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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 03, 1972

NOTE REGARDING THE PERSONAL CONVERSATION THAT TOOK PLACE BETWEEN NICOLAE CEAUSESCU AND ANWAR EL-SADAT, MONDAY, 3 APRIL 1972, IN CAIRO

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    Nicolae Ceausescu and Anwar El-Sadat discuss foreign policy with relation to Israel, the United States, and the USSR. Sadat discusses future relations with Israel and strategic closure of the Suez Canal.
    "Note regarding the Personal Conversation that took place between Nicolae Ceausescu and Anwar El-Sadat, Monday, 3 April 1972, in Cairo," April 03, 1972, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, ANIC, C.C. al P.C.R., Sectia Relatii Externe, dosar 19/1972, pp. 37-43. Obtained and translated by Mircea Munteanu. First published in CWIHP Bulletin 16 (Fall 2007/Winter 2008): 540-542. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/219912
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NOTE

Regarding the personal conversation that took place between […] Nicolae Ceausescu and […] Anwar El-Sadat, Monday, 3 April 1972, in Cairo.

President Sadat: Regarding the presence of the US and Russia here in the region, and the way in which they follow their interests, I think [they] are alike.

I want to tell you, President Ceausescu, that I am receiving both an American representative and a Soviet representative today. Before you leave Egypt, I will tell you the last position adopted by the US. The US suggested that we send a plenipotentiary representative to the UN, and that Israel do the same, and, together with [Joseph John] Sisco, they should hold discussions without any preconditions. I will not consider the suggestion that the conflict can be resolved in stages; presently they are only interested in opening up the Suez Canal. I told them that I will open up the Canal the day Israel withdraws from the occupied Arab territories.

I talked to Sisco openly before, for three hours. The discussions focused on three points:

[The idea] that Egyptian forces should cross the Canal to take positions on the other shore. Here I gave in, and agreed that Egyptian and Israeli forces could be stationed on the other shore under international supervision.

Israel wants an indefinite cease-fire. I said I agree to a six-month cease fire, which we can renew if the mission of [Swedish diplomat Gunnar] Jarring has any definite results. I cannot agree with an indefinite cease-fire.

Israel does not want to withdraw to the pre-war borders. [Israeli Prime Minister] Golda Meir said that this the principle from which one must begin.

I said that I cannot concede any piece of our territory. After Sisco left for the US, he send me a written proposal concerning this. I said that I agree with 95% of the proposal. The US State Department was strongly criticized by the Israelis, and, in the end, the Americans said that the proposal was not from the State Department, but was Bergus’ proposal, the special representative of US interests in Egypt. From that moment on I considered Sisco a liar, and stopped trusting him. On 1 January 1972 the State Department, through [Secretary of State William P.] Rogers, said they will provide Israel with 130 Phantom and Sky Hawk planes, even though they know the military balance favors Israel. After a week they announced that they are giving Israel permission to build American weapons and the Phantom plane. As far as Israel is concerned, it is clear that it does not want a solution. They receive weapons, money, and other help from the US, and they do not want a solution.

Regarding the Soviet Union, they helped us strengthen our armed forces, they send us weapons and missiles to defend our territory. But I agree with President Ceausescu on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of others. In Egypt there is a campaign against the Soviet Union. I cannot say that openly to the people, I have to seek ways to strengthen the morale of the army and the masses. We find ourselves in a difficult, complicated situation.

President Ceausescu: In 1970 I met Golda Meir and we talked for two and a half hours. Before that, my representatives had contacts with the representatives of Israel. She told me that she wants a political solution, that she is ready to make concessions and [find] an acceptable understanding. I spoke with other politicians as well, and other progressive forces that took positions in support of a rapid solution. I believe that presently conditions are not favorable to imposing a military solution. This could complicate the situation further. The US and the Soviet Union are involved in the region, and they will involve themselves [further]; they will intervene. The consequences of a war are unfathomable. The US could not accept an Israeli defeat. The Soviet Union values its prestige, and does not want to lose it. As far as Romania is concerned, we do not have special interests in the region, and we do not seek a special position in the region. We only have one interest: that peace take hold so that Egypt can develop economically and socially. As far as I know, after the discussions between my representatives and Nasser, a conclusion was reached.

The easiest way would be for the Israelis to leave the occupied territories. The prolonging of the current state of affairs is not favorable to Egypt, a certain status quo is taking hold. In 1970 I asked Golda Meir: do you have territorial aims? She told me that they want to obtain some guarantees, some small rectifications. Of course, things can evolve in one way or another. I believe that in 1967-1968 there was a much better moment for Egypt to resolve the situation. One must think of a new initiative to get things moving. I understand the sentimentality of thinking: “as long as the territories are occupied we cannot sit down at the negotiating table.” A way must be found to start discussions. Maybe one can consider confidential discussions.

Regarding the DR Vietnam, we appreciated it when they said that they want to resolve the situation on their own. Even though they said that they did not talk to the Americans, they had done so for two years prior [to the beginning of negotiations]. I think there will be a solution in Vietnam in the not too distant future. A solution must be found, otherwise the situation becomes permanent, the issue gets complicated, even the Arab population in the [occupied] territories will tie itself economically [to the Israelis]. Regarding the Suez Canal, its closing means you are losing 3-4 dollars per ton of petrol, which means hundreds of thousands of dollars total. The situation cannot last for too long. Maybe a year or two, but after that the negative consequences on the economy and the living standards of the Egyptian people will be seen more easily. A number of Arab countries are looking out for their own interests. I don’t think it is good to give six or twelve months timeframes; this cannot have a positive influence on Egypt’s position.

I spoke [on 26 October 1970] with President Nixon and he said that the US intends [to work for] and sees a solution as a positive thing. Otherwise, they lose. He does not do this out of sympathy, but out of interest. We do not want to play a role on this issue, in the conflict; we could help out with some things if we were to be asked. I am thinking; why not try something through France?

Sadat: Why don’t you want to play a role? Meir says one thing, [Deputy Prime Minister Yigal] Allon another, [Israeli Foreign Minister Abba] Eban, also says something different. The US are not telling me what Israel wants specifically. After all, I’d like to know what the Israelis want.

Ceausescu: We could talk to them, but they are insisting on direct negotiations. They do not trust the Americans. They want to talk any place and under any conditions. An inflexible position is not the best choice. Secret negotiations could be carried out. We did not study the “Hussein proposal,” we were in Algeria at the time, but it seems that it’s worth paying attention to. Some Arab countries have done so, even if they declared publicly that they reject the proposal. You must have a concrete initiative, like in February 1971. For this, [your] friends and public opinion could be prepared. The FRG and Japan did not spend resources on the arms race and have obtained great economic power. A solution must be found. Greater international support could be obtained.

We met with [Nahum] Goldmann and believe he is reasonable. He is seeking a political solution and a series of practical actions in the international arena. I agree that the Israeli forces must be withdrawn from the occupied Arab territories, that we must discuss with the Palestinian leadership for resolving, for finding a solution to [the crisis of] the Palestinian population, so that they have normal living conditions, and if there is an agreement, maybe even to create a Palestinian state, in conformity with their national interests. Peace must take hold in the region in order for economic and social progress to happen.

In 1967, we talked to [West German Chancellor Willy] Brandt for five hours. He said that no German could assume the responsibility of recognizing two Germanies and of negotiations with the Soviet Union, because that would be recognizing the status quo, including the postwar borders. We talked a lot. Now it’s clear that we were right. The existence of two Germanies is recognized, a treaty with the Soviet Union was finalized. Of course, there is some opposition [to this] in the FRG, but the opposition can only say that better conditions should have been obtained in the treaty with the USSR. Formally, it seems that the recognition of the two Germanies means that their separation is permanent. Yet German reunification can happen based on a closer cooperation.

In 1968, as you well know, the Soviet Union and some socialist states invaded Czechoslovakia. Given the situation at the time, we thought that there were intentions [on their side] to intervene in Romania as well. We showed the people what the situation was, and there was a great demonstration in front of the RCP Central Committee building. We armed the people; in two days we were able to arm over 800,000 people. [Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev reproached me a few times, [asking] how could I believe that there was any intention to intervene in Romania. I told him that we acted that way to be able to face any possible imperialist threat and that I did not think specifically of the Soviet Union. Rather, I wanted to strengthen the defense capabilities of the country without having to appeal to the Soviet Union. In politics one needs a great deal of courage. In Egypt’s case, a way must be found to resolve the conflict.

If Africa, if we are to look at Angola, I believe that the conditions are ripe to liquidate Portuguese colonialism through fighting. The US would not intervene, since they understand that Portuguese domination is failing, and are interested in obtaining a position [of influence] there. It is known that certain countries give aid to certain liberation movements only so that they can gain a position of influence.

I have an invitation to visit Israel, but I told them that I will go only when they will sign a peace [accord]. Yet we have contacts with their representatives, and we could discuss anything.

If we can help do anything with regard to solving the Middle East problem, we are ready to do it. Of course, you must think of a solution and decide.

Sadat: I am thankful to President Ceausescu for the realistic analysis he made concerning the situation. We will have to decide on the next stage.

The conversation lasted one and a half hours.

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