56. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Lithuanian Governor; Middle East; Non-First Use Part I of II


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman
  • USSR
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin

Ambassador Dobrynin came in on the afternoon of October 31 for a meeting which lasted an hour and 10 minutes, at which the following items were discussed:

1. Governors’ Conference Delegation: Dobrynin informed us that the Chairman of the Lithuanian Council of Ministers had been taken ill and would not be able to be a member of the delegation. The Secretary said that this fortunately resolved a problem that he would otherwise have had to raise.

Later, Dobrynin asked who in the Administration would be receiving the Soviet delegation or the chairman, Solomentsev. The Secretary said it was not definite, but perhaps it would be the Vice President. Dobrynin replied that this would be a good idea.

2. Middle East: The Secretary reported to Dobrynin that the US had now heard from all the Arab states. It was now clear that Egypt, Israel and Jordan are prepared to go to Geneva and are willing to be flexible. The Syrians, he said, are somewhat more rigid, although they are now willing, after the debate on substantive matters in the plenary, to enter into bilateral discussions afterwards.

On the Palestinian representation issue, the Secretary continued, everyone is agreed that there should be a united Arab delegation with some kind of Palestinian representation. The question has been: which Palestinians? The US suggestion has been that the Arabs should indicate privately whom they would like to see in the delegation, and we would make sure that this would not create any difficulties. Indications so far are, he said, that this would be agreeable to a number of the parties, but it is not yet clear that Syria is among them. Also, it is not [Page 215] known what the PLO will do. There are some indications that Arafat would look upon this procedure favorably, if he can be sure that the Palestinian question will be discussed. He appears to feel that the question of who represents the Palestinians is not of crucial importance. The Israelis are still strongly maintaining that Palestinians drawn from the West Bank and from Gaza should be the representatives, but this is still being discussed with them.

Our suggestion, said the Secretary, is that we follow the 1973 model. At that time, there were identical letters from the US and Soviet Union to the Secretary General saying that the parties had agreed to meet. The letters could indicate that the Arabs are willing for the United Arab delegation to include Palestinians. They would further state that the 1973 procedures would govern the conference, unless the parties should agree otherwise. The letters might also make it clear that after the opening plenary session, there would be both bilateral and multilateral working groups. The Secretary pointed out that it should help with the Syrians that under the 1973 procedures, the working group was required to report back to the plenary.

The Secretary went on to report that the US had just sent letters to Sadat, Hussein and Assad suggesting these procedures, and information along these lines had also been sent to Saud, since there was to be a meeting of some or all of the Arab principal states in Saudi Arabia on November 2.

Dobrynin said that Gromyko had the intention of sending in the near future information on Soviet contacts with the PLO, and of consulting about conference procedure.

The Secretary advised against too precise language on conference procedure at this time.

Dobrynin said he had been doing research on the 1973 arrangements, and said he had been unable to determine whether the Secretary General had sent a letter to the participants. The Secretary replied that he had sent a letter to the Security Council but not to the participants.

Dobrynin asked what the Israelis might object to. The Secretary replied that one of the issues of concern to Israel was the reporting by working groups to the plenary.

The Secretary informed Dobrynin that the US would take an early opportunity to restate its position on the importance of dealing with the Palestinian issue. Dobrynin asked if this should be done by the two co-chairmen together, and the Secretary suggested at this stage it had better be done unilaterally.

3. Soviet Non-First Use Proposal. Dobrynin asked whether it might not be possible to work together on this subject, since he felt the President’s statement had been basically the same as the one proposed by [Page 216] the Soviet Union. The Secretary remarked that if we really were talking about the same thing, we could explore the possibility of a common position, but this remained to be examined.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 3, CV–Dobrynin, 10/31/77. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman. The meeting took place at the Department of State. Part II is Document 57.