71. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Middle East
  • Part I of III


  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Marshall D. Shulman, S/MS
  • USSR
  • Amb. Anatoliy Dobrynin

Dobrynin asked when the Secretary was leaving for the Middle East. The Secretary said he planned to leave that evening,2 but he did not want to go unless there could be advance agreement on the agenda. He said that he had sent word to the parties that he would not go unless the agenda were agreed upon before his departure. He said that he proposed to talk about three things at the Jerusalem meeting. The first and [Page 255] most important was a broad statement of principles, which would be a framework for Geneva. The second would be a discussion of possible guidelines for the West Bank/Gaza matters. The third, of minor importance, was a discussion of the essential elements for a treaty, which would include, for example, a definition of peace and what would flow from that. It would also include the provisions for withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Dobrynin asked if this were just a treaty between Egypt and Israel. The Secretary replied that yes, it would be in the first instance, but that it would be essentially the same as in any of the peace treaties. Dobrynin asked what kind of principles would be specified regarding Palestinian representation. The Secretary replied that the Palestinians must be enabled to participate in the determination of their own future. Dobrynin asked what principle would be advanced regarding troop withdrawal. He commented that as of now Israel claimed that no troops would be withdrawn for several years. He said that if this kind of principle were applied elsewhere, for example in regard to Syria, it would be difficult to accept. The Secretary observed that this was an opening bargaining position. He thought that in the negotiations it would come down to perhaps one year. He said that the principle of 242 would prevail,3 that Israel must withdraw from occupied territories, and that this would be part of establishing “secure and recognized borders.” The details, as for example, when the withdrawal should take place, would be up to the negotiating parties.

Dobrynin returned to the question of what kind of principles would be established regarding the Palestinian questions. The Secretary replied that if agreement could be reached on self-determination, this would be a break-through. Dobrynin observed that as of now the position was “self rule.” The Secretary replied it was unclear for what period this would be, whether it would be just for the interim period. Dobrynin said that in general he was worried that in their dealings with the Palestinians, it looked as if there would be no clear end in sight beyond the interim solutions. The Secretary replied that we would have to see if we can get a solution, and an element involved in this would be how long the interim period should be. Dobrynin asked if you could get a solution without the presence of the Palestinians. He also asked what kind of guidelines would be established—would this provide for self rule in five years or ten years? The Secretary replied that self rule would apply in the immediate future, leading up to a final role in which the Palestinians would participate in determining what kind of homeland would be established. Dobrynin thought this would still be unclear. The Secretary replied that this was why we need the [Page 256] Geneva conference, to work out the details. Dobrynin objected that this would be a pre-determined framework, already established before a Geneva meeting were convened. The Secretary answered that these questions cannot be determined without the involvement of the Palestinians. Dobrynin objected and asked what kind of a framework would be established if there were only three parties negotiating it.

The Secretary said, in further explanation, that these principles would cover:

—the nature of peace, not only an end of the war but the establishment of normal relations;

—the withdrawal from occupied territories and the establishment of secure and recognized borders;

—the Palestinian question must be resolved in all of its aspects, with the Palestinians themselves as full participants in the solution, taking account of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

The Secretary said that this was essentially what the US and the USSR had agreed in the joint statement, and if we could get Israel to accept these points it would be a step forward. Dobrynin said, with regard to the Palestinian question, that there was a difference between the “interim” and the “ultimate” solutions. (There was a bit of by-play at this point about the Aswan dam. The Secretary observed that it was a fine dam and Dobrynin acknowledged that it was because he knew the chief engineer who built it.)

Dobrynin repeated his concern about the Palestinian representation issue, and the Secretary again repeated that this was why the Geneva conference was needed, to work out these details. Dobrynin referred to two statements, by the President and by Begin, opposed to the Palestinian state. He said this prejudged the issue. The Secretary replied that the President said his preference was that there should not be an independent Palestinian state, but if the parties decided otherwise, we would accept it. He added that he did not believe the people there believed in an independent state. Dobrynin asked what parties—the Palestinians? The Secretary replied that some Palestinians don’t want an independent state; they prefer one that would be affiliated with Jordan. Dobrynin asked if the Secretary would stop in Cairo and the Secretary replied that he probably would. In reply to a further question, he said that he expected to be back either Wednesday or Thursday. The Secretary added that he wanted to see the negotiations broadened as soon as possible to bring in all parties, including the Soviet Union. Dobrynin replied that the Soviet Union was prepared now to participate fully, that it did not like to have one of the co-chairmen determining the future.

Dobrynin asked what the position of the Syrians was. The Secretary replied that the Syrians would sit on the sidelines and see what [Page 257] happens. If we were able to come up with an appropriate framework, the Syrians would consider whether to participate, but would not do so now.

  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, 1/14/78. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Shulman on January 16; approved by Anderson on January 26. The meeting took place in the Department of State. Parts II and III are Documents 72 and 73.
  2. Vance traveled to, and met with leaders in, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece, January 16 to 22.
  3. Reference is to U.N. Resolution 242.