395. Telegram From Secretary of State Kissinger to the U.S. Interests Section in Cairo1

Secto 133/6628. For Ambassador Eilts From the Secretary. Subject: Peace Conference. Please pass the following oral message to President Sadat through Fahmi.

“I want to give you a brief report on the six and one half hour conversation I had with President Asad.2

We discussed the date of the opening of the conference and he has no objection to a postponement to the 21st. After a rather detailed discussion on the content of the draft U.S.–USSR letter to the Secretary General, President Asad said that he is prepared to go along with any formulation which is acceptable to you.

I discussed with him frankly the difficulties which Israel is finding with the draft letter and in particular to the reference to the Palestinians in the letter. I discussed with President Asad the following reformulation of the last sentence in paragraph 2 which I hope you will find acceptable. It would read ‘The parties have also agreed that the question of other participants from the Middle East area will be discussed during the first stage of the conference.’ If you agree to this revision, I will make a major effort in Israel on Sunday3 to get its approval.

However, I regret to report that I learned for the first time that President Asad is very hesitant about coming to the conference unless there is prior agreement on the precise line of disengagement in the Golan Heights. I frankly told President Asad that in my judgment it [Page 1090]would be a serious mistake if he decided not to participate in the conference. I pointed out that getting agreement on a specific line of disengagement before the conference would be impossible. I explained that, for example, there had been no military representative talks between the Syrians and Israelis as there have been between your representatives and those of Israel. Without some prior indication of the position of both sides, as was the case in the discussions of the Egyptian-Israeli military representatives, I could not be expected before the 21st to produce such an agreement and that I would not promise what I could not produce. I did state to President Asad my firm belief that once the conference is convened, and a Syrian-Israeli sub-group is formed, that it would be possible for me to make a major effort in the month of January with a view to achieving a disengagement agreement on the Syrian-Israeli front as we hope and expect on the Egyptian-Israeli front.

I hope that you will find a way to communicate with President Asad in light of the above report. I hope you will urge him to attend the conference. If the conference fails now, all the momentum I have built up and all the hopes we have had will be dissipated.

If you agree with revised formulation in the letter given above, I intend to ask the Soviets to have their Ambassador in Damascus present the draft letter to the Syrians and then they can decide how they will respond to the Secretary General’s invitation. I intend also to ask the Soviets to urge an affirmative decision on the Syrians and I hope that you will do the same.”4

Ambassador should brief Vinogradov5 generally on the above after briefing Fahmi, telling him that we are going to take up this matter specifically and in detail with Dobrynin6 for Moscow’s reaction. I will [Page 1091]have to have a reply from Fahmi before I arrive in Israel Sunday evening.7

Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, X, November–December 1973. Top Secret; Flash; Cherokee; Nodis. Repeated Immediate to the Department of State to pass to the White House for Scowcroft.
  2. See Document 393.
  3. December 16.
  4. In telegram Secto 141/6637 from Amman to Cairo, December 16, Kissinger instructed Eilts to explain to Fahmi that the United States would turn to the short letter to the participants and to the Secretary General only if it failed to get Israeli approval of the longer draft letter, and to emphasize that it was imperative for Sadat to weigh in with the Syrians to help assure that there would be an affirmative Syrian reply. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1179, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, December 13, 1973 thru Dec. 17, 1973) In telegram 4036 from Cairo, December 16, Eilts reported that he had conveyed the Secretary’s messages to Fahmi, who noted that Sadat had already indicated that the precise language of the draft letters was no longer important and who expressed doubt that further intervention with the Syrians would be successful. (Ibid., Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov.–Dec. 31, 1973)
  5. In telegram 4041 from Cairo, December 16, Eilts reported that he had just briefed Vinogradov, whose only comment had been to express some personal skepticism that the conference would take place. (Ibid.)
  6. As instructed in telegram Hakto 48 from Kissinger to Scowcroft, December 16. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 42, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, HAKTO 1–88, Dec. 8–22, 1973)
  7. In telegram 4043 from Cairo, December 16, Eilts conveyed Sadat’s reply, noting that the President had said that Kissinger should know he would stand by the agreement the two of them had reached and that Egypt would “under all circumstances” go to the peace conference. He had also asked Fahmi to again get in touch with the Syrians. (Ibid., Box 639, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, Vol. X, Nov.–Dec.31, 1973)