Archive (Reagan Library)

Middle East: Reagan letter to Thatcher (international conference prospects) [declassified 2000]

Document type: Declassified documents
Venue: White House
Source: Reagan Library: Executive Secretariat NSC Head of State File
Editorial comments: Only a draft has so far been released on the US side, but it would appear to be in near final form. The document has been dated from the text in the Thatcher MSS. It carries no security classification in either form.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 709 words
Themes: Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), MT contacts with Ronald Reagan

Declassified S98-101#300
By dIb, NARA, Date 6/30/00

The White House

[Near final draft; contains some drafting amendments marked thus deleted text.]

Dear Margaret:

We have been very mindful of the heightened level of Soviet activity in the Middle East. They The Soviets have been using several different approaches in so doing, cleverly varying them for different countries and regions. The Soviet effort to sell MIG-29s to Jordan on very favorable terms is worrisome, particularly because the King now seems far more willing to entertain the offer than previously. We hope your efforts to create an alternative by putting together an attractive package on the Tornado bear fruit; we have already urged the Saudis to be supportive, and we will continue to be as helpful as possible.

Another Soviet approach has been to present a reasonable and active image on the issue of peace. As your letter of September 17 pointed out, and we discussed in Washington last July, this calls for continued activity on our part. [where peace is concerned]

But the activity must be reasoned and enhance the prospects for real movement, not compound them. Unreliable or overly vague proposals which are doomed to failure will not help in the long term. The Soviets are likely to discover this. We are not going to give up on the idea of a conference, but we must face certain realities. Yitzhak Shamir, as the Prime Minister and the head of the Likud, has a great deal of political power. This is particularly true on an issue which arouses such strong popular and political feeling as peace and the future of the Occupied Territories. Recent experience has clearly shown that he cannot be ignored. The Hill mission to Israel conveyed clearly and firmly to Shamir our conviction that new movement toward peace is a necessity. We are continuing our discussions now with all sides of that government and are proceeding quietly with [end p1] King Hussein on the appropriate next step. Progress, though slow and not yet visible, is being made.

We remain interested in the conference and have told Shamir so. However, we are convinced that going to a conference makes little sense if it promises to deadlock immediately. That’s why we believe quiet efforts are essential to develop understandings with the parties on what the negotiations will be about and how they will evolve.

It is also essential that we have a better picture of what the Soviets actually intend on the conference. While seeing welcome signs of tactical flexibility on some of its procedures, we also see the Soviets pressing for an ongoing, authoritative role for the conference; we see them saying different things to the Jordanians, Syrians, PLO, and Israelis about how the conference will work and who will represent the Palestinians; and we see them avoiding responses to our questions posed in July on what they would be prepared to accept in a conference. The King told you that we would be surprised by what Shevardnadze had to say on the conference and Middle East peace; unfortunately, Shevardnadze showed no interest in discussing this subject.

We do not exclude the possibility of Soviet flexibility on the conference, but the signs to date are not encouraging. We will maintain a dialogue with the Soviets and continue our efforts to get negotiations started. more generally. As our efforts proceed, I will keep you informed and, as always, will value your assessment.