191. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Romania1

40781. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Romanian Emissary Pungan.

1. Romanian Emissary Pungan met with the Secretary on February 14 for an hour to exchange views on the outcomes of Sadat’s visits to the U.S. and Romania.2

2. The Secretary said that Sadat had arrived in a gloomy mood, believing that Israel had not reciprocated his Jerusalem initiative. He was questioning whether progress could be achieved. After his talks with the President, with members of Congress, and with citizen groups, he left Washington reassured. He reached basic agreement with us that the peace process should go forward and he agreed to do his part. The White House statement following the President’s final meeting with Sadat set out our fundamental positions on all major aspects of the negotiations, including the applicability of 242 to all fronts, resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects, and the view that Israeli settlements were contrary to international law and constituted an obstacle to the peace effort.

3. Continuing, the Secretary said that Sadat had also agreed that Atherton should go to the Middle East to help stimulate progress on a declaration of principles, among other things.

4. The Secretary then described the administration’s decisions announced earlier in the day for the provision of aircraft to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The decisions reflected long-standing commitments in principle made to Israel and Saudi Arabia. All parties will receive less than they would have liked except the Saudis.

[Page 574]

5. Pungan said that Sadat had arrived in Bucharest in a good mood, mentioning the encouragement he received in his visits to Washington, London, and Bonn. He was pleased with the White House statement as well as President Carter’s other statements. He was highly pleased with his meeting with Peres, Pungan said, indicating that it had given him, Sadat, a better insight into the differing internal forces in Israel.

6. On the other hand, Pungan said, Sadat remained deeply concerned underneath his good spirits that useful progress would not be achieved as rapidly as he needed it. He made clear it would put him in a bad position, both internally and in terms of his relations with other Arab States. Ceausescu, impressed with Sadat’s arguments, believes everything possible should now be done to encourage Israel to agree to a declaration of principles acceptable to Sadat. This could open a new phase, permitting Sadat to improve his relations with other Arabs and possibly open the way to their joining the process. Pungan said that Sadat was in much need of other Arab gestures.

7. Pungan then conveyed Ceausescu’s concern that a declaration of principles might—implicitly or indirectly in references to withdrawal or the Sinai settlements—undercut Sadat’s need for undisputed sovereignty over the area. The Secretary said there was nothing in the proposed declaration which could affect the Egyptian position in this regard, and noted that five of its six general paragraphs had already been largely agreed by Egypt and Israel.

8. Pungan said that the Romanians were considering how they might be helpful. He mentioned the Waldheim idea (i.e., for a New York meeting), and the Secretary noted that Waldheim still held that option open. The question was not forums; it was all-important to move forward on a declaration of principles. Regarding the Romanian’s basic question, the Secretary added, we would be talking to Dayan on the 16th to explore what might be done about the remaining issues. Atherton would continue the efforts in his Middle East Mission. At the moment, the Secretary said, he didn’t know what else could be brought to bear on the problem or to convince Begin that time was short.

9. Pungan said his own idea was the U.S. should talk to the Soviets. The Secretary said he had talked with Dobrynin earlier in the day, had given him a detailed description of the Sadat meetings, and had asked that the Soviets remained open-minded and flexible about a declaration of principles. Dobrynin pressed for specifics of our thinking on an interim regime for the West Bank and Gaza. The Secretary said it was a good exchange and that Dobrynin appeared interested. Romania, he continued, could be helpful by also urging the Soviets to be open-minded and flexible, and not to put obstacles in the present path. Pungan mused that Romania might consider encouraging the Soviets to ease up on the Arabs and allow them to make their own decisions [Page 575] about gestures to Sadat. He said Dayan had been invited to visit Bucharest.

10. Pungan said that he did not rule out a helpful Syrian gesture to Sadat. When the Secretary questioned this, Pungan said that he had reached this conclusion on the basis of the last Romanian meetings with Assad. Assad could eventually move to the point where Hussein is now, he conjectured, although slowly and step-by-step. The Secretary commented that this would be helpful, and noted that Atherton would be visiting Damascus during his Middle East trip.

11. Pungan said that the Romanians were apprehensive about unexpected explosions in the area as well as the unpredictable nature of Sadat’s diplomacy. They were concerned with Begin’s habits of talking to the press and allowing Israeli points of view to become ironclad through premature public disclosure. The Secretary agreed. With Sadat, we had made clear the need to consult in advance and not to be faced with such unexpected steps as the Egyptian delegation’s withdrawal from the Jerusalem talks. In Israel there was a disposition to put to the Cabinet all important issues, and this resulted in almost instant leaks. We had urged the Israelis to discuss sensitive issues in the Defense Committee, which has only five or six Ministers.

12. Pungan noted that the Romanians had the impression that the people on both sides in the Military Committee did not believe the security argument for the Sinai settlements was important. The Secretary said that—in the end—these were basically political questions which had to be resolved at a political level.

13. Before turning to certain bilateral issues, the Secretary thanked Pungan for this exchange and said he would communicate any further information, if it developed, through Ambassador Nicolae.

14. The Secretary and Pungan briefly discussed the Soviet position regarding the Basket III formulation at the Belgrade Conference on European Security and Cooperation. They noted that a date had been set for special U.S.-Romanian consultations under the disarmament program. The Secretary mentioned the French idea for a “new forum,” noting he wasn’t sure what they intended or whether they had worked it out fully in advance.

15. Pungan concluded the meeting with a request that the U.S. develop an appropriate financial facility for handling U.S. exports to Romania before Ceausescu’s Washington visit. This could be an important new step in U.S.-Romanian relations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS MemCons, 1978. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Draper; cleared by Luers and Nimetz; approved by Atherton. Sent for information to Cairo, Damacus, Jidda, Tel Aviv, and Amman.
  2. Sadat visited Romania February 11–12. In telegram 977 from Bucharest, February 14, the Embassy reported that the Syrian Ambassador wondered aloud if the Romanian/Egyptian communiqué “represented new resolve of Egypt to ‘abandon’ bilateral talks with Israel in favor of wider discussion.” While Syria would not participate in a Cairo meeting, he added that “it had not ruled out meeting under Waldheim’s auspices.” The Embassy also noted that Sadat’s time in Romania was very limited, making any meeting with a third party highly unlikely despite rumors of a senior PLO representative being in Bucharest at the same time. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780067–0878)