REPORT ON THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT JOSIP TITO AND US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON IN BELGRADE.CITATION SHARE DOWNLOAD
get citationReport on the conversation between Yugoslav president Josip Tito and U.S. president Richard Nixon in Belgrade. The exchange centers on the crisis in the Middle East and potential political scenarios in the aftermath of President Gamal Abdel Nasser's death. Nixon also raises the topic of U.S. policies in Africa and its reception among the African countries."Report on the Conversation Between Yugoslav President Josip Tito and US President Richard Nixon in Belgrade.," September 30, 1970, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Josip Broz Tito Archives, KPR I-3-a SAD, Poseta Ricarda Niksona 30.IX-2.X.1970. Translated for CWIHP by Lana Obradovic https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111644
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on the talk of the President of the Republic with the President of the United States of America Richard Nixon, September 30th, 1970, in Belgrade.
President Nixon's translator Aleksandar Akalovski also participated in the talks and took detailed notes during the entire talk.
Both presidents expressed their satisfaction with this opportunity to share their opinions and agreed that such an exchange should be open and direct.
Nixon emphasized the importance of the talks between President Tito and American Secretary of State Rogers in Addis Ababa, and underscored that this talk had been very useful precisely because it had been open. He thanked the Comrade President for expressing the desires and interests of the USA for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the Middle East, after his meeting with Rogers, to President Nasser in Asuan, which contributed greatly to Nasser's acceptance of Rogers' plan. He also said he was sorry to hear about the death of President Nasser, which happened during such a sensitive time in the development of the situation in the Middle East. He then asked the Comrade President how would Nasser's death, in his opinion, affect the situation in this region, and should we expect changes in the current politics of the United Arab Republic regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. He was interested also in knowing who the Comrade President thinks will succeed Nasser as head of state.
The Comrade President said that the death of President Nasser certainly brings new, worrying elements into the already difficult situation in the Middle East. He does not believe, however, that it will lead to changes in the politics of the United Arab Republic. He knows Nasser's closest associates – El Sadat, Ali Sabri, Moheedin and others – from whom the new head of the state will be chosen. They have for years closely worked with Nasser, and participated in the creation and implementation of his politics, and therefore there is no reason for them to change the course now under the conditions where no one is trying to impose any unacceptable solutions. It is especially important to avoid any steps that could make the consolidation of the United Arab Republic difficult and bring to the surface extremist elements. It is clear, for example, that the United Arab Republic cannot accept any territorial concessions. Nasser himself knew well – and he spoke about this very openly during the talks – that even the smallest territorial concession would seal his fate; meaning that he would not be able to stay in power if he gave up even an inch of the occupied Arab territories. This is valid for his successors as well, especially because they do not have his influence and do not enjoy his prestige. The stubborn Israeli insistence on keeping the occupied territories – what Prime Minister Golda Meir was discussing in the last few days – practically shuts down the road to a peaceful resolution. If the United States is really interested in peace in this region, then they have to exert more pressure on the Israeli government so that their politics can be more realistic and flexible.
Nixon said that they are exerting such pressure, but the possibilities for such pressure are not as big as some think. However, we should also seek the Soviet Union's influence on the Arab states, especially the United Arab Republic, to respect the obligations they have accepted. It is known that the United Arab Republic has moved missile bases along the Suez Canal with the help and knowledge of the Soviet Union and, therefore, clearly violated the agreement about the cease-fire immediately after the agreement was signed. Such actions make the honesty of the Arab side questionable, and make it difficult for the United States to influence Israel, which then, with good reason, questions the purpose of signing the agreement that the other side will not respect.
The Comrade President said that if there was a violation of the agreement, it should not be used as a pretext to oppose the peace negotiations. We should not forget that there are vast Arab territories that are under Israeli occupation. The missiles you are talking about are defensive weapons. It should be understood that the country that was threatened will use every opportunity to strengthen its defensive capabilities. If there was a movement of missiles, then the offence of the United Arab Republic is only a formal one. The real offence is committed by those who are holding and fortifying the territories belonging to others.
However, the Comrade President said, it is known that the United Arab Republic has from the very beginning been in favor of a peaceful resolution, under the condition that the legitimate rights of the Arab people are recognized. Israel is the country that has been ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations and the one which tries to oppose any attempt toward a peaceful resolution.
In regards to this, the Comrade President reminded everyone that he visited the United Arab Republic, Syria and Iraq right after the Israeli aggression against the Arab countries. During the talks with the entire Egyptian leadership that was led by Nasser, he emphasized the need to have a peaceful resolution. He also emphasized the need to recognize Israel as an independent state and, in reality, that cannot be contested, just like the United Nations and the majority of the states in the world have already done. The Comrade President said that this was the first time he had dared to tell them that openly. They agreed even though it was difficult for them. They also accepted the basic propositions from the five points, which Yugoslavia suggested as the basic grounds for a search for a political solution, and these included: the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories, guaranteeing Israelis their security within the pre-June 5th borders, free passage through the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba, and a solution to the Palestinian problem. The same suggestions were rejected by Syria and Iraq.
The aforementioned five points were accepted, or at least the basic features, by the president of the World Jewish Congress Mr. Goldman, who came of his own accord to visit the Comrade President in Belgrade. The Comrade President said that during the talks it was clear that Goldman is viewing the situation in the Middle East realistically, as well as its possible consequences and chances of a solution. He agreed with the need to withdraw the Israelis from the occupied territories as long as adequate guarantees for their security were given. However, the Israeli government did not accept his views, and instead they accused him of having unauthorized discussions, which are exclusively within the authority of the government in Tel Aviv.
The Comrade President continued by saying that Goldman came again a few months ago. During that visit, he was realistic and flexible and continued to stand up for the need to withdraw Israel from all of the occupied territories with the possible exception of Golan Heights.
President Nixon said that the Golan Heights along with Jerusalem represent the most sensitive part of the territorial problem.
The Comrade President emphasized that the solution for Jerusalem that Goldman was suggesting consists of the creation of some type of an enclave within which each religious community would govern its own holy places.
Nixon did not comment on that.
The Comrade President continued by saying that Israel has never had a better chance to definitively obtain the recognition of its existence within the pre-June 5th borders. The time is not working for Israel. The number of Arabs is constantly increasing. In 10 to 15 years, there will be 140 million of them versus at the most 5 million Israelis. Within that time, they will obtain better and more sophisticated weapons and they will be more capable of fighting successfully. The United States cannot stay in the region forever. Who will then prevent the Arabs from realizing their threat of throwing Israel into the sea?
Nixon agreed. He said that they are aware of the fact that time is not working for Israel. That is why they are working on a peaceful resolution, as well as on reaching the agreements which will really provide guarantees that will be respected. In that context, Nixon asked the Comrade President whether he believes that the Soviet Union is honestly interested in establishing peace in the Middle East. Does he not think that it is more correct to suppose that they are more interested in maintaining their positions in the Arab states, and that these positions are stronger in the messy situation in which Arab states depend on Soviet help?
The Comrade President answered that there are other ways in which the Soviet Union can secure its positions in Arab countries. He believes that the Soviet Union is really interested in calming the situation in the Middle East, because it does not want any confrontation with the United States in that region. According to the Comrade President, the position of the Soviet Union during the recent conflict in Jordan speaks to that effect. The USSR has strongly demanded from Syria not to send its troops to Jordan to help the Palestinians and from Iraq to withdraw its troops that were already there, at the expense of its prestige among the Palestinians and parts of the Arab public. This was done with the goal of preventing the broadening of this conflict.
The Comrade President continued by saying that events in Jordan have once again underscored the importance of the Palestinian question and the need to solve it as soon as possible. It needs to be clear to all that the permanent peace in the Middle East will not be established until a million Palestinians who were thrown out of their homes twenty years ago continue to live in inhumane conditions, in tents and in sand. The young generation that grew up in these tents is taking up arms and is ready for anything. The solution is not easy, but it is not impossible. It seems that not all Palestinians are interested in returning to their homes, which in any case either do not exist any more or are inhabited by Israelis. Goldman thinks that approximately 50,000 would decide to return if that was possible. In the Comrade President's opinion, others should be reimbursed so that they can again have the possibility of creating conditions for a dignified life and work, on the West Bank of the Jordan or in one of the Arab states. Israel is spending huge amounts to arm itself. The Jews in the United States have collected, it seems, over a billion dollars to help Israel. If only a portion of this money was used to ease the problems of the Palestinians, it would be a lot easier to solve the crisis in the Middle East as a whole.
Nixon said that the United States would be ready to participate in securing the material means for the solution to the Palestinian problems. He added that he believes that Israel as well as all Jews around the world would contribute, too. The question is whether the Palestinians would accept such a solution. If we judge it by their statements, they are not accepting anything less than wiping Israel off the world map.
The Comrade President said that there are moderates and extremists among them. However, he thinks that with sincere efforts and a will on both sides, a satisfactory and fair solution can be found.
Nixon was interested in knowing what the African countries – which the Comrade President knows a lot better – think of U.S. politics in Africa. He emphasized that he is specifically interested in the views of the states of so-called black Africa.
The Comrade President said that they disapprove of the USA, because their aid is mainly followed by attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the country to which the aid is going. The African countries need the aid, and they would like it and are ready to accept it, but they want the aid to be unconditional, and according to their needs as well as oriented toward the real acceleration in their economic and general progress. The countries in development are potentially very rich. They do not need charity. It is in the mutual interest to help them become equal partners with the developed countries. Besides that, it is wrong to perceive every progressive change in Africa as a move toward communism. These are progressive changes which correspond to the needs and specific conditions of these countries, and they should be supported. Any interference in internal affairs can only bring about internal conflict and instability on the entire continent. As far as the countries of the so-called black Africa are concerned, they are especially sensitive when it comes to aid and support for the racist regimes in the African south not only because this threatens their independence but it represents the shame of the humanity in this century of the mass emancipation of the peoples.
Nixon thanked him. He said that the visit of Secretary of State Rogers to a great number of African states at the beginning of this year served well to improve their understanding of the problems and needs of the African continent.
They agreed to continue the talks in the same open manner. Nixon suggested the following topics of talks: China, relations of China and the USSR and East-West.
Comrade Milentije Popovic
Comrade Mitja Ribicic
Members of the Executive Bureau of the Communist League of Yugoslavia (4 copies)
Comrade Mirko Tepavac
Personal Secretary of the President of the Republic
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