22. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union and the Mission to the United Nations1

59898. Subject: April 17 Sisco-Dobrynin Meeting on Middle East.

Summary: Dobrynin changed character April 17 bilateral discussion of Middle East by dropping point-by-point review of November 1967 resolution and presenting written replies under instructions to several earlier US questions. Soviet replies, like Dobrynin’s verbal presentation made also under instructions, indicate decision which Dobrynin said had been made at highest level in Moscow to try accelerate pace of US-Soviet deliberations on Middle East.

Three principal points emerged: (a) Moscow believes Sisco-Dobrynin talks have drawn US–USSR views QUOTE somewhat nearer [Page 73] UNQUOTE; (b) Moscow prepared to try to work out a specific joint US-Soviet proposal in form of a QUOTE preliminary agreement UNQUOTE; and (c) for first time, Soviets have suggested possibility that agreement should be explicitly QUOTE between the parties UNQUOTE and that it might be reflected in a single document of a bilateral nature, rather than separate declarations. Latter shift could be significant because if carried to its logical conclusion, could mean a document signed by UAR and Israel and another signed by Jordan and Israel.

Meaningfulness of Soviet shift on nature of peace agreement, however, is still unclear in view of continued Soviet insistence on final act after Israeli withdrawal, such as Security Council decision or signing of multilateral document to put previously signed agreements in final force. Dobrynin also continued at this session to discount possibility any direct talks between parties and insisted demilitarized zones would have to be on both sides of border and in equal depth. End summary.

1. Sisco and Dobrynin held sixth regular session of bilateral talks on Middle East April 17. Toon, Atherton, Smith, Mikhailov, and Semyochkin present. Ambassador Dobrynin opened by presenting written responses under instructions to six questions posed by US side March 24. (Note: US questions were given in writing to Soviet Embassy after Sisco-Dobrynin meeting March 24 in amplification of discussions during meeting.) Dobrynin under instructions then transmitted five written Soviet questions. Texts US questions, Soviet replies and Soviet questions being sent septel.2

2. FYI: Soviet replies which being studied by Dept appear intended to suggest slight shifts in Soviet position. For example, replies refer to [Page 74] need to resolve all questions connected with complete cessation of state of war, vaguely implying Soviet recognition such matters as blockades and boycotts cannot be ignored. Replies contain first Soviet written reference to QUOTE accord between parties, UNQUOTE although term used (QUOTE dogovorennost UNQUOTE) does not necessarily mean a written agreement. According to these Soviet replies, documents to be deposited by parties with UN before withdrawal under Soviet December 30 plan are to be signed by parties and may be single document, implying possible signing by parties of same piece of paper. (In aside to DeptOff after meeting, Semyochkin volunteered significant comment that there actually will have to be more than one document QUOTE because there will be UAR-Israeli document and Jordanian-Israeli document UNQUOTE.) However, hardening of Soviet explicit views on DMZs and direct talks also revealed in replies. Replies state that (as did Malik at April 15 four power meeting)3 DMZs must be of equal depth on both sides, and also, that raising question of direct talks would only complicate achieving settlement. End FYI.

3. After reading Soviet replies and Soviet questions, Dobrynin made following presentation under instructions. Soviet and US sides agreed at last meeting that US side would give Soviets in two or three weeks a draft of a preliminary agreement. Soviets hope this document will take into account provisions of Soviet plan as well as clarifications made by Soviets in course of these meetings.4 In order to make Soviet position more precise on some major issues of settlement, Soviet side giving today written answers to six questions presented by US side March 24. Soviet side would also like to express wish that this draft preliminary agreement be balanced, that is, taking equally into consideration interests of both parties to conflict and thus being not of one-sided nature. In this case it could serve as basis for working out joint preliminary agreement. It would also be advisable that draft of preliminary agreement approach in its contents as much as possible the final documents on a settlement, giving answers to such basic questions as withdrawal, boundaries, demilitarized zones, and so on.

4. Careful study of US working paper of March 24 and analysis of the exchange of views at past meetings allow Soviet side to conclude that points of view of USSR and US QUOTE have drawn somewhat nearer UNQUOTE concerning questions of ways and means of implementing Security Council Resolution of November 22, 1967. (Dobrynin stressed this a governmental view.) At same time, Soviet side notes that some provisions of US paper do not take equally into account interests [Page 75] of both sides to conflict, but reflect stand of Israel. At last meeting Soviet and US sides came to understanding in New York talks that SC resolution should be carried out by sides to conflict in all its provisions without any limitations. However, this was not clearly stated in US working paper. Soviets hope it will be clearly stated in draft of a preliminary agreement now being prepared by US side.

6. [sic] Soviet side wishes stress once more that wording of Paragraph Five of the US paper, QUOTE a just and lasting peace will require the withdrawal of Israeli forces to secure and recognized boundaries, UNQUOTE is at variance with provisions of SC resolution, which called for QUOTE withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict, UNQUOTE that is, to the lines held before June 5, 1967. Soviets consider that the issue of Israeli withdrawal to lines which they held before June 5, 1967 is a question of principle, in accordance with provisions of SC resolution on inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war. US working paper mentions Israeli withdrawal, but it does not contain precise definition concerning obligation to carry out this important element of a Middle East settlement.

7. Sisco thanked Dobrynin for his remarks and Soviet replies and said we shared Soviet Govt assessment that our views have QUOTE drawn somewhat nearer. UNQUOTE.

8. Sisco said we will take into account in any further document which we produce Soviet plan, US paper, and clarifications that Dobrynin had given in past meetings and at today’s session. We take seriously Dobrynin statement that interests and views of both sides must be taken into account. A practical reality for achieving peace is that both parties have a veto over situation. US and USSR cannot help promote agreement unless whatever is put forward meets the minimum requirements of both sides. We assume that neither side will be entirely satisfied with substance of any settlement or any US-Soviet paper that might be developed in future.

9. We understand fully and appreciate Soviet Govt’s emphasis on withdrawal. We also understand need for specificity in this regard. For same reason we have emphasized need for specificity on permanent peace and a binding agreement between parties in which obligations are undertaken directly one to the other. Obviously all provisions of SC resolution must be agreed on and carried out. In our view, three principal prongs of a settlement are peace, agreement, and withdrawal.

10. Sisco assured Dobrynin that if we are in a position to suggest a further piece of paper at a later stage, USSR views expressed today and previously would be taken into account. Sisco welcomed USSR readiness to see if a joint provisional agreement can be drawn up. Sisco suggested another meeting next week at which time we would respond specifically to questions posed. Sisco stressed no final decisions [Page 76] have been taken in the USG on whether further piece of paper will be developed.

11. Dobrynin commented that responses given at this meeting to Sisco reflected decision at highest level of Soviet Government. Soviet comments had been carefully worded after governmental decision had been taken.

12. At Dobrynin’s suggestion, it was agreed to hold next meeting at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 22.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 648, Country Files, Middle East Negotiations. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Walter B. Smith (INR/RSE), cleared in EUR and IO, and approved by Sisco. Repeated Priority to Amman, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, and Cairo. All brackets are in the original except “[sic]”, added for clarity.
  2. Telegram 59897 to Moscow, April 18, included the six questions: “(a) Soviet note of December 30 refers to a ‘just peace settlement.’ Does this mean the ‘just and lasting peace’ called for by Resolution 242? How does Soviet Union define ‘peace’ between Israel and the Arabs? In other words, what conditions would be brought about by a just peace settlement? (b) Soviet note of December 30 refers to ‘agreement’ and ‘agreed plan.’ Does Soviet Union mean that such ‘agreement’ involves each side assuming obligations directly to the other so that such obligations are mutually binding between them? (c) Could USSR clarify procedure it has in mind? For example, will documents deposited on day withdrawal begins reflect agreement of the parties and how will that agreement be recorded? Why should a document not be signed and be binding at beginning rather than end of process, and implementation start only after signature? (d) What specifically would be content of the multilateral document and what is its contractual nature? (e) What is Soviet position regarding demilitarized zones? What should be their location and size? What is Soviet concept of demilitarization? (f) Parties are exchanging views indirectly under Jarring’s auspices. Does Soviet Union agree that at some appropriate stage it will be necessary for parties to have direct talks before a final peace agreement can be achieved? If so, at what stage would this occur?”(Ibid., Box 725, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Sisco-Dobrynin Talks, Vol. I) Sisco also gave Dobrynin the U.S. working paper (see Document 17) at their March 24 meeting. (Telegram 46143 to Moscow, March 25; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 654, Country Files, Middle East, Sisco Middle East Talks)
  3. The UN Permanent Representatives of the Four Powers were meeting in New York. See Document 23.
  4. See Document 28.
  5. Most of the April 22 meeting, which was reported in telegram 62563 to Moscow, April 23, was spent discussing replies to Dobrynin’s questions at the April 17 session. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 725, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Sisco-Dobrynin Talks, Vol. I) In an April 23 memorandum to Kissinger, Saunders described it as “probably the least productive of the series,” primarily because Sisco and Dobrynin were waiting for the United States to provide specific formulations that would help resolve Arab-Israeli differences as well as for a decision on whether or not the United States would pursue a joint U.S.-Soviet paper. Saunders concluded: “We have exhausted the Sisco-Dobrynin channel unless we can come up with something more specific to say to the Soviets.” ( Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Tab K to Document 38)