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

13921. For Bergus.

FYI. 1. We have studied carefully your messages reporting on your conversations with Sadat, FM Riad, and Mohammed Riad.See footnotes 2 and 7, Document 196 and footnotes 3 and 5, Document 197. On January 25, after reflecting on a week of several high-level conversations with UAR officials, Bergus sent a telegram with some conclusions regarding the United Arab Republic and the peace process. He began by writing that the Egyptians were “mortally afraid of engaging in any process which would be within our [the U.S.] concept of negotiations,” which he believed represented a “culture block” between the two countries. He argued that the United States had played all of its “readily available cards with the Egyptians,” and that the only person who had “the power to change the present situation” was Jarring, due to the United Arab Republic’s fear of losing his “sympathy.” Bergus concluded that if Jarring were “willing to take bold risks on the basis of his own expendability,” he might succeed in breaking what Bergus believed was an emerging “impasse.” (Telegram 150 from Cairo, January 25; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1160, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks Edited, January 22–31, 1971) We are not surprised, but are deeply concerned over present UAR approach. For months we have worked long and hard to get negotiating process started. It has begun, admittedly gingerly, preliminarily, haltingly. Parties seem to be speaking in stutters. Nevertheless, a beginning has been made; this is as much as could be expected.

2. But we are deeply concerned that UAR may not have faced up to need for serious negotiations. As you say, UAR is mortally afraid of engaging in any process which would be within our concept of negotiations; but without this central process our chances of influencing Israel are dim indeed. We share also your judgment of unrealism of Riad’s belief that Egypt’s best course is Quote to put pressure on us Unquote. Various UAR reps have come to you every 48 hours to have us produce commitment of total Israeli withdrawal to pre June 5 lines even in circumstances where had it not been for Jarring’s sensible clean-up job, polemical UAR paper might have resulted in an immediate deadlock.3

3. UAR concept of negotiation seems to be to pressure us to pressure Israel to give UAR what it wants: total Israeli withdrawal to pre-June 5 lines. There seems increasing evidence that UAR concept of negotiations is of pro forma exchange while Four Powers take on main [Page 722] task. One side has committed itself to the principle of peace, and the other side has committed itself to the principle of withdrawal; what is required is that specific details of a peace agreement be hammered out in serious discussions between the parties under Jarring’s auspices.

4. UAR notion that all that is required is for SC Resolution to be implemented is based on naive assumption that third party entities can do the job for it, the Security Council, or the Four Powers laying down an ukase on peace, withdrawal and guarantees. UAR is apparently still unwilling to accept that best way in which US can exercise quiet influence on Israel is within context of serious negotiations between parties that we have spent a year producing. Four Power imposition exercise would not be effective in producing Israel. We continue to believe deeply that within the context of a serious exchange between the parties, in which Jarring takes, as you suggest, greater initiative, we can on a step-by-step and point-by-point basis best seek to develop kind of flexibility on Israeli side which could in time lead to a peace agreement along lines of the October/December 1969 documents.4 We agree with Foreign Minister Riad’s observation that we are not in fact too far apart on what we consider to be a sensible settlement at end of line. But Riad must understand that we cannot produce such a miracle by some preemptive sweep of hand, that we are committed to the October–December 1969 documents, that full cooperation and detailed participation of UAR is required in central negotiating process if US is to play the kind of positive and constructive role it is committed to in helping bring about a solution. Present UAR attitude seems to be that it has done us a favor by not resorting to Security Council, by accepting US peace initiative of last June, and by continuing ceasefire following General Assembly consideration of the matter last December. This is not the case; all of these steps were essential building blocks toward settlement which UAR must realize it needs more than us.

5. We know also that UAR feels that it has already made principal concessions by recognizing Israel’s right to exist. But fact of matter is that other side remains unconvinced that UAR is serious about this as long as it is unwilling to sit down (even indirectly) and to work out on a bilateral basis specifics of peace commitment, final borders, demilitarized zones, and practical security arrangements that would make the difference between a real and a paper peace.

6. Finally, we wonder whether UAR has entirely grasped that we are probably at most critical juncture in peace-making effort since end of June war. If a genuine negotiating process cannot be brought into train, our judgment is that further efforts will not be possible for [Page 723] months if not the next year or two, that what would probably result in such circumstances is another round in which the parties would bash at each other, at minimum leaving question of political settlement in even more elusive stage or deteriorating into something much worse.

7. We wanted share above thoughts and concerns with you as background to oral message from FM Riad as given below which is obviously written in more gentle, diplomatic tones. While we can appreciate sense of frustration and impatience that UAR feels, there is one point that we hope you will continue to stress: we do not view negotiations as a device to perpetuate GOI occupation, but patient, step-by-step negotiations are central in order to permit us to play kind of role which could lead to a solution along the lines of the October/December 1969 documents. We cannot play this role on the basis of falsely created deadlines and under threats not to extend a cease-fire which is in UAR interest. To summarize, the simple fact is that there are 3 courses of action possible and only three: 1) continue the status quo, 2) war or 3) negotiations leading to peace. End FYI.

8. At earliest opportunity you should convey following oral message from Secretary to Foreign Minister Riad either directly or through Muhammad Riad.

9. At outset Secretary wishes to clarify report you have received concerning his remarks to King Hussein.5 Purpose of his conversation at that juncture was to illustrate need for both sides to approach talks under Ambassador Jarring in a spirit of give and take. United States views on peace, withdrawal, boundaries, security arrangements and all other elements of settlement continue to be those expressed in October–December 1969 documents and Secretary’s December 9 speech.6

10. We share your government’s desire for rapid progress toward a peace settlement. We recognize that the status quo cannot and should not last indefinitely. US does not consider that negotiations are a delay device for perpetuating occupation of Arab territory. US is prepared to make an all-out effort to help the parties reach a settlement this year. As Secretary told Ambassador Zayyat when he came to Washington recently, 1971 is a critical year because, first, we sense that both sides are seriously interested for first time in finding an alternative to war and present status quo, and second, because if a peace settlement cannot be achieved this year there is not likely to be as good an opportunity for many years to come.

11. At same time, we do not feel that progress can be made under recurrent short deadlines. Positive US role can only be played in con [Page 724] text of on-going, serious negotiations between parties. This is essential for UAR to understand. With issues as complex as ones parties face, and psychological attitudes of distrust so deeply imbedded, progress is going to have to come step-by-step and obviously this will take some time. We want the negotiations to proceed as rapidly as serious dialogue between the parties on crucial issues will permit. The pace cannot be forced artificially. Continuation of cease-fire is as much in UAR interest as it is in Israel’s, and it is more important to both than it is to United States.

12. We believe your government’s decision not to call for a Security Council meeting was wise, constructive, and in UAR interest. To have subjected the talks to public discussions could only have been a setback. A start has now been made. We have no desire to try to portray this small first step as more than it is. On other hand, compared with steady drift toward increasingly serious warfare that we witnessed in 1969 and first part of 1970, even small steps, if they are in right direction, should be nurtured and built upon.

13. It is our judgment that Israel has now made decision to negotiate seriously in Jarring talks. Its initial submission to Jarring went directly to substance, did not raise procedural problems, and did not contain polemics. We recognize, of course, that what parties have said thus far in this initial exchange is not everything that other side wants. But we believe progress can be made if both sides proceed seriously to negotiate critical specifics. Such negotiations will not, as your representatives have sometimes put it, qte leave the Arabs alone with Israel unqte. The UAR is not alone in negotiations; it is not negotiating from weakness. Major powers will be following process closely and have a role to play in guaranteeing the peace. Framework for a peace settlement is set forth in the Security Council Resolution and has been further defined by discussions among the powers. In our view that framework offers the Arabs a settlement that is honorable.

14. We are aware of your government’s sensitivity on the subject of negotiations. It was in deference to these views and only with a great deal of effort that US succeeded in persuading Israel to drop its insistence on face-to-face negotiations at the outset and proceed in indirect negotiations under Ambassador Jarring. We had always assumed that once this hurdle was overcome your government was willing to engage seriously in negotiations under Jarring.

15. The Secretary does not see that the UARG need feel at a disadvantage in the Jarring negotiations. Both UAR and Israel have the military strength to ensure their nation’s survival. On the other hand, neither side has the military strength, nor is it likely to achieve this, to impose its will on the other through military means. In our view this not only testifies to need for negotiations but also confers fundamental [Page 725] parity in a negotiating situation. We have not given Israelis a veto over settlement; both sides have an effective veto. Moreover, all the parties are agreed that the final settlement must be a package deal. This means that in exploration of what the elements of the package may be, neither side has committed itself, neither side has lost or gained anything, until all the pieces fall into place and are agreed upon by the parties in a final agreement. Concerns of each side can be explored by the parties confidentially and conditionally without prejudice to final position of each government concerned.

16. Foreign Minister has asked where do matters stand? As Secretary wrote recently to FonMin Riad,7 if negotiations can be pursued privately and quietly under Ambassador Jarring’s auspices, we believe we can look forward to early development of situation in which not only can USG play increasingly helpful role but Four Powers in concert can begin to make meaningful contribution on question of guarantees. Our judgment is that some progress has already been made. We hope that Jarring will record progress made thus far in a public report which will permit him in the next stage to concentrate on specifics of peace, withdrawal, borders, and security arrangements. We understand GOJ is putting forward additional substantive ideas. We hope UAR will respond positively as we have indicated.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 637, Country Files, Middle East, UAR, Vol. VI. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Drafted by Sterner and Sisco, cleared by Atherton, and approved by Rogers. Repeated Priority to Amman and to Beirut, Tel Aviv, USUN, London, Moscow, and Paris.
  2. See footnotes 4 and 5, Document 199.
  3. See Documents 58 and 78.
  4. Reference is presumably to remarks during the dinner for King Hussein on December 8; see footnote 5, Document 189.
  5. See Document 73.
  6. See Document 196.