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351. Telegram From the U.S. Interests Section in Cairo to the Department of State1

3611. Subject: Delivery of Secretary’s Messages of November 18 and 21 to Fahmy. Ref: State 227671 and 229447.2

1. Summary: November 18 letter and your November 21 supplementary message delivered to Fahmy today. He reacted negatively, insisting prior progress on disengagement is necessary if serious problems are to be handled at peace conference. This need not mean complete disengagement, but he recalled withdrawal to October 22 lines had been called for by Security Council. Charging idea of leaving disengagement talks for peace conference and delaying conference reflect Israeli wishes, he complained Egypt being asked to make all the concessions, Israel hardly any. I disputed these assertions, emphasized USG serious in desiring work for just and durable peace and urged that our best judgement on how to proceed be given full weight. Fahmy said your proposal will be referred to Sadat and formal reply will be given in due course. This might not be until after Arab summit. End summary.

2. I saw Fahmy this morning to deliver your November 18 letter and supplementary message of November 21 (reftels). He had returned last night from OAU meeting in Addis. In giving him the messages, I explained that your letter had in fact arrived on the day he departed for Addis and regretted that it could not therefore be delivered sooner. Both messages clearly disturbed him a bit. He commented that they contained nothing new.

3. Somewhat irately, Fahmy stressed that his earlier letter to you of November 16 (Cairo 3550)3 did not reflect what he called a “personal Fahmy view”. It was rather a formal GOE position. That letter had been dictated on President Sadat’s specific instructions and the President had gone over every word before it was approved. He contended, moreover, that his November 16 letter is a direct reflection of the earlier understanding which you and he had worked out. He was concerned that the USG might be reneging on this understanding.

4. The present ceasefire, he insisted, is “fragile” and should not be taken for granted. He quoted you as having told him USG could get Oc[Page 968]tober 22 lines, but that it prefers to exert its influence on the bigger issue of disengagement. This he argued was Mrs. Meir’s idea. GOE should not be considered “naive.” Up to now GOE had made all the concessions, and Israel hardly any. The Security Council has called upon Israel to return to the October 22 lines. These lines are also mentioned in the six point agreement as a step toward disengagement.

5. GOE realizes that military talks cannot achieve complete disengagement. He insisted however some meaningful progress on disengagement is necessary before “serious problems” can be discussed at a peace conference. Egypt is not prepared to come to such a conference simply to discuss ceasefire lines. Even though USG is not a direct participant in the military talks, it has the influence to help insure there is progress on implementing all the points. It does not have to wait until a peace conference before it could use that influence.

6. I emphasized to Fahmy that he should have no doubt of high respect that USG has for GOE and for him personally. I strongly disputed suggestion that USG regards Egypt as “naive” and rejected his suggestion USG reneging on its understanding with Egypt. On contrary, our proposal that disengagement talks be considered at the peace conference represents a pragmatic approach fully consistent with the understanding you and Fahmy had reached earlier. He could also be assured that you fully appreciate that his letters reflect GOE and not simply personal views and that they are being treated as such. While I was aware of Egyptian concern about the October 22 lines, there are conflicting views about these lines, whether one likes it or not. This is precisely why the disengagement concept was introduced. It has the virtue of avoiding small issues when we ought to be thinking about broader, more important ones.

7. I continued that it is a fact that USG can be more helpful in peace conference forum than as an outside party seeking to influence outcome of the military talks. I was sure he understood this. As I had previously assured him, you are absolutely serious in wanting to move ahead on the problem and your judgment on the best way to proceed ought to be given the most careful weight. USG is not simply playing the Israeli game in working for a conference. It is anxious to have a just and durable peace acceptable to all parties.

8. As for the suggested change of date, I reminded him that your schedule is extremely crowded. A peace conference should not be handled hastily and needs great care. Postponing it to the suggested date will also enable you to make another visit to the area. Fahmy responded that in his view principal aim of your contemplated visit will be work on Damascus, not Egypt. You are of course welcome in Egypt at any time, but Egyptian views are already known to you. I said that another visit to ME prior to the peace conference will unquestionably [Page 969]be useful to facilitate peace talks. I was sure that in coming to the ME again, you are as interested in visiting Cairo as you were Damascus. It will be important to know if Syrians prepared to attend conference. He recalled he had told you that, in the end, Syrians will attend.

9. I also reminded him that Egypt has benefited directly from the implementation of six point agreement as worked out in the military talks. POW’s are being exchanged, Suez is being resupplied, etc. He responded that most of these things could have been handled by the Egyptian army, and Egypt had no particular reason to feel grateful for arrangements which Egypt could have gotten on her own. He then went into a long account on how Egypt had reluctantly agreed to a ceasefire and how the Israeli army moved into the West Bank salient using massively-supplied USG weapons. Egypt was not prepared have ceasefire work to its disadvantage.

10. Since we were by then going round and round on the disengagement question, I asked Fahmy if his comments were the GOE answer to your proposal. He backed off a bit and said that they are not. He will have to discuss the matter with the President in order to give a formal reply. Such a reply could conceivably be available today, but he rather suspected it will not be until after the Arab summit.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov. 73–Dec. 31, 1973. Secret; Nodis; Cherokee.
  2. See Document 347 and footnote 4 thereto.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 347.
  4. In a November 22 backchannel message to Kissinger, Eilts commented that much of Fahmi’s foul mood during the meeting reported in telegram 3611 was clearly prompted by his personal annoyance that a direct channel with Ismail had been reestablished and his fear that business between their two governments would be conducted behind his back. Eilts wrote that when he had given Fahmi the two messages, Fahmi had “exploded” because he already knew everything in them from Ismail and showed Eilts a copy of Kissinger’s November 20 letter to Ismail ( Document 349). The Ambassador noted that, in view of Kissinger’s instructions not to let Sadat or Ismail know that he was aware of the private channel, he had feigned ignorance. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 132, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt/Ismail, Vol. VII, October 1–31, 1973)