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407. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Nixon1

General agreement has now been reached on the text of a USUSSR letter to be delivered to the Secretary General regarding the convening of the Middle East conference in Geneva on December 21. The US and Soviet Ambassadors to the UN will deliver the letter to the Secretary General this afternoon.2

Egypt, Jordan and Israel have all agreed to the letter and to attend the conference, but Syria has not yet indicated its willingness to attend. Ambassador Dobrynin asked that you be informed that Soviet representations at the highest level have been made to Syria on the issues of Israeli POWs and Syrian attendance.3 The Egyptian Foreign Minister made a trip to Damascus yesterday likewise to urge Syrian participation. Thus far, however, there has been no affirmative Syrian response and no indications of Syrian willingness to provide a list of Israeli POWs. Should Syria maintain its present attitude, the conference will convene without Syrian participation. While this may be something less than optimum, it will permit the crucial Egyptian-Israeli discussions to commence.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 43, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, State Cables, Memos & Misc., Dec. 8–22, 1973. Secret.
  2. In telegram Hakto 69, December 18, 1615Z, Kissinger instructed Scowcroft to see Dobrynin right away and confer with him on sending a joint instruction to Malik and Bennett ordering them to transmit the agreed text of the U.S.–Soviet letter to the Secretary General at 4 p.m. that day. He noted that they should inform Waldheim that Syria had not yet agreed to sending the letter, but that the words “the parties concerned” referred to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Syria and that his message convening the conference should be sent to those four, and those four alone. They should also explain that the joint letter had undergone intensive negotiation and that every word meant a great deal to one side or the other. Thus, Waldheim needed to be careful to neither add to, nor subtract from, its wording. (Ibid., Box 42, Kissinger Trip Files, HAK Trip—Europe & Mideast, HAKTO 1–88, Dec. 8–22, 1973)
  3. See footnote 2, Document 406.
  4. In telegram 5685 from USUN, December 18, 2308Z, Bennett reported that he and Malik had delivered their respective Russian and English texts of the joint letter to the Secretary General at 3:30 p.m. that day. Waldheim indicated that he understood each point and had no problem with any of them. He promised he would use the text, adding only “at Palais des Nations” after Geneva. The Secretary General noted that there were a number of procedural questions to be resolved before the conference opened. Malik responded that these questions would have to be settled with the Foreign Ministers of the two sponsoring powers and Waldheim agreed. Bennett reported that the Secretary General had released the U.S.–Soviet letter and his transmittal letters to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Syria at 5 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1180, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, December 18, 1973 thru Dec. 22, 1973 [3 of 3])