20. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Lebanon1

19342. Subject: Message From the Secretary to President Assad. Beirut pass Damascus for Scotes.

1. Scotes should convey following oral message from the Secretary to President Assad in manner he deems most appropriate.

2. Begin text:

As Secretary Kissinger informed President Assad in his last message, he conveyed to the Israeli Government on January 20 President Assad’s proposal with respect to the disengagement of forces on the [Page 107]Syrian front.2 The Secretary has been in further communication with the Israeli Government following his return to Washington and wants to bring President Assad up to date on where matters now stand.

We have succeeded in persuading the Israelis, despite initial resistance on their part, to agree in principle to enter disengagement talks with Syria. We have also obtained their agreement to the idea of carrying out such talks in the context of the Egyptian-Israeli Military Working Group to which Syrian representatives would be attached. At the same time, the Israelis have reiterated the great importance they attach to the POW issue, as the Secretary indicated to President Assad would be the case. Nevertheless, the Secretary wants President Assad to know that he is confident that, following the pattern developed in pursuing Egyptian-Israeli disengagement, he can persuade the Israelis to send General Dayan to Washington with a response to President Assad’s proposal once Syria has provided a list of POW’s and has agreed to Red Cross visits.

In keeping with his undertaking to deal with President Assad in full candor, the Secretary wants to give the President his judgment that, in the absence of Syrian willingness to make the prisoner list available and to permit Red Cross visits, there will be a delay in getting Syrian-Israeli disengagement negotiations started. The Secretary reiterates his personal commitment to assist in every way possible in facilitating such negotiations as a step toward a just and durable peace.

Secretary Kissinger will look forward to receiving President Assad’s views with respect to this message and meanwhile conveys to the President his warm personal regards. End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1181, Harold H. Saunders Files, Middle East Peace Negotiations, January 26–31, 1974. Secret; Cherokee; Nodis; Immediate. Drafted by Atherton; approved by Sisco.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 19.