[Page 121]

41. Backchannel Message From the Egyptian Presidential Adviser for National Security Affairs (Ismail) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

[1 paragraph (7 lines) not declassified]

Thank you for your message.2

1. In Dr. Kissinger’s message, a reference was made to the unfortunate incident in Khartoum.3 It was our understanding that such a question would be dealt with through other channels,4 while we proceeded, surmounting all obstacles, in our effort towards achieving peace in our region. Commenting on that incident, as well as on the two previous in[Page 122]cidents over Sinai and on the northern borders of Lebanon, your attention is drawn to two considerations:

a. The gravity of the situation leading to serious developments due to the pressure of such incidents.

b. The extreme importance of reaching a settlement ensuring the political and human rights of the people of Palestine suffering, for the last quarter of a century, from loss of home and denial of identity.

2. We have taken note that Dr. Kissinger has started talks with the Israelis and that he intends to conduct further talks with them. At the same time, we expect that we continue exchanging thoughts so that we reach our next meeting with a clear picture of each other’s views, a fact that might contribute to speedy progress.

3. In this regard, the preliminary assessment of the political leadership in Egypt of our talks is that Egypt is, again, expected to make concessions on the assumption that such concessions might presumably induce Israel to be more forthcoming. We have also noted the latest news reports concerning a new American commitment to provide Israel with new sophisticated weapons and military capabilities. This particular approach was precisely what caused the failure of the 1971 talks, and, if again adopted, it will keep us within the same vicious circle precluding any progress towards the kind of peace hoped for.5

4. Mr. Ismail received on March 10 the Soviet Ambassador and informed him of the results of the meeting with Dr. Kissinger, along the lines agreed upon. Mr. Ismail particularly told him of the agreement to pursue further contacts.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 131, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt/Ismail, Vol. IV, February 24–May 19, 1973. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. On March 9, Kissinger wrote Ismail that their talks had been of great value and that he appreciated the manner in which Ismail had conducted them. He said that, as promised, he had informed Prime Minister Meir privately about their extended talks and had characterized their discussion “in a very general way.” Kissinger noted that he would be “talking intensively with the Israelis in an effort to develop an understanding of their position as it might relate to possible heads of agreement in the plan [Ismail] outlined.” (Ibid.)
  3. In the early evening of March 1, eight Black September Organization terrorists seized the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum during a diplomatic reception. The terrorists took U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission George C. Moore, the Belgian Chargé, the Saudi Ambassador, and the Jordanian Chargé hostage. In return for the hostages’ freedom, the terrorists demanded the release of various individuals, mostly Palestinian guerrillas, imprisioned in Jordan, Israel, and the United States. The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the head of Fatah. When the terrorists became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they killed the two U.S. officials and the Belgian Chargé. Thirty-four hours later, upon receipt of orders from Arafat in Beirut, the terrorists released the other hostages unharmed and surrendered to Sudanese authorities.
  4. In telegram 51645 to Cairo, March 20, the Department suggested that if the Egyptians tried to link the subjects of terrorism and new U.S. arms contracts with Israel, the Interests Section should point out that the United States was committed to Israel’s survival and defense and therefore had an ongoing military supply relationship with it. This did not alter the continued U.S. commitment to a peace settlement that would take legitimate Palestinian interests into account. The telegram noted the importance of preserving an international consensus as a foundation for an eventual peace settlement and warned that it was because Black September/Fatah terrorism threatened to strike at the heart of this consensus that Egypt, no less than the United States, should take a firm stand against it. If such terrorism were allowed to continue, it would drive a wedge between Arab states and the “entire civilized community which considers such methods anath-ema.” (Ibid., Box 638, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, IX, January–October 73)
  5. On March 22, Kissinger replied that he was proceeding with an earnest examination of the issues and was conducting discussions with other interested parties without revealing the content of his discussions with Ismail. He said that he was looking “forward to hearing the detailed reactions promised by Mr. Ismail at the last meeting and his proposals for a suitable date for the next meeting.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Country Files, Middle East, Rabin/Dinitz Sensitive Memcons, 1973)
  6. In telegram 859 from Cairo, March 22, Greene reported that he had met that day with Ismail and told him that the United States continued to search for a Middle East peace based on Resolution 242 that took into account the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, but took a “serious view of BSO/Fatah terror activities and Arab government support thereof.” Ismail had “sternly rejected ‘ultimatum’.” He said that the Government of Egypt would not turn away from the Palestinians, considered that the United States rejected Resolution 242, was “accustomed to ups and downs in relations with [the U.S. Government] and [was] prepared to accept a down now.” (Ibid., Box 638, Country Files, Middle East, Arab Republic of Egypt, IX, January–October 1973)