15. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan1
25110. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With King Hussein.
1. Summary. Secretary met with King Hussein for working lunch and talk at Department February 6. Meeting was very cordial. Secretary stressed USG attaches great importance to process of negotiation and sees no substitute for negotiations in finding solution to Middle East problem. Secretary indicated our concern in this regard is mainly with Egypt, since Jordan has made clear its readiness to talk. Secretary pointed out USG wants to be helpful but, contrary to belief of some, we cannot impose a solution. We think that if agreement could be reached between Egypt and Israel on opening of Suez Canal it would generate momentum for settlement between Jordan and Israel. Secretary assured King Hussein we have Jordanian/Israeli side of problem very much in mind. King raised Jordanian assistance requests with Secretary in brief private meeting following luncheon and Secretary said we would do all we can to help Jordan within limit of our resources, which he noted are currently under great pressure.
2. King Hussein was accompanied at meeting by Royal Court Minister Amer Khammash, Foreign Minister Salah Abu Zaid, Political Adviser Zaid Rifai, Minister of Finance Farid al-Sadad, General Ben Shaker, and Jordanian Ambassador to US Mufti. On U.S. side Deputy Secretary Rush, AID Administrator Hannah, Under Secretary Tarr, Asst. Secy. Sisco, Ambassador Brown and ARN Country Director Korn were present. Luncheon and meeting afterwards were very cordial and warm, and lasted just over two hours.
3. Secretary opened by remarking that we have come to agreement in Viet-Nam and have created conditions in which there can be peace if the parties want it. Secretary pointed out that in every area of world except the Middle East we have been able to get parties to talk, in Germany, in Korea and in Viet-Nam. It is difficult to see how any progress can be made toward a Middle East solution unless Arabs and Israelis are ready to do the same as other parties to major world conflicts. Secretary said he wanted to make clear that his remarks about need for negotiations were not addressed to Jordanians, for we know that Jordan is ready to talk. But he wanted to stress that the Middle East conflict is far too complex to solve without an active exchange of ideas between the [Page 38] parties. Rifai referred to his recent visit to Cairo and his conversation with President Sadat and said that Sadat is ready to negotiate but needs a prior commitment from Israelis regarding the line of withdrawal. Rifai said President Sadat is neither willing nor able to discuss concessions with Israelis. He cannot give up sovereignty over any part of Sinai.
4. Secretary replied that it just does not make any sense to ask other side for commitments as precondition for entering into negotiations. Suppose we had done that in our negotiations with Russians? We would never have reached agreement with them on Berlin or on SALT. Deputy Secretary Rush pointed out that it took 18 months and difficult discussions to reach agreement on Berlin and that no progress would ever have been made had we not been prepared to participate in give and take of negotiations. Foreign Minister Abu Zaid interjected that it is Israelis, not Arabs, who put conditions on negotiations. Israelis say they are ready to conduct negotiations provided that Jerusalem, Sharm al-Sheikh and Golan Heights will not be subject to negotiation.
5. King Hussein said his feeling is that so many agreements have now taken place throughout the world that Middle East is only remaining problem. It is imperative now that world turn its attention to Middle East and that progress be made. King Hussein stressed importance of action now. Secretary pointed out that in every negotiation each side has its own position, and there is nothing unusual in one or both sides stating those positions. What is unusual is for one side to say to other that it must give in before there can even be talks. Secretary noted that Israel states that its principal concern is security. Egypt on other hand tells Israel that it does not need to worry about security once an agreement has been signed. Secretary said he saw no reason why Israeli and Egyptian positions need be irreconcilable. However, problems are so complex that it is impossible to decide them at any one time. If some progress can be made toward a Suez agreement, Secretary said, then momentum will be developed toward solution of other aspects of problem.
6. Rifai took issue with Secretary on foregoing and said Egypt would find itself weaker and further from achieving a lasting settlement if Suez agreement is concluded. Secretary said he disagreed absolutely. If an agreement is reached on Suez, this will very definitely create a new impetus for negotiations. Additionally, since Egyptians would cross to East Bank of canal in framework of a Suez agreement, he could not see how anyone could say that Egypt would be weaker militarily. Rifai objected that Egyptian military forces would not cross canal. Secretary pointed out that even so there would still be Egyptians on East Bank of canal for first time since 1967 and Israelis would with [Page 39] draw from the Bar Lev Line.2 In these circumstances how could anyone say that Egypt would be weaker? Egypt would be much better off because world would want to keep canal open and would put pressure on Israel to move forward to a full settlement and not do anything which would place canal in danger. Moreover, Secretary pointed out, there would be some kind of force separating two sides, and Egypt would receive a commitment from Israel to continue negotiations for a full settlement. Secretary said he was sure Egypt could make a good settlement with Israel through negotiations, a much better one than could be achieved by any other means. Rifai said that in event of an Israeli/Egyptian settlement on canal, Jordan’s position would be much weaker. Secretary said he did not agree. Rifai replied main problem is not the canal but Jerusalem and West Bank.
7. King Hussein said Sadat has begun recently to think of war as a serious alternative, even though following Russian withdrawal he may now be less capable of undertaking it. Problem is that Sadat feels himself unable to make concessions to Israel which would be needed for a negotiated settlement, but feels under pressure to do something. Sadat seems to think that war, if started, can be kept under control and would not get too far out of hand. Hussein said what he did not understand is how Sadat expects Israel will play the game of war with him in accordance with his own rules.
8. The Secretary said what is at issue basically in discussions between Egypt and Israel on a Suez agreement is the difference between “further withdrawal” and “total withdrawal”. Israel is ready to give a commitment for “further withdrawal” but not for “total withdrawal”. Secretary wondered if it might not be best to leave this issue ambiguous as was done in Resolution 242, and on some issues in the Vietnam agreement. The Secretary noted that Vietnam agreement would never have been reached had parties insisted on defining everything precisely; in order to reach agreement certain things have to be left ambiguous. Rifai objected that if there is going to be peace in the Middle East there must be total Israeli withdrawal. The question is whether Israel is going to withdraw totally or not. Rifai insisted it is not possible for Sadat or any other Arab leader to concede territory to Israel. The Secretary replied that what Rifai had said is not borne out anywhere in history. There has never been a war that was not followed by territorial changes. Moreover, wars have always been followed by long periods in which the situation was unclear. This, the Secretary noted, was true even of Second World War where Allied victory was completely [Page 40] clear-cut. Rifai said that what Secretary was in effect saying was that he agreed with Egyptians when they say that what was taken by force must be regained by force. No, not at all, Secretary replied. Secretary pointed out that there has almost never in history been a situation in which territory lost in a war was regained by force soon thereafter.
9. King Hussein said he feels main problem is really Jordanian-Israeli side of question. Whether a possible agreement between Egypt and Israel will help he did not know, though he had no objection to an effort being made for such an agreement. King Hussein said he felt Jerusalem was intended to be a city of peace, not one of war, and he did not see any reason it should not be possible to work out some sort of solution in regard to Jerusalem. On broader matter of negotiations, King Hussein pointed out that in all other major areas where agreement had been reached, in Germany, Vietnam and other places, the matter of reaching a settlement had not been left entirely to the parties concerned. The rest of the world had helped the parties to reach an understanding and in many cases the world’s help had been significant if not crucial. King Hussein said he felt the same must apply to the Middle East. The parties’ ability to help themselves in the Middle East conflict is limited, and the world must give them as much support as possible.
10. Secretary said he agreed entirely with King Hussein and had two comments: First is that US attaches tremendous importance to the process of negotiations. Mr. Rifai had pointed out that positions of two sides are intractable, but in our view that is precisely why there must be negotiations. Second point, Secretary said, is that one of the difficulties is that there is a feeling that USG can solve the Middle East problems if it wants to. Secretary emphasized that this is not true. USG can be helpful in framework of negotiating process but idea that USG can impose a solution is false. Secretary pointed out that USG has greatest interest in Jordan and feels strongest friendship and support for King Hussein. But despite this and all importance we attach to a settlement we are unable to impose one on the parties. Secretary stressed that he did not want to be critical of President Sadat but we do think Sadat is making a mistake in refusing to negotiate. We feel Sadat had done many good things and we want him to be successful. We believe if negotiations could get started between Egypt and Israel Egypt could get a much better solution than it could hope for by any other means. King Hussein said that in any event he thought Jordan’s case was very strong. Secretary noted that when we talk to His Majesty about the need for negotiations we are talking to the converted, since King Hussein has been very open-minded on this subject. Under Secretary Tarr noted that settlement which was accepted by North and South Vietnamese would have been viewed by both sides as completely unacceptable at outset of negotiations.[Page 41]
11. King Hussein said he believes Jordan must do utmost to achieve a solution but whatever solution is reached must be one which will be accepted by people, and one which can be beginning of real progress and stability. Secretary and Deputy Secretary congratulated King on his statesmanship and remarked that his example is one which should be followed by Egyptians. Assistant Secretary Sisco asked if King were to find some glimmer of flexibility in the Israeli position, how would he feel about the question of which side there should be a settlement with first, Egypt or Jordan? Sisco said we have always thought a Suez agreement might be helpful to His Majesty in reaching an agreement with Israel. King Hussein replied that if there were a glimmer of hope he would do everything possible to reach an agreement with Israel. King said it of no importance to him whether Jordan is first, second or third to sign agreement with Israel as long as settlement is acceptable. If a Suez agreement would help in creating a good atmosphere that would be fine, the King said, but Jordan thinks Jerusalem and West Bank are the main issues. Secretary asked if it would be helpful if discussions were to start at same time between Jordan and Israel and Egypt and Israel. The King responded affirmatively. FonMin Abu Zaid said it is important, however, that in any such negotiations the parties not be left alone. Someone should be there to help them reach agreement.
12. King Hussein asked Secretary’s evaluation of Soviet intentions with regard to Middle East conflict. Secretary said we do not think Soviets are trying to stimulate a renewal of hostilities. Soviets were very embarrassed by their expulsion from Egypt and are now trying to recover the lost ground in Syria and Iraq. We do not think the Soviets will try to promote negotiations at the outset at least, but if negotiations get started they might change their attitude. We believe Soviets welcome continuation of ceasefire. King Hussein asked whether opening of Suez Canal would not be to advantage of USSR. Secretary said there would be some advantage to Soviets but we feel that advantages to US would be even greater. USG has many and broad interests in Middle East and we have every reason to want a settlement. Only problem we have in our relations with Arabs is Israel. Otherwise, we get along fine with Arabs, Secretary said, much better than Soviets do.
13. Secretary remarked that Soviets are competing with China in Middle East and for this reason they may feel they have to continue to support Arab positions. Secretary said he thought Soviets might be pleased to have a settlement but for reason he had just cited might find it difficult to be active in promoting one. King Hussein said he thought Soviets would want a degree of trouble and chaos in Middle East because they profit from it. King noted Soviets are putting a lot of equipment into Iraq and have delivered large amounts of military hardware [Page 42] to Syria. They would like to have Syria and Iraq together under USSR’s aegis.
14. Finance Minister Saad said that with His Majesty’s permission he wanted to say a word about Israeli actions in Jerusalem and on West Bank. Finance Minister noted he had been Governor of Palestine in Mandate times and he knew Israelis well and had learned their language. He could understand how there could be negotiations between two equal partners but felt that present situation was different. Israelis are laying claim to all parts of West Bank and are setting up settlements everywhere. Finance Minister said he would like to ask how Israeli withdrawal can be visualized when Israelis have put up so many settlements. Secretary said problem is difficult one, there is no doubt about that. But the longer the delay in beginning negotiations the more difficult it will become. Nothing is gained by delaying. It may be that Egypt and Israel cannot work out an agreement but even if that is case it will not hurt to try. Should an agreement be reached, Secretary said, he was sure it would help prospects for an agreement between Jordan and Israel. Secretary pointed out that USG does not support Israel’s action in establishing settlements on West Bank and has said so publicly. This USG position has not stopped Israelis, but it may have slowed them down.
15. Asst. Secy. Sisco said one of reasons USG emphasizes Suez agreement is that if such agreement were to be reached it would create added incentive on Israel to face up to compromises needed to reach agreement with Jordan. Sisco said that it is this Jordanian side of problem which we have in mind when we say we do not see Suez agreement as an end in itself. Secretary said this is absolutely right. If there is agreement between Israel and Egypt, USG would be in much better position to be helpful on other issues.
16. At this point Secretary and King Hussein left group for brief private conversation in Secretary’s office. When rest of group was invited to join them, Secretary said he and His Majesty had discussed Jordan’s financial situation. Secretary said he had assured King Hussein we want to do everything we can to help Jordan, within the limits of our resources.3 Secretary added he had pointed out that our financial problems are very difficult, too, perhaps even more difficult, he said jocularly, than Jordan’s. Asst Secy Sisco said he would be discussing US [Page 43] assistance in meeting with Jordanians afternoon February 8.4 Sisco added we feel economic development conference Jordanians held last November was very successful and are very pleased Jordan is turning its efforts toward development. USG representatives who attended development conference were very impressed with work and planning that went into it.
17. Secretary remarked USG is very impressed at actions His Majesty’s Government had taken to eliminate fedayeen threat. We feel this was very important. Nothing has contributed more to stability in Jordan. Secretary said we have told this to Lebanese, have urged them to act against fedayeen also, and it appears that they are doing so. Secretary reiterated that USG wants to do everything it can to assist Jordan. Hussein said that Jordan had no choice but to take the action it did against fedayeen. He stressed that Jordan has no intention of re-admitting fedayeen to its territory: “We will never re-open our country to them”. Sisco asked how tight a rein Syrians are keeping on fedayeen. King Hussein said Syrians are tightening up and have removed fedayeen from front line. King stressed that in recent Cairo Defense Council Jordan did not accept return of fedayeen and did not agree to put its army under any other command.5 Sisco asked if there were a possibility for resumption of diplomatic relations with Egypt and Syria. King Hussein replied he thought so. Foreign Minister Abu Zaid responded that on basis of his contacts at Cairo meeting and elsewhere, he thought prospects are reasonably good.
18. In closing Secretary reiterated USG’s high regard for the King and wished His Majesty a pleasant stay in the United States.6
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 JORDAN. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Korn, cleared by Brown and Sisco, and approved by Rogers. Repeated to Beirut, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Kuwait, Jidda, London, Paris, Moscow, and USUN.↩
- The Bar-Lev Line, named for Israeli Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev, was a chain of fortifications that Israel built along the eastern coast of the Suez Canal after it captured the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967 war.↩
- A February 7 memorandum from Saunders to Scowcroft reported Kissinger’s statement that the U.S. Government should go through with its talks that week on military and economic assistance for Jordan on the basis of a planning level of $100 million in total aid in 1973. He also suggested that it might be a good idea to promise the King an additional $15 million in budget support before he left the United States at the end of February. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 JORDAN)↩
- A February 12 Department of Defense memorandum for the record summarized a February 8 U.S.-Jordanian meeting chaired by Sisco during which he outlined the general scope of U.S. economic and military aid to Jordan and reiterated the U.S. intention to request $40 million in grant military aid for Jordan in FY 1974. The talks reconvened at the Defense Department on February 9. The conferees agreed on the composition of a $38.4 million program for FY 1973 and agreed in principle on the contents of a $40 million FY 1974 package which would cover the remainder of Jordan’s three year plan except for $4.4 million in spare parts and equipment, which would be deferred until FY 1975. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, IX, January–October 73)↩
- The Arab Defense Council met in Cairo in January.↩
- Printed from an unsigned copy.↩