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

179672. 1. As you will gather from septel2 reporting conversation over lunch today between Secretary and Foreign Minister Riad, discussion was frank, spirited, and at times even heated. We think, however, overall effect will be beneficial. We believe it helped clear air of some misunderstandings that have grown up between ourselves and Egyptians in recent weeks. At bottom of Riad’s concern is misgiving that we are thinking of interim arrangement which in fact accords with what he believes to be Israeli concept—i.e., agreement which has life of its own and provides prolonged opportunity for new status quo without further movement toward final peace settlement. Riad insisted that “in[Page 910]terim agreement” just another name for “armistice agreement.” Secretary partially lifted veil on some of elements of our specific ideas which should help to dispel these concerns. Point that seemed to make most impression on Egyptians was that, while we do not think short ceasefire extensions are realistic, we have very much in mind that interim agreement should have some built-in time frame for ongoing negotiations looking toward final settlement. Thus analogy with armistice agreements is not rpt not correct.

2. Secretary deliberately took offensive with Riad in attempt to undermine his negativism about interim agreement and get across reasons why we think this is in interests of all—including Egypt. Nevertheless fact emerged plainly that Riad remains almost implacably suspicious of and opposed to interim idea. We think ground covered in today’s meeting could be very helpful for Sadat if reliable report of Secretary’s comments gets to him. We are concerned that Riad’s negativism may cause him to distort and perhaps omit much of what Secretary said. We think it would be good idea, therefore, for you to make an appointment with Heikal as soon as possible to relay following points which we attempted to get across today and which we consider very important. You may supplement these as you see fit with points taken from telegram reporting Secretary’s remarks.

3. Secretary was at pains today to try to get across to Riad that our concept of interim agreement was not end in itself but practical starting process toward final peace settlement. Egypt knows how we stand on shape of final peace settlement. But Secretary made point that unfortunately at this time, in our judgment, it is impossible to get agreement between the parties on terms of final peace settlement. This is why we have viewed President Sadat’s proposal for an interim agreement as an imaginative and constructive step. It offers the opportunity to make practical progress in a manner that is to the advantage of both sides without requiring at this time that all the answers to a final peace settlement be agreed upon.

4. Secretary and Foreign Minister spent some time today in discussion of semantics as to what was meant by term “interim agreement.” Secretary said we would continue to use this term because it was what most other nations used and also because it seemed accurate. To us word “interim” conveys exactly what we think we and Egyptians have in mind: Arrangement of temporary nature leading to further stages of progress toward a final peace settlement. Important thing in our view is not so much term by which this proposition is known but rather certain basic principles about it. These are: (1) that this is not a final agreement but rather one looking toward final settlement; (2) under interim agreement neither side can expect to achieve certain fundamental commitments that it expects in final settlement.

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5. Practical choice confronting Egypt and Israel at this juncture of history is either to make practical step-by-step progress toward peace settlement, or to continue clamoring for total solution according to their desires which in our judgment will consign area to another decade and more of bitter, wasteful impasse and perhaps bloody hostility. We hope Secretary’s frank exposure today of realities as we see them will help to get this message across to Egyptians.3

6. As next step Secretary will see Eban in N.Y. Monday4 to continue our intensive efforts to move matters forward on interim agreement. Secretary also plans to see Riad again while two men are in New York,5 but no precise date set. Sisco will also undoubtedly find opportunity to continue discussion with Mohammed Riad in New York.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1165, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, September 1–October 1, 1971. Secret; Priority; Nodis; Cedar Plus. Drafted by Sterner on September 29, cleared by Atherton, and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, London, Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 179673 to Cairo, September 29. (Ibid., Box 657, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. III)
  3. Bergus conveyed the Department’s message to Heikal on September 30, meeting with him for 90 minutes. Heikal said that he would pass the information along to Sadat that evening but that he would not comment at the time because “so many fundamental questions were involved.” Bergus replied that he understood and that he himself did not want to go beyond his instructions “in such a vital matter as this.” (Telegram 2379 from Cairo, September 30; ibid.)
  4. Rogers and Eban met in New York at 5:30 p.m. on October 4. Held in a “calm and relaxed atmosphere,” the meeting was “devoted largely to reviewing present state of play on interim Canal agreement.” Rogers informed Eban that his recent talks with Riad and Gromyko “broke little new ground,” but that the Soviet Foreign Minister expressed “great concern about risk of renewed fighting” in the Middle East. He added that the United States believed that Sadat was still interested in an interim settlement and supported U.S. efforts toward that end. He also said that the United States considered the next two to three months “vital” for achieving such an outcome and that he hoped that both Egypt and Israel would “show greater flexibility” in the process of doing so. Eban responded by expressing Israel’s “readiness” to work for an interim agreement on the “understanding that such agreement not attempt to obtain for Arab side what Arabs cannot achieve in negotiations on overall settlement.” Eban also expressed “concern” that Egypt had no interest in seeking an interim agreement, but, rather, was trying to “change US position in favor Arabs.” He also stressed that the “negotiating ball is in Egyptian court” and that the “next move is clearly up to Sadat.” (Telegram 3179 from USUN, October 6; ibid., Box 1165, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, October 1–11, 1971)
  5. The two had met on September 29 when Rogers had pointed out to Foreign Minister Riad that unless a partial step leading to a final agreement were taken, the status quo would continue. (Telegram 179673 to Cairo, September 29; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR) They met again on October 8; see footnote 4, Document 255.