246. Telegram From the Interests Section in Egypt to the Department of State1

2048. For Secretary and Sisco from Bergus.

1. State 1493492 reached me at about 0900 this morning. I immediately got in touch with Heykal, who was in Alexandria. He said he would advance his plans and return to Cairo at once. Later in the morning, he asked me to meet him at the Hilton at 1330 local. (Heykal family, like Bergus family, staying in Hilton temporarily while major repairs being done on their respective houses.)

2. When I met with Heykal he said what I was about to tell Egyptians would affect their attitude far into the future. Egypt must re-evaluate its stand prior to the Damascus meeting.3 Soviets were putting very heavy pressure on Egyptians, saying that U.S. was tempted to make Egypt a pawn in the game among U.S., USSR and People’s China. Soviets were still saying they had no objection to Egyptians continuing efforts for interim settlement through USG, but were warning Egyptians U.S. not acting in good faith but simply playing for time. UAR Ambassador to Moscow would shortly arrive in Cairo bearing just that message.

3. Heykal then said Sadat having lengthy meeting with students today and had only 36 hours before leaving for Damascus. He asked I give him highlights of message so he could lay them before Sadat in effort arrange meeting between me and Sadat. I said I was authorized do this but Secretary hoped very strongly I could present these points to Sadat personally.

4. I then began giving highlights of talking points. Heykal took verbatim notes until about half way through my presentation, when he [Page 898] dropped his pen and said it demeaned him to listen to such points. This was kind of stuff I should be passing to Mohammed Riad. I firmly enjoined him to hear me out.

5. Upon conclusion of my presentation we had lengthy, always friendly, never emotional, but very gutsy personal exchange. Heykal took line that it would have been better if Sisco had admitted he had failed. What I had had to say would not convince a child let alone Kaddafi, Assad or ASU Central Committee. I interposed that latter were only people Egypt should really be worrying about.

6. Heykal said that if USG intended proceed along these lines he personally wanted out of the interim settlement business and would so request Sadat. I stressed U.S. intent to continue discussing our ideas with Israelis and expression of our willingness unveil these ideas to Sadat, if he wished, and carry on exploratory discussions with Egyptians without requesting commitment or immediate reaction. As friend of Egypt, I had racked my brain and could not see for the life of me where Egypt had anything to lose by entering into such discussions. We went on at it hot and heavy along these lines for about 20 minutes.

7. Finally, Heykal promised me that he would pass highlights of my presentation to Sadat as soon as possible and urge that Sadat hear what I had to say from my own lips. Heykal promised me that he would volunteer no judgments or recommendations to Sadat so as to permit the President to make his own decisions on these matters so vital to the future of Egypt.

8. Meeting with Sadat may take place this evening.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1164, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, August 1–16, 1971. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cedar Plus.
  2. In telegram 149349 to Cairo, August 13, the Department instructed Bergus to seek an appointment with Sadat, or, if preferable, with Heikal, to report orally on Sisco’s talks in Israel the previous week. Rogers wrote: “We obviously want to be frank with Sadat so that he does not feel, as Heikal indicated, that we are trying to tranquilize him. On the other hand, he must understand that Sisco trip was part of on-going process to explore all possibilities of flexibility on remaining key issues, that we did not seek new commitments at this stage, and that this was another phase in process of continuing discussions on this subject with Israelis in weeks ahead. We assume that Sadat continues to prefer interim settlement to other options open to him, and that in particular he wants to find a way to avoid the military option if at all possible.” (Ibid.)
  3. Presidents Sadat, Asad, and Qadhafi met in Damascus August 18–20. (New York Times, August 21, 1971, p. 3)
  4. Bergus did not meet with Sadat that evening, but rather with Heikal again at 1 p.m. the next day. According to Bergus’s message to the Department, Heikal said that he had conveyed Bergus’s oral presentation from the day before to Sadat “without comment,” causing the Egyptian President to be “very disappointed.” Sadat told Heikal that he hoped that the United States would “send him something more reassuring” over the next two days, but that he would understand if it was not in a position to do so. If U.S. officials did not have another message for him, then he wanted Bergus to make the same presentation to Mohammed Riad at the Foreign Office on August 21 that he had made to Heikal, to which Bergus commented: “Sadat well knows that putting question of interim settlement back into hands of Mahmoud Riad’s FonOff means writing off this particular exercise.” Sadat further remarked that he wanted to be informed about the suggestions that Sisco made to Israeli officials earlier that month, but Bergus wrote that he hesitated to do so without the prospect of being able to “deliver Israel on any one of them.” (Telegram 2057 from Cairo, August 17; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 1164, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, August 1–16, 1971)