, but do not leave, above letter to Jarring so that he will know precisely what it is we are telling the UAR and will cooperate with us in his report near end of month.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 636, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. V. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Rogers, Sisco, and Atherton and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Amman, Tel Aviv, Beirut, USUN, London, Paris, and Moscow.
  2. The Ambassador’s report of his 75-minute conversation with Riad on January 13 is in telegram 64 from Cairo, January 14. (Ibid., Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VI)
  3. See footnote 5, Document 195.
  4. See Documents 58 and 78.
  5. The quotation is from the U.S. initiative contained in Document 129.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 136.
  7. On the morning of January 15, Bergus, accompanied by Wiley, delivered the message to Mohamed Riad, who said he would call the Foreign Minister at his hotel in Aswan that afternoon to read the message to him. Regardless, Riad said, the Foreign Minister would return to Cairo by 2 p.m. the next day and would be able to give the text his full attention at that time. (Telegram 81 from Cairo, January 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)
  8. In telegram 361 from Amman, January 20, the Embassy reported that the Foreign Minister was “completely in tune with Secretary’s thinking” that the time was ripe for “quiet diplomacy.” (Ibid.)