62. Telegram From Secretary of State Kissinger to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft)1

Hakto 99. Please pass the following message to the President:

1. It is clear from my four hour discussion today with Mrs. Meir and her Cabinet and eight hours of talks with Asad2 that neither side wants to break off the talks; indeed, whenever a recess is mentioned, they plead with me to persevere. At the same time, while there has been some give by each side, it has not been enough to bridge the remaining gap.

2. Based on my informal consultations with various Israeli Ministers and in conversation alone with Mrs. Meir, I was encouraged to introduce some new proposal of my own even though the Israeli Cabinet had not been able to come to any agreement in a formal way on modifying its position.

3. I therefore put the following proposal to Asad today making it clear that it was an American proposal and reflected my judgement of what might be possible to achieve with the Israelis. I said to him I thought there was a chance of getting something along the following lines if he were in a position to accept:

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A. The line around Kuneitra would move about 200 meters west with the distance between this line and the western hills (about one and a half kilometers) demilitarized under UN supervision.

B. The hills themselves would be under Israeli control with strict limitations on their military dispositions which the United States would guarantee bilaterally to Syria.

C. The Israeli line of control would be moved one kilometer back to the north and south of Kuneitra so as to meet Asad’s concern about returning civilian population to Kuneitra while the city was enclosed too closely on three sides by Israeli forces.

4. While doing everything possible to prevent a break in the talks, Asad nevertheless continued to insist that at a minimum the line of control should run along the ridge of hills west of Kuneitra, with UN observers on top and Israelis and Syrians in control of the western and eastern slopes respectively. He later modified this somewhat by saying that the western side of the hill could be Israeli, the eastern side under the UN as well as the slope, and he added that neither Israelis nor Syrians should expect to cultivate the fields between the western hills and the outer edge of Kuneitra.

5. My judgement is that there is a chance that I might prevail on the Israelis to accept my proposal but there is little or no chance that the Israelis will accept Asad’s formulation.

6. I will spend all day Friday3 discussing the matter with the Israelis who undoubtedly will have to convene another Cabinet meeting. I will then take whatever I get to Damascus on Saturday with possibility of agreement on my proposal but more likely a suspension of talks for a few weeks.

7. While I naturally would like very much to get agreement on the line and then make an all out effort over the next few days to get agreement on all other related matters, I am convinced that even if there is a suspension we will have gained great ground in our overall Syrian-American relationships, and have preserved our position in the Arab world without affecting adversely our relationships with Israel.

8. I could stay over a few more days if there is a real prospect for an agreement. Otherwise, I will overnight Saturday in Cairo and be back in Washington Sunday evening.

End message

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 45, HAK Trip Files, Middle East, HAKTO 1–179, April 28–May 31, 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Immediate.
  2. Kissinger met with the Israeli negotiating team on May 16 from 9:45 until 11:30 a.m. at the Foreign Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Box 1029, Presidential/HAK Memcons, May 8–31, 1974, Folder 3) He also met privately that day with Meir from 12:05 until 1:30 p.m. at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 8, Nodis Memcons, June 1974) No memorandum of conversation with Asad on May 16 has been found.
  3. May 17.