PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH SAUDI ARABIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRINCE SAUD AND SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER KHADDAM 20/07/1982

publisher: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Publishing date: 1982-07-20

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Memorandums of Conversation- President Reagan (08/04/1982-08/06/1982)

 

  1. PRESIDENT’S MEETING WITH SAUDI ARABIAN FOREIGN MINISTER PRINCE SAUD AND SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER KHADDAM 20/07/1982

 

MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION

SUBJECT: Summary of the President’s Meeting with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud and Syrian Foreign Minister Khaddam

 

PARTICIPANTS: President Ronald Reagan

Vice President George Bush

Secretary of State George P. Shultz

James A. Baker, III, Chief of Staff to

the President

William P. Clark, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Robert C. McFarlane, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs

Geoffrey Kemp, Serior Staff Member, National Security Council

Howard J. Teicher!, Staff Member, National Security Council (Notetaker)

Zaki Aslan, Interpreter, Department of State

Prince Saud al-Faysal, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ambassador Faisal Alhegelan, Saudi Ambassador to the United States

Dr. Hassan Shawaf, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Abd al-Halim Khaddam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dr. Rafic Jouejati, Syrian Ambassador to the United States

Dr. Sabah Qabbani, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Samiah Abou Fares, Interpreter

Tuesday, Ju:1y 20, 1982; 11:15 a.m.-12:20 p.m.; The Cabinet Room

The President opened the meeting by expressing his delight that Foreign Minister Saud and Deputy Prime Minister Khaddam had come to visit !and exchange views.

 

We still believe in what the U.S. has been trying to accomplish in the Middle East, President Reagan said.

Lebanon must be a sovereign nation with its own strong central government.

Its territorial integrity must be preserved and all foreign forces must leave Lebanon. The situation of the Palestinians must be solved in the general sense as well, but the principal problem that we are now faced with is the presence of PLO forces in West Beirut. They must leave in order for other forces to leave Lebanon. The U.S. welcomes the help of the Arab League Delegation to solve these problems.

The PLO should be dispersed in the Arab world so as not to impose a special burden on any one Arab country.

Prince Saud stated that he had held very fruitful talks with Secretary Shultz regarding Lebanon. He said that the Arab League is in complete agreement with U.S. goals for Lebanon,

i.e., Lebanon must be a completely sovereign nation, its central government must be strengthened and restored, its territorial integrity must be preserved and all foreign forces should leave.

He said there is absolutely no difference between the U.S. goals and the Arab League goals. The Arab League will cooperate in any way that the U.S. and the Arabs together see fit. He described the Arab League mission that he was on as follows:

To discuss UN Security Council Resolutions 508 and 509 for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. He said that the PLO has made the decision to leave Beirut. This has been announced publicly. The Arabs are not shrugging their responsibility nor are they seeking the procrastination of the dispersal of the PLO from Lebanon. Saud said that he had asked Shultz what would the Israelis do following a PLO withdrawal from Beirut.

Is there an Israeli commitment to withdraw from Beirut? If Israel does not withdraw, what steps will be taken? He then referred to a specific proposal for Beirut that he had described to the secretary. He asked the President for his opinion and answers to these questions.

The President said that all available means will be taken by the U.S. to ensure that Israel returns to its own borders, but he reiterated that the main stumbling block to progress is the PLO. The PLO attacked Israel and this led to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

Prince Saud answered that for history’s sake the Arabs are sure that the Palestinians had strictly controlled the cease-fire. Even when it was broken by the Israelis, Saud argued, Palestinian retaliation was symbolic. He stated that this view was confirmed by the American Embassy in Jidda and by Ambassador Habib.

The President responded that, in any event, the reason for Israel’s action in Lebanon will have been removed once the Palestinians leave West Beirut. He repeated that the U.S. will do all that it can to ensure Israel’s removal.

Prince Saud asked whether temporary withdrawal, as the Arab League proposes, to the north would guarantee that Israel will not act elsewhere in Lebanon. He asked what would be the Israeli responsibility during this transitional stage and what assurances would be provided to the Palestinians.

Foreign Minister Khaddam then spoke. He thanked the President for agreeing to this meeting. He said he wanted to talk about several points in a clear and frank matter.

The Israeli aggression confirmed the fact that Israel is working to destroy security and peace in the Middle East.

A series of wars and aggression since 1948 have been caused by Israel. Lebanon is the latest example of this Israeli behavior.

Ever since the cease-fire, American sources have assured the Arabs, and Habib confirmed, the Palestinians observed the cease-fire. But what has happened, happened.

The Arabs want peace throughout the Arab world. Israel always creates new problems. No doubt that the U.S. shares the Arab opinion that the tragedy in Lebanon leaves a bitter taste.

The Arabs believe that Israeli intransigence will lead to an end of moderation and new radicalism in the Arab world. This is promoted by Israeli extremism. The U.S. must play an essential role at this time, especially because U.S. aid in the form of political support, military assistance and economic assistance to Israel have given Israel the wherewithal to act the way it pleases.

Khaddam further argued that the Arabs compute that the U.S. gives more to Israel than it gives to its own citizens. The U.S. must be fair and just. The Arabs hope that the President will assume an historic role such as that played by President Eisenhower in 1956\. If President Reagan adopts a similar role, there is the possibility for a new era between the U.S. and the Arabs. The Arabs expect President Reagan to take this role because the region complains of injustice. He said that he knows that the U.S. understands what effects injustice can leave in the region.

Khaddam then expressed his appreciation for the U.S. desire and willingness to help get Israel out of Lebanon. He asserted that the Arab proposal is helpful and constructive. At the same time, the Arab League will assume its responsibilities, but the question remains:

If the Palestinians withdraw from Beirut, Israel should withdraw to provide breathing room, especially as they will be starting new administrative procedures to process the dispersal of the Palestinians. Israeli withdrawal to certain locations and then complete withdrawal would facilitate the Palestinian withdrawal. What Saud said about Arab League goals toward Lebanon, Syria is also committed to. That is, Lebanese independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity with a strong central government.

The only assurance for security for Lebanon and Syria is a strong Lebanon. A weak Lebanon creates difficulties for the Syrians. But, he argued, Syria cannot depend on the sectarianism of Lebanon. They want national reconciliation among all the factions and the Arabs are pleased at the American position. There is hope in the Arab world that the U.S. will help seek justice and evenhandedness in the region.

For the sake of the world, given the importance of the Middle East to the world, there is an urgent need for peace. But the U.S. needs to adopt a clear position in order to give the Arab world a feeling that the U.S. is committed to justice. The Arab world knows of America’s commitment to Israeli security, but Israeli security now threatens the Arab world. Syria looks forward to better relations between the U.S. and Syria.

 

Secretary Shultz, picking up on what President Reagan had to say, reiterated our policy on Lebanon. Lebanon must be clear of all foreign forces so that Lebanon can live securely without foreign interference.

Then, the underlying Palestinian issues can be addressed. But turning to West Beirut, where will the PLO and the PLO fighters go? He said that the Arab League proposal had already been rejected by the Government of Lebanon.

He asked whether the two ministers had additional thoughts on how they might be dispersed. Would Syria be prepared to take the PLO leadership plus 1500 fighters, the balance going to northern Lebanon and then to be dispersed? If this is agreeable, Phil Habib could work on it.

Foreign Minister Khaddam answered that Syria has expressed its willingness to accept the PLO leadership and offices, but as to the fighters, President Assad wrote President Reagan that Syria cannot take the fighters due to the number of Palestinians.

He said that if the fighters came to Syria, 400,000 Palestinians would emigrate from Lebanon to Syria. He then asked whether Secretary Shultz meant all the combatants or just those in Beirut.

If it is the Beirut combatants that are being referred to, then Syria can discuss it. But Syria cannot solve all of the Lebanon problem and what is being requested is that Syria take them all.

There are more than 30,000 fighters in Lebanon, Khaddam said. With their families that equals 150,000 people. If they go, the rest of the Palestinians will follow. Syria cannot bear this burden.

The Palestinians will be a hotbed of trouble throughout the Arab world. This will be the fourth time that they have been kicked out of a state.

Syria has security reasons for not allowing the Palestinians in. But, Syria welcomes the leadership, the offices, plus the Palestine Liberation Army membership of the Arab Deterrent Force. They can come back to Syria, but Syria cannot bear the burden of the rest of the Palestinians. Such a solution would give legitimacy to the Israeli invasion.

This will be another success for Israeli aggression. The Israeli war machine, the aggressive Israeli spirit, and Israeli intransigence will then look for new targets and goals in the Arab world. Minister Sharon said to Suarez of Spain recently that he will not leave office until he has set up a new government in Jordan. He can be in Amman in eight hours Sharon said. The Israelis are not natural people, Khaddam said. They are worse than Nazis.

The television has shown the extent of Israeli destruction and the injustice faced by the Arab world.

Syria cannot afford to absorb the Palestinians. Syria cannot guarantee that they will not infiltrate back into Lebanon, but the U.S. should not believe it is because Syria does not want to help.

 

The President responded that Khaddam seemed to be exaggerating the extent of the U.S. suggestion. The U.S. is talking about the PLO fighters in West Beirut. Maybe 1500 to 2000 would go to Syria •.

Meanwhile, Phil Habib would shuttle to find a dispersal site for the rest of them. They could go to a northern spot, lay down their arms, and the Lebanese government would be in charge. Infiltration would be a problem for the Lebanese government to handle but it would not be a problem if there had not been a government within a government, such as the Palestinian presence in Lebanon.

Regarding other Arabs, U.S. efforts are aimed at convincing the Arabs that we do seek justice and fairness in the Middle East. Like Egypt and Israel the U.S. goal is peace throughout the area. We intend to pursue that problem through UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the Camp David framework.

But the problem today is in West Beirut, the terrorists there, and elsewhere in Lebanon. This cannot be denied. They are the block to the continuation of the peace process.

Foreign Minister Khaddam responded. He said he wanted to be clear and frank. He told the President, You say that the Government of Lebanon must watch security, but every village in Lebanon has arms. A half million of them. How can the Government of Lebanon watch its borders with all of the armament?

Further, he said, that Syria will receive the PLO, the leadership and its offices. Hundreds of people. Maybe even a thousand. Third, Khaddam said he does not share the President’s conviction that the PLO are terrorists. They are combatants with an issue and a cause. They have not resorted to terrorism. But the Israeli invasion did not come about to establish peace and security.

He then admitted that some individuals in the PLO may be terrorists, but basically the PLO wants peace and security. But the PLO leadership is defeated in Beirut, then no one in the Arab world will be able to deal with the Palestinian movement.

He then said that Habib can go to Arab countries. The two ministers will return and propose this to an Arab League meeting. He stressed that he truthfully wants to cooperate to find a solution. It is a danger to the world to let this situation continue.

Secretary Shultz said he had listened carefully and wanted to summarize what he felt was a three-part commitment that the ministers had suggested. First, Syria will take the PLO leadership to include around a thousand PLO fighters from West Beirut. Second, as representatives of the Arab League, the ministers agree that if the Government of Lebanon could be persuaded to allow the balance of the PLO fighters to go to north Lebanon, then three, Arab countries would arrange for quick dispersal to various Arab countries, with Phillip Habib’s help, of the remaining Palestinian combatants.

Foreign Minister Khaddam answered, I want to amend your first point. Syria welcomes the PLO leadership and offices regardless of their number, but regarding the fighters, I cannot approve because the Government of Syria has already decided. After Minister Saud approves, then we will suggest this proposal to the Arab group. Regarding Ambassador Habib, he is always welcome in Syria, but Syria hopes that his role can be expanded. He came first to arrange a ceasefire.

Now, Israel has turned him into a supply officer discussing how food will move through checkpoints into Beirut. He has been diverted from the main issue of his mission.

Prince Saud said that he wanted to elucidate further on the proposal. He wants to demonstrate the willingness of Arab countries to help with Beirut as well as the general Palestinian problem. This proposal focuses on Beirut. The Arab League believes it is the easiest and speediest way for them to be collected in Lebanon and then to be dispersed. But, the two cannot speak for the other Arab states. Once they have been collected in the north, the Arab League will be asked to meet to report and to determine who will accept them.

But Syria cannot take all the fighters. Saud stressed, again, UN Security Council Resolutions 508 and 509. He asked, “How will this be carried out? What steps will be taken to guarantee Israeli withdrawal?” It is their understanding that Israel will withdraw to allow the Palestinians to withdraw. If the issue of Beirut is finished, then the siege of Beirut will be lifted. Does this mean there will immediately be Israeli withdrawal? The Arab League mandate that the ministers came under is to guarantee what specific steps will be taken in this regard. It is not clear what the ministers can say to the Arab League about Israeli withdrawal

The President said that if the Arab League proposal, which focuses on the PLO leadership, is accepted, total Israeli withdrawal will have to await the disposition of the dispersal of the fighters. The U.S. has offered its help. Knowing the problems of Lebanon and its factionalism, the Soviet dimension, and the Lebanese army dimension, it would be our recommendation that in the event of the Palestinian withdrawal and dispersal Israel would withdraw and the siege of Beirut be lifted. In such a period a multinational force, if invited, could go in to ensure order while this is done. This would guarantee the safe withdrawal of the PLO.

Prince Saud said that his understanding is that the Palestinians will withdraw at the same time that the IDF withdraws. This would allow the movement of the Palestinians to the north. Meanwhile, the multinational force would be another element that would assist in this process. Assuming that the Palestinians Beirut, what other steps will the U.S. take to implement complete Israeli withdrawal? Saud said it must be clear to him what the procedures in the political sphere would be to guarantee withdrawal, especially since President Sarkis has asked for the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) to leave. But that is a bilateral problem between the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Syria. That is not an obstacle to Israeli withdrawal. There are still no: assurances that the Israelis will withdraw. What happens if! Israel then asks about all the Palestinians in Lebanon, for instance, “they must also leave or we will not leave.”

Secretary Shultz told the two ministers to face facts. The Israeli forces will not leave while other armed forces are still in Lebanon.

Prince Saud returned to the ADF. He said that if the Lebanese ask them to leave then they’ll leave. But there is no guarantee regarding the Israelis.

Secretary Shultz said that we cannot sit here and negotiate a Middle East settlement. There is no time. But there is a need for a delicate orchestration of the withdrawal. To come back to Beirut in order for Habib to be successful, we need something different. What,’ s new from this? When the PLO leadership leaves to go to Syria, then the balance of the fighters go to north Lebanon. Maybe the Government of Lebanon will buy this.

The President then said if this: is accomplished and we develop a plan for dispersal, then we would use all our offices to accomplish an Israeli and Syrian withdrawal. This will help Lebanon.

Foreign Minister Khaddam said that our mission is to find a way to carry out 508 and 509, but what we are now discussing looks as if the Israeli presence is being equated to the  decision of other Arabs in Lebanon to invite in the ADF.

But the ADF was invited because of the Arab League and the Government of Lebanon.

Khaddam expressed his deep concern that allowing Israel to use force to change the conditions in Lebanon creates a great precedent and danger in the area.

The Israelis must first withdraw, then other problems can be dealt with. The Syrian presence is not equal to the Israeli presence. Syria entered Lebanon for reasons that are well known and Syria will go out as it came in. But to link Israeli withdrawal to the Syrian withdrawal is unacceptable. The U.S. role must go beyond that of mediator. Were it not for U.S. military assistance, Israel could not have entered Lebanon or anywhere else. Khaddam could not equate any presence of an Arab in Lebanon with Ariel Sharon in Lebanon.

Prince Saud said, Our commitment is to the Government of Lebanon and its people. If we are to strengthen the Lebanese government to get the Palestinians to withdraw and to get the ADF out, then that must come at the request of the Government of Lebanon. The Syrian presence is not a stumbling block. But, if the Israelis say that they will not withdraw except with the withdrawal of others, then it is up to the Government of Lebanon. But will Israel withdraw?

The President answered that we respect fully of the sovereignty of the Government of Lebanon. We are not equating Israeli and Syrian withdrawal. We are speaking of a time when the Government of Lebanon asks all other to leave

Prince Saud said there is no argument between us but no one can impose itself militarily on an Arab state. He then thanked the President for taking the time to receive the two of them. He reiterated the importance of this historic period. Most of the Arab world is looking to the Americans for leadership. It is up to the Americans to take the steps that will win the hearts and minds of the Arab world.

 

The President closed the meeting by stating that we hope to achieve peace and security to the Middle East for all of our friends.

The meeting adjourned at 12:20.

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