276. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in Egypt1

25304. For Greene from Secretary.

1. Message below from Secretary to Sadat informs him of Israeli willingness to enter proximity talks and asks Sadat whether Egypt is itself prepared to enter such talks. We have been considering timing and manner of this presentation, and have reviewed question again in light Cairo 445.2 On question timing, one possibility would be to wait until Ghaleb-Ismail report is completed and we can see what Sadat says to ASU.3 We have already seen several indications, however, that Egyp[Page 977]tians are expecting message from US, and we believe it important that Sadat be aware of and in position to weigh option we are offering before he goes public. We also think this is one occasion when there may be positive advantage in not rpt not conveying message to Sadat personally, but rather do so through either Ghaleb or Ismail. Our reasoning here is that we would rather avoid precipitate Presidential reaction in this case and let him give us considered response through one of his subordinates (we would of course make it clear we were available if Sadat wished to talk about message).

2. We agree with Wiley that it may be desirable to begin to do our business with FonMin Ghaleb. On other hand, we have, at Sadat’s specific request, been conveying our messages to President through Ismail and we would not want sudden switch of procedure on our part to be misinterpreted by Egyptians. Since you are to pay courtesy call on Ghaleb Monday, one way to handle this would be for you to inform Ghaleb that you have oral message from Secretary to President Sadat and would appreciate being informed whether Sadat preferred that message be conveyed through Ghaleb or Ismail. You would, of course, need to ask for private moment with him in view of fact Spanish Ambassador accompanying you, and we do not want to reveal fact of this approach to anyone at this time.

3. Seems to us foregoing procedure offers opportunity to put matter to Ghaleb at earliest moment without attracting undue attention, but we realize presence of Spanish Ambassador could present complications and leave it to you to decide how best to let Ghaleb know you have message for Sadat and get his advice as to channel through which to convey it. Secretary also wishes you at time you see Ghaleb to convey his appreciation to FonMin Ghaleb for his recent message (Cairo 421)4 that Quote all endeavors Unquote toward establishing a just and lasting peace in the Middle East will be appreciated and welcomed by Egypt.

4. You should convey verbatim following oral message from Secretary to President Sadat (do not leave anything on paper with Egyptians).

5. Begin message. As a result of our discussion with the Israelis during past weeks,5 we now have Israel’s agreement to enter talks in close proximity in a renewed effort to reach agreement on an interim arrangement for partial withdrawal of Israeli forces in Sinai and re[Page 978]opening of the Suez Canal. I am persuaded the Israelis are now ready to negotiate actively and without preconditions to see whether an interim agreement is possible.

6. When we first broached the idea of talks in proximity with you last October,6 you said you found the proposal appealing. I know, Mr. President, how disappointed you are that the past year has not yielded greater results in terms of the progress we all hoped for toward a peace settlement. I share this sense of disappointment personally, but we are now offered a fresh opportunity, and past disappointments should not keep us from testing it. The experience of the past year leaves me convinced that the positions of the two sides on an interim agreement leave room for reconciliation and that an agreement is not out of the question.

7. Mr. President, the purpose of this oral message is not repeat not to press you on this matter. We have no interest other than to help facilitate an agreement between Egypt and Israel that meets the concerns of both sides. I realize the situation is more complicated today than last October, but I believe that a diplomatic option nevertheless is available. We are prepared to seek to get talks underway, with Mr. Sisco as go-between, at a time and place agreeable to you. If you would care to we would be pleased to have your views on the matter and particularly any thoughts you might have on the time, place and level of negotiations which we are prepared to discuss with Israel. I am personally satisfied that it is desirable to pursue this effort, but I would understand if you feel you want to take some time to reflect on these questions or to delay any response until a later time.

8. I am aware, Mr. President, of your concern that any interim agreement must not be considered an end in itself but rather the first step toward a final peace settlement in accordance with Security Council Resolution 242. This has also been our conception from the very beginning. You have also indicated in your statements recently that Egypt looks to Ambassador Jarring as the principal focal point for further peace settlement efforts. If Ambassador Jarring can find some way to move ahead constructively with the parties on an overall peace agreement, the US would welcome it. Such talks, as well as any the US may conduct relating to an interim agreement, could be mutually reinforcing.

9. If you believe it would be helpful, nothing need be said for time being that this question of proximity talks has been broached to your government, so that you may have ample opportunity to consider the matter without feeling under any particular time deadline. We can un[Page 979]derstand if you should want to discuss further the question of proximity talks with us out of the public spotlight before reaching a decision and would be glad to consider any other channel or means you might suggest.

10. Finally, Mr. President, I do not want the occasion to pass without expressing to you my warm personal regards. I look back with pleasure and appreciation upon the cordiality with which I was received by you personally and your advisors last May. I know the situation now is more difficult. Nevertheless, it is my hope that we can resume our discussions on that foundation of good will and respect and in the same spirit that prevailed at that time. End message. 7

11. We recognize that Ghaleb or Ismail may well respond to foregoing by raising recent reports of US decisions on aircraft supply and defense production arrangements for Israel and may ask how Egypt can be expected any longer to deal through USG when it is Quote arming its enemy Unquote. If reply raises question of US military supply to Israel, we should in most dignified and low-key manner possible decline to enter into discussion of this question. If circumstances are such that you feel it necessary to respond, you should limit yourself to following comments:

A. Question of US military supply to Israel is aspect of US-Israeli bilateral relations, just as Soviet supply to Egypt is aspect of Soviet-Egyptian bilateral relations, and experience has shown that there is no useful purpose served by USG and Egypt getting into discussion or argument about this question with each other.

B. Middle East arms supply relationships are facts of life with dimensions which go beyond Arab-Israel problem. We are sure President Sadat is aware that heavy Soviet involvement in the area complicates matters for us.

C. In our view, efforts to improve US-Egyptian relations and to explore possibilities for interim agreement and overall peaceful settlement are worth pursuing on their own merits.

12. In view number of reports that Egyptians feel our talks with GOI have restricted US role as go-between, you should make it clear to Ghaleb or Ismail that we will be in a position to play a constructive role if Egypt decides to enter into proximity talks. Delay in obtaining Israeli agreement to talks during our intensive discussions with them was in fact largely result of our insistence on retaining such flexibility. We would intend obviously to consult with both sides but are not repeat not barred from putting forth suggestions on ways of reconciling dif[Page 980]ferences if this should prove desirable.8 At same time, hope you can get across that principal purpose of exercise should be to get a real negotiation (indirect) going between Egypt and Israel, not Egypt and US Government.

Irwin
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1166, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East—Jarring Talks, February 1–16, 1972. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Cedar Double Plus. Drafted by Atherton and Sterner, cleared by Sisco, and approved by Rogers and Kissinger. Repeated to Tel Aviv.
  2. In telegram 445 from Cairo, February 11, Greene recommended that he delay his presentation to Ghaleb until February 14 or 15, when he could do so alone—as opposed to doing so with the Spanish Ambassador present, given the local diplomatic protocols associated with Greene’s having just assumed his post. (Ibid., Box 658, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East Nodis/Cedar/Plus, Vol. V)
  3. Sadat addressed the Arab Socialist Union on February 16, vowing to resign as President if Egyptians lost confidence in him during the country’s “long political and military struggle” to retake territory lost during the 1967 war with Israel. He also remarked that the United States’s further commitment to Israel in the form of Phantom and Skyhawk fighter jets had prevented him from taking early military action to recover that territory. (New York Times, February 17, 1972, p. 4)
  4. Not found.
  5. For a summary, see Document 277.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 255.
  7. Greene conveyed the Secretary’s message on February 23; see footnote 3, Document 278.
  8. Saunders wrote a comment on this sentence: “Yes but—(1) Israelis have it in writing from us that we will discuss any ‘suggestion’ with them first. (2) Israelis have made it abundantly clear and in writing that if they do not first agree with anything we want to say to Egyptians it will be a non-starter. In short, while we are not telling the Egyptians a lie nor are we telling them the whole truth. Sisco may think he can outrun the implications but my bet is they will catch up with him sooner rather than later.”