271. Telegram From the Department of State to Multiple Posts1

178999. Subject: Ambassador Strauss’ Trip to Middle East July 1–7.

(S-entire text)

1. Action addresses may use following to brief host government/NAC on Ambassador Strauss’ visit to the Middle East July 1–7.

2. This was Ambassador Strauss’ initial trip to the Middle East in his role as the President’s representative and chief US negotiator for the West Bank/Gaza autonomy negotiations. Ambassador Strauss’ purpose was to become better acquainted with the main players on the Israeli and Egyptian sides, to gain first hand knowledge of the situation on the ground and the main issues, and to attend the July 5–6 Ministerial [garble] of the autonomy talks in Alexandria.2 He also visited [Page 883] Jordan and Saudi Arabia to hear the views of the leaders of those countries and become better acquainted personally.3

3. You may say that in talks with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin4 prior to the July 5–6 Alexandria session Ambassador Strauss was assured of the determination of both leaders to carry out the provisions of the Camp David Framework, and the joint letter of March 26, 1979, calling for the establishment of a self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza in order to provide full autonomy for the inhabitants. Suggest you give host government the text of the joint statement issued at the close of the July 5–6 meeting (which we are sending you by septel)5 and make following points:

—We are pleased over the outcome of this session and believe important progress was made.

—The decision to create working groups on election modalities and powers and responsibilities in effect establishes an agenda for the negotiations. These two working groups, and others which may be created subsequently, will provide a practical forum in which to give practical expression to broad principles and to define the full autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza which the parties agreed upon last fall at Camp David. While we do not expect working groups themselves to resolve all major substantive problems, they are essential for preparing the ground for their resolution at the Ministerial level.

—The presence and the efforts of Ambassador Strauss played an important role in giving impetus to the talks and helping the delegations reach agreement. Ambassador Strauss’ vigorous and successful intervention in his first appearance in the negotiations demonstrates the determination and the ability of the United States to assure progress in negotiations.

—We are pleased also over the positive atmosphere that prevailed in the July 5–6 Alexandria session. Israelis and Egyptians showed an understanding of each other’s problems and both demonstrated a sincere desire to move forward.

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—We want to caution however that the parties have not yet gotten to the resolution of substantive issues. Many very difficult problems lie ahead and resolving them will be arduous. But this latest session shows that headway can be made. Their purpose in the working groups over the next few weeks will be to get the full range of issues on the table so decisions can be shaped on how to deal with them.

4. In Amman Ambassador Strauss met with King Hussein and in Riyadh with Crown Prince Fahd and heard their views on the negotiations. While neither had significantly new elements to add to past positions, there were very useful meetings. Ambassador Strauss advised King Hussein and Crown Prince Fahd of US confidence that the peace efforts would produce positive results for the Palestinians, of the US commitment to stick with the process over the long term, and of the encouragement that we have received from nations outside the Middle East. Both showed great interest and were pleased when Ambassador Strauss offered to return periodically to keep them informed of progress in the negotiations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790314–0833. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent Immediate to all NATO capitals, Tokyo, Moscow, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, Kuwait, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Sana, Khartoum, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Lagos, Monrovia, Dakar, Libreville, Lusaka, Brasilia, and Dublin. Drafted by Korn; cleared by Draper, Richard Castrodale (S/S–O), Jeffrey C. Gallop (EUR/RPM), and E. Walker (S/SN); approved by Saunders. Sent for information to Amman, Jidda, Tel Aviv, and Cairo.
  2. The U.S. delegation conveyed a lengthy summary of the July 5 opening session of the autonomy talks, during which Strauss proposed the creation of three working groups (modalities, powers and responsibilities, and “other related issues”), in telegram 586 from Alexandria, July 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790307–0345) The U.S. delegation summarized the July 6 concluding session, in which the final text of the joint statement (see footnote 5 below) and the timing for the meeting of the working groups were discussed, in telegram 581 from Alexandria, July 6. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Middle East, Trips/Visits File, Box 114, 7/1–8/79 Strauss Trip to Middle East: 7/5–12/79) Following his return to the United States, Strauss outlined his thoughts on U.S. objectives for the new working groups, welcoming advice and suggestions from Atherton and Viets, in telegram 179349 to Tel Aviv, July 12. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 4, Autonomy Talks: 7–8/79) Leonard responded in telegram 15094 from Tel Aviv, July 13, and Atherton in telegram 14255 from Cairo, July 14. (Ibid.)
  3. No memoranda of conversation or summary telegrams of Strauss’s July 7 meetings in Amman and Riyadh with the leaders of Jordan and Saudi Arabia have been found.
  4. For Strauss’s meeting with Begin, see Document 270. Following this, Strauss travelled to Egypt, where he met with Sadat at Ma’amura on July 3. No memorandum of conversation or summary telegram of this meeting has been found, though the Consulate General conveyed the transcript of the statements made by both Sadat and Strauss following the meeting in telegram 562 from Alexandria, July 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790303–1094)
  5. The Consulate General transmitted the text of the joint statement establishing the working groups for the autonomy talks in telegram 582 from Alexandria, July 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790307–0174)