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

The following is a report from Secretary Kissinger’s discussions this morning with President Asad of Syria:

“1. I have just completed a five hour discussion with President Asad of Syria.2 Given the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement, he now appears ready—in a very gingerly way—to try for a disengagement agreement of his own.

“2. During my first meeting with Asad a few weeks ago3 he insisted that a Syrian-Israeli disengagement agreement had to be fully buttoned down before he was willing to commit himself to the Geneva Conference.4 Today he softened his position somewhat, emphasizing that he must know where he is going and have some indication of the possibilities for disengagement before he fully commits himself to negotiations.

“3. Asad gave me some concrete indications of the kind of disengagement agreement he would accept.5 Although they are no more than a starting point, I made it clear to him that the substantial pull back he has in mind will certainly be rejected by the Israelis. But he has now at least given us a concrete proposal which he said I could give the [Page 106]Israelis and indicated that he knew he would have ‛to make a further proposal’ if the Israelis reject this one.

“4. I shall make a brief airport stop in Israel on the way home to give them a report of the conversation with Asad.6 This is a good move, not only because Asad wanted me to do so, but also because as thin a reed as it is it helps relieve pressure on Sadat (who is presently under attack for having agreed to a disengagement scheme without waiting for the Syrians). The fact that the Syrian-Israeli disengagement talks can be said to have begun today will be helpful to Sadat and buy time for all concerned. With this Syrian-Israeli process started it also helps reduce the amount of trouble that the Soviets can cause.

“5. My plan is to describe briefly the Syrian proposal to the Israelis, ask them to study it and come up with concrete ideas of their own which perhaps Dayan can bring to us in ten days or two weeks in Washington. I want the U.S. role to be the same as that we played on the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement negotiation.”

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 44, HAK Trip Files, January 10–20, 1974, Europe and Mid East State Cables, Memos, Miscellaneous. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. A stamped notation reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. The meeting between Asad and Kissinger took place on January 20 in President Asad’s office. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Box 1028, Presidential/HAK Memcons, January 1–February 28, 1974, Folder 2) According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting took place from 12:30 to 4:45 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  3. Kissinger first met Asad on December 15, 1973. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXV, Arab-Israeli Crisis and War, 1973, Document 393.
  4. Asad told Kissinger in their first meeting that Syria would not participate in the opening of the Geneva Conference in December 1973.
  5. Asad presented Kissinger with three options: first, an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights with a demilitarized area; second, an Israeli withdrawal that would leave the Israelis with a five kilometer area of control in the Heights; or, third, an Israeli withdrawal approximately halfway between the October 6, 1973, line and the original June 5, 1967 line.
  6. The meeting between the Israeli negotiating team and Kissinger took place on January 20 from 6:55 to 8:04 p.m. at Ben-Gurion (Lod) Airport in Tel Aviv. (Memorandum of conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, TS 34, Peace Negotiations, Memcons and Telegram Book, Volume 1, December 1973 to January 1974, Folder 1)