265. Editorial Note

During the fourth plenary session of the U.S.-Soviet Summit held in Vienna on June 17, 1979, which was devoted to a tour d’horizon of international issues, President Jimmy Carter and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid I. Brezhnev discussed their countries’ respective positions on the Arab-Israeli peace process. Speaking first, Carter stated that, on the Middle East, “our two countries have had differences in the past and in the present.” Carter, the memorandum of conversation recorded, “had tried to bring together all parties in Geneva, including the Soviet Union, with a view to finding a solution to the differences in the Middle East. This was some two years ago, but Syria and a number of other countries refused and no progress had been made. President Sadat had taken an initiative—the President would add that this was without consultation with us— [Page 872] and went to Jerusalem. Much progress had been made by Israel and Egypt. This was consistent with UN Resolutions 242, 338 and others, as well as the Joint Statement between the U.S. and the USSR. It was a fact that Israel was withdrawing from the Sinai. Israel was prepared to negotiate treaties with all its neighbors. Palestinian rights, under the Camp David accords, would be preserved. Security of all states was to be guaranteed.” Moreover, Carter “hoped that the Soviet Union would give its support and encourage other states to join in this process. Total Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai was part of a process as prescribed by the UN. UN supervision was important. We would expect all Security Council members to approve such UN supervision by UN emergency forces. But the U.S., in the interests of a peaceful resolution of these differences, was pledged alternative supervision if that was necessary. However, our strong preference was for a UN force.”

In response, Brezhnev said he wanted to “re-emphasize” the “Soviet position of principle in its appraisal of the U.S. policy.” “The fact that the October 1977 Soviet-U.S. understanding on joint action in the Middle East was violated and supplanted by an anti-Arab policy argued nothing good for the people of that region nor for the relations between us. Brezhnev thought that it was clear to everyone now that the Egyptian-Israeli treaty had failed to tranquilize the Middle Eastern situation, but it has aggravated it. He called attention to the indignation and determination of the Arabs and noted the war which Israel, protected by Egypt, was in effect waging in Lebanon. This could at any time grow larger. It was necessary to prevent a resumption of armed conflict along the lines of the 1967 war, to prevent a major conflagration.” “Therefore, unfortunately,” Brezhnev continued, “the positions of the U.S. and the USSR were fundamentally different at this time and not through any fault of the Soviet Union. To be frank, the Soviet Union would resolutely oppose any efforts to use the UN to bolster the separate deal between Egypt and Israel, be it by using the present UN troops in the Sinai or any other manner. The position of the Soviet Union with respect to the Middle East remained the same as it was all along. The Soviet Union believed that there would be no firm peace there without the complete vacating of the Arab territory occupied in 1967 and without an opportunity for the Palestinians to set up their own state, without ensuring the security of all nations in that region, including Israel. As before, the Soviet Union considered it desirable for our two countries to interact on Middle East issues, using earlier UN resolutions as a foundation.” (Memorandum of Conversation, June 17; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 75, Trip: Box 1)