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

Dr. Kissinger appreciates the message of Mr. Ismail of October 152 and welcomes the fact that the Egyptian side attaches importance, as does the U.S. side, to maintaining this special channel of contact. The U.S. therefore wishes to maintain the greatest possible contact with Arab Governments, especially Egypt’s.

Dr. Kissinger wishes to present his frank assessment of the present situation.

The objective of the U.S. side continues to be to terminate the present fighting in circumstances that will facilitate progress toward a final settlement. Egyptian forces have already accomplished much. The humiliation which Egyptians and, indeed, the Arab world felt after 1967 has been erased. A new strategic situation has been established in which reliance by any country on permanent military supremacy has become illusory. Hence, the necessity of a political settlement is becoming much clearer to all parties.

What can the U.S. do in these circumstances? Dr. Kissinger has often said that he would promise only what he could deliver but deliver everything he promised. With its five-point proposal contained in Mr. Ismail’s message of October 10, the Egyptian side is asking, in effect, for Israeli agreement, as part of a ceasefire, to Egyptian terms for a total settlement.3 In Dr. Kissinger’s judgment, this is not achievable ex[Page 544]cept by protracted war. No U.S. influence can bring this goal about in present circumstances.4

What the U.S. side can promise and will fulfill is to make every effort to assist in achieving a final, just settlement once a ceasefire is reached. Dr. Kissinger believes that recent events may well serve to make it less difficult for the U.S. side in the future to exercise its influence constructively and effectively on behalf of such a settlement. This is said in the full knowledge and awareness of attitudes which Dr. Kissinger found in connection with his efforts on October 11.

The Egyptian side therefore has an important decision to make. To insist on its maximum program means continuation of the war and the possible jeopardy of all that has been achieved. The outcome will then be decided by military measures. The U.S. side will not speculate on this outcome but doubts whether it will be clear-cut. In any event, circumstances for a U.S. diplomatic effort would not be propitious.

If diplomacy is to be given a full opportunity, a ceasefire must precede it. Only in these circumstances can the promised U.S. diplomatic effort be developed. Egypt will find the guarantee for the seriousness of this effort in the formal promise of the U.S. side to engage itself fully as well as in the objective situation.

The goal must be to achieve a ceasefire and turn it rapidly into a real and just peace which reconciles the principles of sovereignty and security.

The U.S. side believes that progress could be made on the basis of a ceasefire in place, accompanied by an undertaking by the parties to start talks under the aegis of the Secretary General with a view to achieving a settlement in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242 in all of its parts, including withdrawal of forces envisaged by that resolution.

Dr. Kissinger greatly appreciates the thoughtful invitation of the Egyptian side to visit Egypt. Once a ceasefire has been achieved, he would be glad to give that invitation the most serious and sympathetic consideration as part of a serious effort to bring a lasting peace to the Middle East.

With warmest 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. Secret; Sensitive. A handwritten note at the top of the page reads: “Sent Oct. 16 1973, 9:07 a.m.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 189.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 160. Telegram 3136 from Cairo, October 16, conveyed an open message from Sadat to Nixon, read aloud in his speech that day. Sadat said Egypt was fighting to liberate its lands, which had been occupied by Israel in 1967, and to find the means to restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. He said Egypt was ready to accept a cease-fire based on Israel’s immediate withdrawal from all the occupied territories to the pre-June 1967 borders. It would then be ready to attend an international peace conference at the United Nations, and he would try to convince other Arab leaders to attend. Sadat warned that Egypt was not ready to accept ambiguous promises or elastic phrases subject to all kinds of interpretation, which would only return the situation to stalemate. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. In telegram 8217 from Tel Aviv, October 16, the Embassy reported that Meir had said in a speech before the Knesset that day that Israel would never agree to a cease-fire based on Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967, lines. (Ibid.)