237. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in Egypt1

98100. Tosec 77. For Bergus.

1. We appreciate having received your full report of your conversation with Sadat.2 It closely parallels what Sadat told to the Secretary3 and subsequently to Sisco4 both as to Sadat’s continuing interest in an interim Suez Canal agreement as well as the substance of such an agreement. It tends to confirm our judgment that both sides continue to remain interested in an Canal agreement and both continue to look to us to pursue further its role of quiet constructive diplomacy.

2. We are still some way from agreement, however, since there are a number of fundamental points which may or may not prove reconcilable. In view current situation as indicated above, and your confirmation that Sadat is likely to play any visit by you to Washington as an appeal to us to put the squeeze on Israel, we feel that we should not fall in with this strategy. A trip by you to Washington to make a direct report to the President is therefore in our judgment premature. At the same time, we also feel it is in our interest not to rebuff Sadat’s reaffirmation of his desire to maintain and demonstrate continuance of US–UAR dialogue, to have the US continue to play its quiet diplomatic role in helping achieve an interim Suez Canal agreement over the coming months, all of this regardless of the recently concluded treaty of friendship between the USSR and the UAR.5

3. We request therefore that you see Heykal immediately and make the following points:

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A. We continue to feel that the original plan of sending Fawzi to Washington to convey specific UAR reaction to detailed points we carried to Cairo from Israel6 is the most effective way to continue US–UAR dialogue and offers the best hope and opportunity for further progress. We would be prepared to wait to receive him at some appropriate later time. (Or alternatively, Secretary Rogers would be prepared to receive any UAR emissary in next few days in Lisbon.)

B. If indications are, as we expect, that above not immediately feasible and that Sadat attaches great importance to a demonstration that he is keeping open his lines of communication with us, you are authorized to indicate that you would be prepared to carry any message which President Sadat may wish to convey by going immediately to see Secretary Rogers in Lisbon.7 You can inform Heykal that Secretary Rogers wishes to assure President Sadat that any message from him will receive prompt and careful consideration by USG.

4. You should inform Heykal that it would be your intention to put out the following low-key announcement in Cairo: Quote I am leaving Cairo for a short period. I will be reporting to Secretary Rogers in Lisbon on current developments in UAR and on recent discussions that I have held with UAR officials. Unquote.

5. In this connection, you should stress to Heykal that we want President Sadat to know we feel strongly that the best way to proceed is to continue to keep discussions in quiet diplomatic channels. We therefore do not plan to publicize the fact that you will be carrying message from President Sadat and hope that UARG will not do so. We want to explain frankly why we think such publicity could complicate our efforts, particularly in the wake of a Soviet-UAR treaty.8

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6. We accept President Sadat’s assurance conveyed to you through Heykal that the treaty places no restrictions whatsoever on US–UAR dialogue. Sadat will have noted that we have kept our public comment on treaty to a minimum. The fact is, however, that the Soviets have been giving extensive publicity to treaty as a major new move which Qte goes beyond normal relations between two countries Unqte and Qte constitutes strong blow to plans of international imperialism Unqte. (Moscow—Arab language broadcast May 25). Emphasis and interpretation which Soviets are giving to treaty will make more difficult achievement of an interim agreement and will strengthen position of those who doubt Egyptian intentions. In saying this, we are not endorsing these views but simply stating what is a political fact of life.

7. In these circumstances, American public would interpret any publicity emanating from Cairo that Bergus was carrying a special message to President Nixon as an effort by Soviets through the UAR to bring pressure on USG. Such publicity therefore could make it more difficult for us to play a constructive role. Again we are not endorsing such an interpretation, we are merely stating a fact with which both of us must deal if our continuing dialogue is to be a useful means to make further progress on an interim settlement.

8. Bergus should be very careful not to indicate to Heykal or to press what his on-going plans will be after Lisbon. This will be decided by Secretary Rogers after your conversation with him in Lisbon. We would hope that Bergus would also be able to carry with him UAR point-by-point response to Israeli points since you indicate in your Cairo 13209 that Foreign Office is putting together paper which sets forth UAR position on an interim arrangement in what they consider to be a more positive manner than previously. You should not, however, wait for this if it is not ready.

9. We would suggest that Bergus plan on leaving Cairo on Friday, June 4, or Saturday, June 5, and be available to see Secretary in Lisbon.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1163, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, June 1–18, 1971. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cedar Plus. Drafted by Sisco; cleared by Rogers (in substance) and Saunders; and approved by Sisco. Repeated Flash to Lisbon for Secretary Rogers, who was there June 3–4 attending a NATO Ministerial meeting.
  2. Bergus met with Sadat on the evening of May 30 and reported that the “main thing” that the Egyptian President wanted to tell him was that “the issue of war or peace in the Middle East was in the hands of the United States.” Sadat offered some specific ideas for an interim settlement with Israel, which included Egypt’s occupation, administration, and control of the Sinai “up to a line east of the three passes” and a 50-kilometer “no-man’s land” between Egyptian and Israeli forces that would be controlled by troops of the United Nations or the Four Powers. He concluded by urging Bergus to convey personally the “letter and spirit” of the meeting to Nixon and Rogers. (Telegram 1321 from Cairo, June 1; ibid.)
  3. See Document 227.
  4. See Document 231.
  5. See Document 235.
  6. The plan is discussed in Document 234.
  7. The Department of State requested that the White House sanction this approach, which Nixon approved on a June 3 memorandum from Kissinger. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 657, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. II)
  8. Bergus met with Sadat and Mahmoud Riad on June 4 at 8:30 p.m. Sadat said: “What I need is to know the position of the USG. Is the US going to back Israeli occupation of Egypt? Will the US give Israel aid under the thesis of the ‘balance of power?’” After declaring that he did “not accept the idea of the balance of power,” Sadat said that he was “ready for peace” and handed Bergus a paper containing his ideas for achieving it. As the meeting concluded, Sadat reaffirmed the importance of Israel’s withdrawal “from all repeat all Arab territories” being a part of any future discussion of a 6-month cease-fire extension. At the very end, Riad asked that Bergus tell Rogers that Egypt was “flexible,” that it was “not putting everything in a corner.” Bergus also told Sadat that he would meet with the Secretary on June 6 in Paris, where Rogers would be attending a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Telegram 1364 from Cairo, June 4; ibid., Box 1163, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, June 1–18, 1971)
  9. Dated June 1. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR)