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125. Message From Secretary of State Kissinger to the Egyptian Presidential Adviser for National Security Affairs (Ismail)1

I very much appreciate your taking the time amidst your present heavy preoccupations to share with me your thinking concerning developments in the Middle East.2

Even before the outbreak of the current hostilities, I had told Foreign Minister Zayat that I was prepared to explore seriously and intensely with all parties, and especially with Egypt, what the United States might be able to do to assist the parties in bringing peace to the Middle East. This offer still stands.

Obviously, such an effort can best succeed in the calmest possible atmosphere. It is for this reason that the United States has attempted to bring about a ceasefire without at the same time taking a position which might produce a confrontation with the Egyptian side.

With respect to the specifics in your note of October 7, there are two questions. First, the U.S. side is not clear as to whether the first point in the position of the Egyptian side, that Israel has to withdraw from all occupied territories, must be implemented before a conference can take place or whether agreement in principle to such a condition is what is anticipated. Secondly, the U.S. side has received the following message from its Ambassador in Tehran:

“Prime Minister Hoveyda, at Shah’s instruction, summoned me at 2315 local to read me cable to Shah from President Sadat transmitted via Iranian Ambassador to Cairo who saw Sadat early afternoon Egyptian time October 7. To summarize, cable gives optimistic description of Egyptian military position on East Bank of Suez Canal and of Egyptian prowess in crossing Canal and establishing bridgehead there. Then cable requests Shah to inform President Nixon that Egypt until now, in order to avoid fighting, has been ready to accept peace under certain conditions. However, Egypt has now been obliged to fight and to take casualties. It still wants peace, a lasting peace in the area. Sadat wants President Nixon to know that if Israel will evacuate all the territories occupied since June 5, 1967, Egypt will be ready to negotiate sincerely [Page 369]to place these territories under the control of the United Nations, or under the control of the four big powers, or under some other international control to be agreed. As for Sharm Al Sheikh, Egypt is prepared to accept international supervision of freedom of navigation through Gulf of Aqaba after Israeli withdrawal. Sadat wants Shah to explain foregoing to President Nixon so that casualties may be stopped as soon as possible.”

The U.S. side would greatly appreciate clarification of the position on withdrawal and of the differences between the positions of the Egyptian side contained in your note and as passed to our Ambassador. In particular, did our Ambassador convey accurately the position of President Sadat regarding evacuation of territories and the placing of them under international control?3

I would like to reiterate that the United States will do everything possible to assist the contending parties to bring the fighting to a halt. The United States, and I personally, will also actively participate in assisting the parties to reach a just resolution of the problems which have for so long plagued the Middle East.4

Warm personal regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 132, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt/Ismail, Vol. VII, October 1–31, 1973. No classification marking. The message is attached to an October 8 note from Kissinger to Zayyat stating that, as promised, attached was the message sent that morning to Ismail and expressing his appreciation for his contacts with the Foreign Minister over the past days. See footnote 4 below.
  2. Document 118.
  3. In telegram 5360 from Amman, October 8, Brown reported that according to Jordan’s Ambassador to Egypt, Abdul Munim Rifai, Sadat had learned that the U.S. Government was planning to push for a cease-fire and return to status quo ante and considered this completely unacceptable to Egypt. Brown wrote that Rifai would be reporting to King Hussein that Sadat and the Egyptian military believed they had won an important victory and could not be pushed back across the canal. The Egyptian military believed they had the strength to push well into the Sinai and were urging this on Sadat. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, IX, January–October 73)
  4. At 1:45 p.m. on October 8, Kissinger telephoned Zayyat and stated that he had softened the statement the United States would make in the United Nations to “an almost unrecognizable point” and had added another point that peace in the Middle East required observance of all the UN resolutions, which, he pointed out, the Israelis would not be enthusiastic about. He noted that Zayyat would find that this was “a minimum statement given our conditions here.” Zayyat complained that the United States was helping Israel to stay on this “false issue of security.” Kissinger stated that the U.S. position and the principles it would announce would be maintained even if the Israelis were gaining territories. He agreed to send a copy of his message to Ismail to the Foreign Minister at his suite in the Waldorf Towers. (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Transcripts (Telcons), Chronological File, Box 22) Printed in Kissinger, Crisis, pp. 128–130.