[Page 1211]

425. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1

DISENGAGEMENT TALKS IN GENEVA

1st Meeting, December 26, 19732

[Gur/Magdoub]

Restatement of “principles of disengagement by both sides. Egypt presented its five principles—(a) agreement must result in Israeli forces being moved east of canal, (b) distance between the forces must exceed the range of land force weapons, (c) security zones with lightly armed troops must be established, (d) plan must entail buffer zone wide enough to allow UNEF to operate freely, (e) disengagement line must be far enough back from canal for Egypt to secure entire canal zone. Israel said it agreed to these but wished to add two more—(a) from new disengagement lines neither party should derive political benefit (Siilasvuo described gist of this as Israel believing line must reflect military outcome of war and not be first stage of withdrawal in broader political plan) and (b) reciprocity or a mutual contribution, i.e. if Israel were to withdraw there must be some Egyptian withdrawal as well. Egypt objected to latter. Siilasvuo pressed Israel to come up with some other kind of reciprocity (rather than Egyptian withdrawal) if at all possible.

[Page 1212]

2nd Meeting, December 28, 19733

[Gur/Magdoub]

Continued from last meeting, further discussion of principles. Israels stressed need for reciprocity, citing as example the proposition that the greater the reciprocity the farther east Israel would be willing to draw disengagement line. Siilasvuo saw as only new element in this meeting Egyptian presentation indicating that while Egypt expected final disengagement line to be clearly defined, Israelis could withdraw to it by a series of moves to intervening lines according to a specified timetable. [Gur belittled, saying it obvious Israel could not jump back 30 KM in one day.] Israel asked Egypt whether November 22 proposal was still valid. Egypt replied no, considering Geneva talks a fresh start.

3rd Meeting, January 2, 19744

[Gur/Magdoub]

More talk of principles. Siilasvuo opened meeting with pep talk urging progress and reminding participants that group had limited military and non-political mandate. He also suggested two possible approaches—(a) that the group continue in the current direction of talking about a disengagement line east of the canal (“disengagement plan #1”) or (b) failing that, consider focussing on paragraph b of the six-point agreement, i.e. a line in the context of the demand of the UNSC that the parties return to October 22 positions (“disengagement plan #2”). Siilasvuo said he also envisaged combining both plans. [Siilasvuo described to Sterner combined proposal as picking up on Magdoub’s remark in the 2nd meeting that Israel would withdraw to line in stages.]

Egypt restated known positions, then indicated it was unable to accept Israel’s two additional principles because they injected “political” and “psychological” factors into military talks. Israel said it did not accept Egypt’s five principles unless Egypt accepted Israel’s two. Israel further defined “reciprocity,” referring for the first time in these talks to a “thinning out” of Egypt’s forces east of the canal. Indicated that depth of Israeli withdrawal east of the canal was specifically linked [Page 1213]to such things as the strength of Egypt’s forces on the east bank, numbers, level of armament, kinds of equipment, numbers of forces to be allowed in the lightly armed zones, etc. as in the KM 101 talks. Also proposed there be joint Egyptian/Israeli inspection of both the security zones and main forces. Siilasvuo suggested Israel translate these thoughts into specific proposals.

4th Meeting, January 4, 19745

[Gur/Magdoub]

Israel presented two “models.” Model #1 (preferred Israeli plan which Mrs. Meir has mentioned publicly) would have both Egypt and Israel withdrawing—the canal would be the dividing line with a UN zone of 25-KM straddling the width of the canal (12 KM on either side); immediately to the east and west of this would be 10-KM wide “security zones” (lightly armed forces) held by Israel to east and Egypt to west, beyond which main forces would be positioned. Model #2 [which Siilasvuo described to Sterner as a “modified Gamasy plan of Nov. 22/23 and Sterner described as resembling the counterproposal put forth by Yariv at the time]—Main Egyptian force would be withdrawn to west bank of canal and main Israeli force to a line 35 KM east of the canal; on the east bank there would be a 10-KM wide Egyptian security zone with lightly armed Egyptian forces; moving east from there would be a 15-KM wide UN zone, then a 10-KM Israeli security zone (comparable to Egypt’s in strength and numbers) and ultimately the Israeli main force. Artillery on both sides would be far enough behind main force lines as to be out of range of UNEF zone and also applying to SAM and AAA to that they could not reach over UN zone. No tanks or artillery in lightly armed security zones. Re aircraft, two approaches are possible (a) no aircraft other than UNEF would be allowed to fly beyond main force lines or (b) each side might agree to allow reconnaissance overflights.

Egypt asked that “models” be translated into concrete proposals. [In commenting on models, Sterner recalled that Yariv proposal would have left Egyptian army in place on east bank (perhaps thinned out), whereas Gur proposal above would seem to rule that out.]

5th Meeting, January 7, 19746

[Gur/Magdoub]

Egypt opened by saying that if the sides could not agree on disengagement east of canal, perhaps they should turn to October 22 lines [Page 1214](recall Siilasvuo speech at 3rd mtg), and co-sponsors could become involved. Israel rejected any suggestion of involving co-sponsors, reiterated that Israeli acceptance of Egypt’s five principles was linked to Egyptian acceptance of Israel’s additional two and stressed that proposals put forth by Israel in the 4th meeting were “models”, not concrete proposals, and that Israel currently had nothing concrete to offer. Egypt pressed for concrete proposals at next meeting. [In this session Israel made veiled reference that UN may have confused reportage on Israeli “models” and was at pains to point out they were not specific proposals. Israeli rep made case that Israel domestic situation was still unclear and government not ready to present specific plans.]

6th Meeting, January 9, 19747

[Gur/Magdoub]

Retread of previous sessions. Israel made following familiar points: (a) Israeli government not yet ready to be specific; (b) Israel disappointed that Egypt has resurrected question of October 22 lines and Israel rejects co-sponsor involvement; (c) Israeli acceptance of Egypt’s five principles linked to Egyptian acceptance of Israel’s additional two; (d) Israel’s (preferred) Model #1 would have been good alternative to October 22 proposal; (e) Egypt misunderstood “reciprocity” and “mutuality.” These terms could comprise political as well as military measures; (f) When Israel is prepared to put forth concrete proposals, it would be good idea if both sides put forth plans simultaneously, including precise lines on maps, force levels, etc.

Egypt responded with points (a) If Israel is not ready to accept Egypt’s five principles, there is nothing left to discuss but October 22 lines, and Egypt does not rule out experts from the outside. (b) There is no utility in discussing theories; Egypt understood from Dayan comments that a specific plan was forthcoming.

Siilasvuo injected proposition that both sides think about specific examples of “reciprocity.” The sides agreed to meet again January 15.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1332, NSC Secretariat, NSC Unfiled Material, The Middle East at the Summit, June 1973, Mr. Saunders. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Rosemary Niehuss. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Telegram 6777 from Geneva, December 27, reported that the first meeting of the Egyptian-Israeli military working group convened at 5 p.m. on December 26 and lasted for about 90 minutes. General Gur headed the Israeli delegation, General Magdoub headed the Egyptian delegation, and General Siilasvuo represented the United Nations. The meeting consisted entirely of restatement by both sides of the “principles” which they believed should govern disengagement, all of which had been put forward during the Kilometer 101 talks, and there was nothing new of substance. Siilasvuo commented afterward that there had been very little interchange during this meeting, and said that there seemed to be a tacit understanding that there would be little progress until after the Israeli elections. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) Sterner based his reporting cables on briefings that General Siilasvuo provided him after each of the working group meetings.
  3. Telegram 6805 from Geneva, December 28, reported on the second meeting of the working group, which lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes, noting that it was difficult to arrive at a coherent picture of what had happened. Both sides spent much time reiterating and explaining the “principles” set forth at their first meeting. The atmosphere was more relaxed than at the first meeting, but again nothing significantly new emerged. The Israeli attitude following the meeting was one of mild satisfaction; the Egyptian one was that nothing significant would occur until after the Israeli elections. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 20 from Geneva, January 3, 1974, reported on the meeting, which lasted 3 hours. Sterner commented that Siilasvuo told him that the meeting was “not particularly productive.” (Ibid.)
  5. Telegram 57 from Geneva, January 4, reported on this meeting. (Ibid.)
  6. Telegram 69 from Geneva, January 7, reported General Siilasvuo’s comment that the fifth meeting, which lasted about 2 hours, “made no further progress.” (Ibid.)
  7. Telegram 122 from Geneva, January 9, summarized the sixth meeting. All the parties, including General Siilasvuo, agreed to potpone further meetings until January 15 when Israel might be ready to put forward a specific proposal. (Ibid.)
  8. After this meeting, the Israeli military delegation returned to Jerusalem for consultations and General Siilasvuo returned to Cairo to rejoin the UNEF. (Telegram 145from Geneva, January 10; ibid.) On January 14, the Israelis informed the U.S. delegation in Geneva that they had been instructed to postpone the meeting scheduled for January 15. (Telegram 193from Geneva, January 14; ibid.) The military working group never resumed its meetings in Geneva.