72. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Andrei Gromyko, Foreign Minister of the USSR
  • Anatoliy Dobrynin, Ambassador of the USSR
  • Mr. Makarov, Counselor to the Foreign Minister
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President
  • Harold H. Saunders, NSC Staff

The discussion fell into four sections: (1) brief discussion of the press reaction to the signing on June 22 of the agreement on avoiding [Page 212] nuclear war; (2) brief discussion of some details of the USUSSR communiqué to be issued at the end of the Brezhnev visit; (3) discussion of the Middle East paragraphs of the communiqué; (4) discussion of the “general working principles” paper.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

The Middle East in the Communiqué

Dr. Kissinger continued, saying that the only issue left is the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said that, as the Soviet side sees the situation, it is difficult to agree on any “substantial” text for the communiqué. It could be stated that both parties expressed their positions and added that they would continue to exercise efforts to promote a just settlement of the problem which is in accord with the interests of independence and sovereignty of all the states in the area.

Dr. Kissinger said that such a statement would be “less than last year’s.”

Foreign Minister Gromyko said, “in one sense less; in another sense more.” It would not mention Resolution 242. Last year, he said, the two sides had hidden the differences between them and accentuated the matters on which there was agreement. But since the areas of agreement were thin and the Arabs did not particularly like last year’s communiqué, he felt that the two sides should simply indicate that they had expressed their views. He indicated that the Soviet side would be willing to mention Resolution 242 if the US were prepared to mention the Jarring memorandum of 1971.2

Dr. Kissinger replied that the US could not do that. In any case, the two documents were of a quite different character.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said that they could be mentioned together, and Dr. Kissinger replied that we had never mentioned the Jarring memorandum.

The Foreign Minister noted that the US had initially expressed a positive view.

Dr. Kissinger replied that this had been purely a unilateral expression of view.

Dr. Kissinger said that he did not see how “we” could separate ourselves from Resolution 242. He felt it would be a pity after a week of substantial harmony if the press were to report disagreement on the issue of the Middle East.

Foreign Minister Gromyko acknowledged that the press might report such disagreement, but the reality is that there is disagreement on [Page 213] fundamental points. The US side in Moscow in 1972 had said it would show flexibility on the issue of withdrawal of Israeli troops, but that flexibility has not materialized. The crucial point is withdrawal. Nothing has happened in the past year.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said that he had talked with Secretary Rogers on the plane the previous afternoon. They had not discussed a text, but on the basis of the talks they did have, the Foreign Minister proposed the following:

“The parties expressed their deep concern with the situation in the Middle East and exchanged opinions regarding ways of reaching a Middle East settlement.

“Each of the parties set forth its position on this problem.

“Both parties agreed to continue to exert their efforts in the direction of the quickest possible settlement in the Middle East. This settlement should be in accordance with the interests of all states and peoples in the area and with the interests of their independence and sovereignty.”

Dr. Kissinger asked the Foreign Minister what the phrase “and peoples” was intended to reflect. He said he did not understand how the two were different in a context like this or how we could distinguish “peoples” in the context of a situation like this. He asked the Minister what he intended to convey. He indicated that the US would prefer to drop that phrase.

When Foreign Minister Gromyko said he felt there was no important distinction, Dr. Kissinger countered that, to be frank, the problem was that this raised the whole question of the Palestinians. He noted that in his conversations with Egyptian National Security Adviser Hafiz Ismail, Ismail had talked in terms of getting Israel back to its borders simply in order to gain an end of the state of belligerency—nothing more than a virtual continuation of the cease-fire. Thus, the Egyptians seem to be putting themselves in a position to make the establishment of peace between Egypt and Israel contingent on a later solution to the problem of the Palestinians.

Ambassador Dobrynin recalled that this issue had been discussed at length between him and Assistant Secretary of State Sisco in 19693 and that the USSR had substantially met that objection by the US. He said he did not feel that was an issue any more.

Dr. Kissinger recalled that he had not been a party to those discussions. In any case, we preferred not to see the word “peoples” introduced in this context.

[Page 214]

Foreign Minister Gromyko then said that he would drop the phrase “and peoples” provided the following sentence could be added at the end: “Both parties stand for the fulfillment of decisions of the United Nations on this question.”

Dr. Kissinger said that this is too open-ended for the US side. There are UN decisions which the US has not voted for.

Foreign Minister Gromyko suggested inserting the word “appropriate” before “decisions.” Dr. Kissinger repeated the point he had made earlier that the US did not want to indicate unqualified support for decisions which reach back over a number of years. He said that he would have to go back and look at them all to agree to this point. He would prefer not to have a sentence of this kind.

Foreign Minister Gromyko then went back to saying that the USSR would want either this sentence or the words “and peoples” in the previous sentence.

Dr. Kissinger indicated that perhaps if the word “appropriate” were inserted, that the US could consider the sentence.

At this point, Dr. Kissinger read through the text as it had been developed in the conversation, editing as he went through and reaching the following version:

“The parties expressed their deep concern with the situation in the Middle East and exchanged opinions regarding ways of reaching a Middle East settlement.

“Each of the parties set forth its position on this problem.

“Both parties agreed to continue to exert their efforts to promote the quickest possible settlement in the Middle East. This settlement should be in accordance with the interests of all states in the area and consistent with their independence and sovereignty.

“Both parties stand for the fulfillment of appropriate decisions of the UN on this question.”

Dr. Kissinger and the Foreign Minister agreed that they would discuss this with their principals, and Dr. Kissinger indicated that he would tell Secretary Rogers that the Foreign Minister had presented this proposal following his conversation with the Secretary on the plane the day before.4

[Page 215]

Foreign Minister Gromyko indicated that General Secretary Brezhnev was “generally very satisfied” with the visit.

Working Principles on the Arab-Israel Issue

Foreign Minister Gromyko asked, “What about the principles?” He asked whether there is anything new worth talking about. He felt that there is no point in spending time on the project unless it is possible to make some progress.

Dr. Kissinger said he had talked with the Israelis generally and had studied again the paper presented in Moscow this May. He indicated that he had worked out a new version which he then handed to Gromyko [copy attached at Tab A].

Foreign Minister Gromyko read through the principles and made the points indicated below:

On paragraph 1, he felt that the paragraph as now drafted reflected a different approach from the one in the principles discussed in Moscow in 1972 [copy attached at Tab B].5 He said that the paragraph as now drafted loses the idea of a comprehensive settlement in which all parts of the settlement are inter-related. Introducing the idea of “separate agreements” suggests that it would be possible to have something like an interim Canal agreement outside the scope of the general system of overall agreements.

On paragraph 2, he said that “this is not the answer.” He said that there are different interpretations of Security Council Resolution 242 and that this paragraph did not say what is necessary.

On paragraph 3, he said that this point would refer only to Jordan. He said that this had been made clear in the discussions in Moscow in 1972.

Dr. Kissinger said that he wanted to get the history of this point clear. When it had been discussed in Moscow, it was not limited to Jordan. The following day in Kiev, Ambassador Dobrynin on the Foreign Minister’s behalf had come to Dr. Kissinger and said that the Soviet side regarded this as applying only to Jordan. But when it was drafted, Jordan had not been discussed. The Foreign Minister said that he felt Jordan was mentioned several times.

Dr. Kissinger said he would have a great deal of difficulty identifying Jordan in this paragraph. He stepped back to describe his overall philosophy about a set of principles like this. He felt that if the US and USSR could agree on a set of general principles that succeeded in [Page 216] starting negotiations, then each side could give its own particular interpretation of what any of these principles meant. The USSR could say that the principle applied only to Jordan. The US would simply say, “Let’s see what emerges from the negotiations.” The issue is whether the two sides could find a set of propositions general enough to get talks started.

Foreign Minister Gromyko then turned to paragraph 4. He objected to the words “including participation of the signatory nations.” He said that if that meant that Israel could participate, this could not be accepted.

He then indicated that paragraph 5 and 6 were all right. On paragraph 7, he indicated that it would be necessary to make reference to the appropriate UN decisions.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said that he could not give a final answer at this meeting. He had simply given a quick judgment on what changes would be required if the principles were to become more acceptable to the Soviet side.

Dr. Kissinger said he would like to recapitulate the Foreign Minister’s comments and to make some comments of his own.

On paragraph 1, he said that the US could accept a formulation which indicated the comprehensive nature of the settlement. As far as “separate agreements” are concerned, a way could be found to indicate that they would be part of a general settlement. It would also be possible, as Ambassador Dobrynin had suggested, to use the phrase “appropriate forms of negotiation” rather than “negotiations between the signatories.” The Foreign Minister interjected that this was important because the phrase “negotiation between the signatories” would be like a red flag to a bull because it connoted direct negotiations.

Continuing, Dr. Kissinger said that the US would have to have some reference to Security Council Resolution 242. Foreign Minister Gromyko said, “Impossible.” There was a moment of silence, and Dr. Kissinger continued.

On paragraph 3, if the Soviet side wanted to say explicitly that border changes would take place only on the Jordanian front, that would be impossible. The US could note the Soviet view. The Foreign Minister said that would do no good because it would not bring the two views together. He suggested that the US might at least confidentially indicate that this point applied only to the Jordanian sector. Otherwise, there would be major problems if the Egyptians and the Syrians thought there were to be changes in their borders.

Dr. Kissinger suggested that it might be possible to agree confidentially that we would both exercise our influence for a return to 1967 borders. But this would have to be agreed confidentially. He noted that [Page 217] keeping things like this confidential in the Arab world was often an impossibility.

On paragraph 4, he felt that the US could meet the objection to including Israel explicitly in the composition of the international forces. The words “participation of the signatory nations” would not be necessary.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said the problem with including it is that it reflects Israeli aspirations to keep its troops in the Sinai.

Dr. Kissinger said that he understood. He would not insist on this point. In the framework of what we are trying to achieve with these principles, it would be all right to drop that point. He felt that the only way to get the talks started was to be sufficiently vague. He agreed that we could eliminate the phrase.

Dr. Kissinger noted that paragraphs 5 and 6 were agreed. At this point, he called attention to the fact that a paragraph from the May 1972 principles had been dropped. It was the one which read, “The agreements should lead to an end of a state of belligerency and to the establishment of peace.” He explained that we had dropped it because there was reference to “final peace” in the new paragraph 1. We felt that it was not needed.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said he would like to keep that paragraph. It was more favorable to Israel. It might facilitate negotiation. The Foreign Minister asked whether he was being “too pro-Israel.”

Dr. Kissinger joked that this was because of the large Jewish population in the Soviet Union. The Foreign Minister acknowledged the quip.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said he wanted to go back to the first paragraph. He had not looked at it carefully. He said that the USSR could not say anything that looked like direct negotiations. Therefore he wanted to insert the idea of “appropriate forms of negotiation which would be agreeable to all the parties concerned.” Dr. Kissinger indicated that we could probably work something out along these lines.

On paragraph 7, Foreign Minister Gromyko said that it would be necessary to include some reference to the UN decisions. Perhaps the same language could be used as had been proposed for the draft communiqué—“appropriate decisions of the UN on this question.”

Dr. Kissinger summed up saying that we had simply maintained some of the principles from the May 1972 draft. He felt that paragraph 4 is manageable. He felt that on paragraph 1, the US side would have no objection in principle to a comprehensive settlement as long as it could take place in stages.

Dr. Kissinger indicated that he would try to produce another draft before the 2:00 p.m. meeting that would represent a US revision taking [Page 218] into account the informal comments made by the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador.

Ambassador Dobrynin suggested that perhaps brackets could be used to show any point that had not been resolved in the discussion.

Foreign Minister Gromyko said he would prefer not to show the draft as Dr. Kissinger had handed it to him to General Secretary Brezhnev. He would, however, like to be able to report to the General Secretary and suggested that Dr. Kissinger reshape his proposal along the lines of the comments he had made. If a new US version could be handed to him in the afternoon, he would talk to the General Secretary about it. Then Ambassador Dobrynin could continue talks with Dr. Kissinger after his return to Washington.

Foreign Minister Gromyko reflected that there is one new element in the principles—namely, the element of negotiation. He said that he would not exclude some form of negotiation along the lines of the Rhodes talks. A long time ago, he recalled, Foreign Minister Riad of Egypt had told him that the Arabs would not exclude talks along the lines of the Rhodes formula. [Note: The “Rhodes Formula” refers to the negotiating procedures used at Rhodes during negotiation of the Arab-Israeli armistice agreements in 1949.] He said the Arabs had changed their position on Rhodes-type talks in 1969 only after the Israelis had made certain public comments. He repeated that he did not exclude the possibility that the Arabs might agree to the Rhodes formula. He noted that the talks might not necessarily take place at Rhodes; they might just as well take place at the UN in New York. He felt this problem would be taken care of in the draft if we could say that “appropriate forms of negotiation should be used acceptable to the parties concerned.” If anything is said that the Arabs interpret as “direct negotiations,” then any progress we made on the other points would be spoiled by the negative reaction the Arabs would have to this one.

The meeting concluded with the understanding that Dr. Kissinger would revise the principles and bring a copy to the afternoon meeting.

Harold H. Saunders6
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Tab A

General Working Principles

1. The political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be embodied in a set of agreements between Israel and each of the neighboring Arab countries directly involved in the conflict designed to achieve a final peace. The completion of the agreements should at some stage involve negotiation between the signatories. Separate agreements on specific issues are not precluded.

2. The agreements should contain provisions for withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in 1967 consistent with Security Council Resolution 242.

3. Any border changes, which may take place, should result from voluntary agreement between the parties concerned.

4. Arrangements for mutual security could by agreement between the parties include demilitarized and other security zones; establishment of an international force including participation of the signatory nations; stationing of such a force at strategic points; and the most effective international guarantees which could include the Soviet Union and the United States.

5. Recognition of the independence and sovereignty of all states in the Middle East, including Israel, is one of the basic principles on which the peace treaties must be based.

6. Freedom of navigation through the international waterways in the area should be assured to all nations including Israel. This is fully consistent with Egyptian sovereignty over the Suez Canal.

7. There must be a just settlement of the refugee problem through mutually agreed procedures and with appropriate international assistance.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Brezhnev Visit, June 18–25, 1973, Memcons. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Saunders. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office at the Western White House in San Clemente, California.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 10.
  3. For Dobrynin’s conversations with Sisco in July 1969, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Soviet Union, January 1969–October 1970, Document 176.
  4. Kissinger described the disagreement over the wording of the communiqué in his memoirs: “Gromyko was very wary. After all, the previous summit and its communiqué had been a major factor in the expulsion of the Soviet advisors from Egypt. . . . This time Gromyko refused even to include a reference to Security Council Resolution 242, the different interpretations of which were the heart of the liturgy of Middle East negotiations, because we refused to go along with the Soviets’ pro-Arab interpretation of the resolution. In 1972, Gromyko had sought to avoid any expressions of differences on the Middle East; in 1973, he insisted on it. It was only a brief sentence, but it would prevent the debacle of the preceding year, when a vague anodyne formulation had been interpreted by Sadat as a Soviet sellout of Arab interests.” (Years of Upheaval, pp. 295–296) For the text of this joint communiqué issued on June 25, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pp. 611–619. The final text omitted the last paragraph on the UN decisions.
  5. Attached, but not printed.
  6. Saunders signed his initials above his typed signature.