268. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Switzerland1

154331. Subject: Proposed Text Bern Group Message. Ref: Bern 2369; Beirut 7915, Beirut 7925.2

We are prepared support new UK formula for message with addition of sentence suggested by Swiss and your proposed amendment [Page 753] this sentence as well as further change in penultimate sentence (see below). Redraft takes into account comments made by Prime Minister Meir to Secretary.3 FYI: Our current assessment based on Meir’s comments is that while GOI will probably agree to initial three PFLP demands made of them (release of Swiss, 2 Algerians and 10 Lebanese soldiers), Israelis very unlikely agree to release of Palestinian prisoners. End FYI.

Text would thus read as follows:

“The governments hold responsible for the safety of the hostages all those in whose hands they may be. The governments call upon those holding hostages to provide information on their whereabouts and wellbeing. They require that the hostages should be brought to a safe place which in the view of the governments is a prerequisite to an orderly transfer. The governments stand ready to consider at any time proposals for the release of all hostages. They also reaffirm their mandate to the ICRC.”

If above not acceptable, do not concur. Request instructions.

Imperative that Bern group reaffirm as soon as possible mandate to ICRC in view Beirut 7915 which indicates ICRC reps cabling for instructions and requesting presence ICRC rep with authority to negotiate re hostages.
For Beirut: You should make absolutely clear to PFLP, as well as to ICRC reps in Beirut, that USG has in no way accepted PFLP conditions and continues to insist on package approach. This means that either all hostages must be released or none at all. Beirut 79264 just received. You should emphasize to ICRC that USG cannot guarantee any Israeli undertaking in regard to release of hostages and, as indicated para 1 above, likelihood of Israel agreeing to release Palestinian prisoners is slim. We are disturbed at how Boissard and Boissier seem to be so unaware of what has gone on up to now. You should straighten them out.
For Bern: At today’s meeting you should refer to conversation between Embassy Beirut and ICRC reps (Boissier and Boissard) and urge that Bern group assures that ICRC headquarters provide background information to their reps in Beirut re state of play in negotiations and positions of various parties up to now.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PS 7–6 JORDAN. Confidential; Flash. Drafted by Seelye and Frank Trinka (EUR/AIS), and approved by Seelye. It was repeated to Beirut (Flash), Amman, Bonn, London, Tel Aviv, and Geneva.
  2. Telegram 2369 from Bern, September 19, 1220Z, transmitted the British text of a proposed Bern Group message. In telegram 7915 from Beirut, September 19, 0935Z, and telegram 7925 from Beirut, September 19, 1333Z, the Embassy reported on discussions with ICRC officials. (All ibid.)
  3. The record of Meir’s September 18 discussion of the hostages with Rogers is in telegram 154300 to Amman, Bern, Bonn, London, and Tel Aviv, September 19, 0311Z; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–1, Documents on Global Issues, 1969–1972, Document 73.
  4. Telegram 7926 from Beirut, September 19, 1335Z, reported the view of the ICRC representatives that the U.S. Government and Israeli Government had “agreed in principle that Israel should release some Palestinians it holds.” The PFLP sought a guarantee from the U.S. Government that Israel would release a specified number of prisoners. (Ibid.)