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421. Telegram From the Embassy in Jordan to the Department of State1

6802. Subject: Reply of Prime Minister to Secretary’s Message. Refs: A. State 250024.2 B. Amman 6795.3

1. Prime Minister Rifa’i just handed me following reply to Secretary’s message contained Ref A:

2. “Dear Henry, I was sorry to hear of your indisposition. I hope you are much better.

I have contacted the Chief of Staff and he can leave London to Washington on Saturday, the 29th. Could you see him on Monday, the 31st? Please let me know.

On another subject, I went to Damascus yesterday and had a three and one-half hour meeting with President Asad. It was the best meeting we’ve had so far. He is more furious at Egypt than ever. He told me Sadat is sending messages to him asking him not to worry because Egypt will never accept to disengage forces with Israel without Syria. Asad says he knows Sadat is trying and that all arrangements for disengagements on the canal are about to be completed.

I spoke to him very frankly and perhaps harshly about the necessity of Syria attending the conference. He was quite lenient about this, and said that he does not believe in disengagement, but total withdrawal all at once. But he has decided to accept disengagement if it were applied to all fronts. He said he is willing to go to Geneva if he can have assurances from the U.S. that disengagement will take place on the Israeli Syrian borders. He added that the only way to have this commitment would be to agree with you on the line to which disengage[Page 1204]ment would take place.4 If you arrived at this agreement with him, he will then send a delegation to Geneva to formalize. He asked me to speak on his behalf with you and in conference until they join it. He requested me not to let you know that he had asked me to get in touch with you, and make it appear as if it were my own initiative. If you think there is something worth following up in what Asad suggested, please let me have your thoughts and advise as to where we should move next and to where we go from here. Sincerely yours, Sayd.”5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1180, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—1973 Peace Negotiations, December 23, 1973 thru December 31, 1973 [2 of 2]. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cherokee.
  2. Telegram 250024 to Amman, December 26, transmitted Kissinger’s message to Rifai. Kissinger apologized that he had been ill with the flu and not in his office on Monday (December 24) when Jordanian Chief of Staff Bin Shaker planned to meet with him. The Secretary said he would like to talk with General Bin Shaker, although he doubted he could go beyond what had been said in the General’s meetings with Defense Department officials the previous week. He added that if the General could return to Washington following his business in London, he would be happy to meet with him. (Ibid., Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, X, November–December 73)
  3. Dated December 26; not found.
  4. In telegram 6807 from Amman, December 27, Graham reported that Rifai told him that Assad, who had seemed more forthcoming than during his previous meeting with Hussein, said that if a disengagement of forces on the Syrian-Israeli front could be negotiated in advance, he would be willing to attend the Geneva Conference to formalize such disengagement and then would participate in the peace negotiations. Rifai said that although the official Syrian position was that Israel had to withdraw from all territory occupied in 1967, he thought that at this stage, Assad would be willing to allow Israel to continue to occupy that part of the Golan Heights that directly overlooked Israeli territory. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 618, Country Files, Middle East, Jordan, X, November–December 1973)
  5. Telegram 6809 from Amman, December 27, reported that because of an unusual concentration of Israeli troops on the Jordanian border, the King had decided to recall General Bin Shaker immediately from London. (Ibid.) In telegram 25214 to Amman, December 29, Kissinger responded to Rifai’s message, saying that he appreciated hearing about the Prime Minister’s meeting with Assad and that Rifai’s account paralleled what Assad had told him in Damascus. The Secretary noted he would be giving more thought to the question of possible future Syrian participation at Geneva, and would sound out the Israelis on Syrian-Israeli disengagement. (Ibid.)