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Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 15, 1979

STENOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPT OF THE OFFICIAL TALKS BETWEEN COMRADE ERICH HONECKER AND COMRADE COLONEL MUAMMAR AL-GADDAFIIN TRIPOLI

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    Honecker and Gaddafi pledge unity against colonialism in Southern Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, referencing developments in Kampuchea, Iran, and Afghanistan. Honecker presses the importance of disarmament and expresses his support for the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front. The two leaders agree that Libyan oil will be shipped to East Germany.
    "Stenographic Transcript of the Official Talks between Comrade Erich Honecker and Comrade Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafiin Tripoli," February 15, 1979, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA J IV 1857. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110277
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Stenographic Transcript

of the Official Talks by the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic, Comrade Erich Honecker, with the General Secretary of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Comrade Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, in Tripoli

Thursday, 15 February 1979

Begin: 18:10 Hours

Muammar al-Gaddafi:

In the name of Allah! We cordially want to welcome Comrade Erich Honecker and also the delegation accompanying him. When we are welcoming him, we include at the same time also the fraternal people of the German Democratic Republic. At the same time we want to express our pleasure that our invitation for this visit was accepted.

I have gained very good impressions during my visit to the German Democratic Republic[1] and I consider this visit as a step forward in the development of our relations.

This visit by Comrade Erich Honecker will be a new step in the development of relations between both our peoples. We also never forget the many other delegation visits at high level between both countries that have taken place.

Although the relations between both our countries have only begun after the [Libyan] revolution of the 1st of September [1969][2], they already have made considerable progress. We do regret that the relations between both our countries were established only after the revolution. We will make up for what has been missed in the past.

The folder in front of me is indicating that there is a large development in our relations. As far as the open questions are concerned, we have to say that there actually does not exist any reason to have open questions between our countries.

Our current meeting is occurring at a time of very complicated developments. There are developments in favor of peace and the well-being of peoples, but three are also developments to the contrary. We are interested in the strengthening of the front against imperialism and colonialism, and against racism and Reaction. The GDR and Libya are both interested in this international situation; because the GDR is directly confronted by the forces of imperialism and Libya as well is also surrounded by reactionary and imperialist bases.

There are liberated countries, but they are dangerously threatened. Among the positive developments are the successes of the unity front in Kampuchea and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

During these hours, there are fierce battles in Chad between Chadian forces and those forces supported by the French.

Also not far from us, there are currently in the West Sahara fights between the forces of the Polisario[3] and the royalist reactionary forces supported by imperialism.

Then there are fights by the people’s masses in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

Currently there are conflicts ongoing between Tanzania and Uganda, and Tanzania has occupied large parts of Uganda. These fights between Tanzania and Uganda threaten peace in the [African] continent and its continuous development. There are no serious whatsoever for such fights.

What we are interested in are the struggles against colonialism and racism, as well as the fight of the peoples against the reactionary regimes. We hope that our countries can do positive things in this regard; since we are standing with the peoples that are fighting for their freedom. We are building up socialism, we are against colonialism, against the Reaction, against racism, and against Zionism, which is a form of racism.

We are for peace and the establishment of international relations based on parity and the mutual respect of the peoples. These positions we can express in a joint declaration, which will be published at the end of the visit. Our two delegations we can encourage to overcome all problems.

We cannot put all these questions in this meeting on the table, but we have to reserve separate hours for them in the future. I again want to express my delight about this meeting.

Erich Honecker:

I want to really thank our friend and Comrade Muammar al-Gaddafi both for the invitation to this visit to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and for the cordial welcome at our arrival in Tripoli and now at the beginning of the official talks. At the same time I want to express our satisfaction that it is again possible within a comparatively short time to have an exchange of opinions about issues which are of mutual interest.

I have already told Comrade Gaddafi that we are on a journey to the South of Africa, and that I am not only undertaking this journey together with my friends because we had many invitations. It is because our stay in Southern Africa is supposed to contribute to help resolve these problems about which also Brother Gaddafi has talked here.

What is needed now in the South of Africa, is the unity of the front states. It is the maximum possible joint action by the liberation movements in order to thwart the solutions planned by the imperialists for Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa.    

It is indeed the case that since our last meeting in Berlin many new issues of international policy have emerged. Apparently there is much positive mixed in with some negative in this development of policy. Looking at the problems from the perspective of our joint interests in the struggle against imperialism, racism, Reaction, and Apartheid, it is correct that we came at our recent meeting of the member states of the Warsaw Treaty in Moscow to the conclusion that the main issue of our times is the question of war and peace. From that several problems do emerge.  

I like to agree with Brother Gaddafi that without doubt the development in Kampuchea and the people’s revolution in Iran are among the positive phenomena. There is a progressive development in Afghanistan, as well as in several other regions of the world. However, we cannot not overlook that, despite the positive developments in the world, the arms race between the two large blocs, the Warsaw Pact states and NATO, as pursued by the USA has the potential to severely burden international relations and to slow the process of detente in Europe. This is leading to several problems, which have impacts on the national liberation movements in a negative way, whether it is in Africa, in Southeast Asia, or in other regions of the world.

We think - and I believe we do agree here - that disarmament will become the most important question of the present time. Because only with disarmament, it will allow for ending the arms race and create an atmosphere of trust which allows for achieving a political solution of certain problems in the world. I am thinking, for instance, about the negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United Staters on SALT[4] II, which can have a favorable impact on the further development of the detente process in the world. I am also thinking about the proposal for a conference of the 5 nuclear powers to agree on disarmament measures. In this context, there exists the growing necessity that the Vienna Conference about the reduction of forces and armaments[5] - where so far there has not been any progress made - will become of further importance for the process of disarmament.

By and large, it is important to prevent a shift in the approximate parity between the two large blocks in favor of one or the other. Disarmament has to occur within a framework of equal security for all. Thus also more favorable conditions will be created to eliminate such conflict spots as they have emerged in the Middle East. Like you [Muammar al-Gaddafi], we also think that the plot of Camp David[6] has not moved us one step closer to peace in the Middle East and towards the resolution of the urgent questions which are pending in the region. There still do exist such open questions like the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination, including the right to have their own state. We think that a return to the Geneva Middle East Conference[7] would be of great importance to make progress regarding the implementation of the U.N. decisions and Security Council resolutions[8] we are all striving for.

We are still of the opinion that the further strengthening of the position of the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front[9] is of extraordinarily great importance because only the unity of the Arab peoples will allow for asserting the just position on the Middle East issue, which is represented in the U.N. resolutions.

In the meantime we had a meeting in our Republic with President Assad[10], and I want to use the opportunity of our meeting today to express that we are supporting not only with great sympathy, but also also with great determination wholeheartedly the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front, the results of the [Arab] summit in Baghdad, and those of the last PLO conference.

Shortly before my departure I received a message from Comrade Arafat[11], where he thanked for our expression of solidarity in connection with the session of the PLO National Council. This is, as I said, a problem area which is deserving special attention.

Another question Comrade Gaddafi also touched upon is the situation in Southern Africa, and it is connected to the conflict between Tanzania and Uganda we just heard about today for the first time. This bears the danger that the forces able to prevent the neo-colonialist solutions will be further divided. I am wholeheartedly supporting the position of Comrade Gaddafi that we can have no other interest than to unite all forces to resolve the problems on the agenda in the interests of all peoples in Southern Africa. This means the elimination of the racist regimes, the prevention of neo-colonialist solutions in Southern Africa, and it means that the front states have to coordinate peacefully in order to prevent jointly with the liberation movements that the imperialists will force neo-colonialist solutions on the peoples of Namibia and Zimbabwe. I may say that we will see to use our stay in that region to have an effect in this regard.

Unfortunately we have the situation that here as well the current Beijing leadership is again playing a game directed against the national liberation movements and helping the imperialists. Because, as we have heard, there is a certain support for Tanzania from Beijing’s side as well from Great Britain. The same is also applying to the situation in the Middle East and the situation in Europe and Northern America. As we know, recently the Deputy Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China has traveled around the United States[12]. He had meetings with President [Jimmy] Carter where he acted very much filled with hatred against the Soviet Union and against the peace and detente policy of the socialist community. Instead of supporting the efforts leading towards disarmament, he criticized that NATO is not arming itself sufficiently. Between ourselves: against whom should NATO arm itself? Against the GDR and the other socialist countries, as well as against the national liberation movements.  

It is also absolutely correct that the members of our delegation and the members of your delegation will make the respective agreements both with regard to our joint declaration as well as pertaining to other questions. I am also sharing the opinion that there will be no open questions; and if there might be some, we can just sit down together.

The same is applying also to the development of our relations on the state and social level. Comrade Gaddafi has correctly stated that many delegations have woven the network of our friendship in order to solidify our relations.

I agree that we will mandate our friends to review what kind of problems still exist and which need to be solved according to the agreements reached. In case new problems might arise that need to be resolved in the interest of the development of our mutual relations, we should also address those questions. Here I am referring to the development of economic relations between our two countries. There are already existing agreements in the area of health care - I also do have such a folder -, in the field of culture, and in some other areas. I give my authority to negotiate about them.

Most important it is to further deepen our friendship and to solidify its foundations, because we are together in a front against imperialism, against Reaction, racism, and neo-colonialism. So I think that, based on the exchanges of opinions we will have in these two days and the work of our delegations, solutions can be found that will serve the further development of this struggle.

I thank you for the attention.

(Applause)

Comrade Talhi[13]:

As a result of the visit Brother Gaddafi had in the GDR, as well as following results of other delegations, there has been a good development in the economic area. Obviously it is not the case that everything has developed with the same speed and is identically positive. Regarding some important questions, the work is not yet going as it is supposed to be. I do not want to mention the many positive things, but only the few that did not yet proceed as it is needed.

We do not yet have the necessary progress in the field of crude oil. There exists an agreement about the export of oil to the GDR - and we want to export oil to the GDR -, but the GDR is not yet importing the necessary amount.

Then there is the the cooperation with third parties. There exists a willingness on both sides but nothing substantive has been achieved yet. Furthermore, I want to mention the air route from the GDR to Addis Ababa, which does not run through Tripoli.

Muammar al-Gaddafi:

It is running from Berlin via Cairo and not through Tripoli - and this is the issue here - to Khartoum. Those are some examples. There are also many positive things. It is helping the Reaction, if you fly via Cairo to Khartoum and not via Tripoli.

Erich Honecker:

Concerning the economic questions: As far as the mutual development is concerned, I also do not want to mention the positive things here. They are known. They concern the deliveries of a planetarium for Tripoli, of workshops for car repairs, a wheat mill, 170-liter platform trucks, equipment for the Army.

I have the papers here and we could exchange them. Currently under negotiation are such objects like three freight ships, cement factories, port cranes, a printing office, compound feed mills, an astronomical observatory, and a couple of other proposals I do not want to address at this point.

Regarding the major problems. I think we have a misunderstanding here. We are willing to import 3 million tons of oil. Our comrades have tried to get 500,000 tons. They did not get them.

We are proposing an agreement about the further development of economic and scientific cooperation between the GDR and the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Here we could include the imports of oil. We are all for those crude oil deliveries. Maybe there was a misunderstanding here, because our Ministry for Foreign Trade was eager to import 500,000 tons but it did not get them. We are in favor of accepting this proposal and to finalize an agreement in the area of oil deliveries to the GDR.

To the second question. It is true what has been said regarding cooperation in third countries. We now have a large number of objects in the African and Near Eastern region as well as in other areas. Based on these objects, we should agree on what we can do together. We are in favor of this, absolutely.

As far as the air route from Tripoli to Addis Ababa is concerned: Comrade [Deputy Foreign Minister Klaus] Willerding has himself conducted the negotiations with Sudan. So far we have not reached an agreement to fly the route Berlin - Tripoli - Khartoum - Addis Ababa. We do understand the importance of this route. We are in favor of it, absolutely. We only have to obtain overflight permission from Sudan, since the direct approach via Tripoli is obviously available. Missing is the extension to Addis Ababa. We need the overflight permission from Sudan. We will continue on working to achieve this.

Regarding the question of further cooperation in the area of health care. Here we already have several agreements.

We attribute major importance to the development of economic and industrial cooperation in third markets. Here we probably would have to exchange very concrete lists of objects, and where one will be doing what. As far as the joint operation in third markets are concerned: we are in agreement here. Maybe it has been the problem that our [joint]] commissions have not met for quite some time. From our side, we are appointing Minister Steger[14] as co-chairman of this commission und ask you to also name a representative; so that the third meeting of the Joint Commission GDR - Erich Honecker can take place, maybe we can still do this in the 1st quarter of 1979.

Muammar al-Gaddafi:

This is possible. The chairman of the Libyan side has been appointed, it is State Secretary Atrash from the Foreign Ministry.

Erich Honecker:

Many thanks. So from our side it is the Minister for Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Steger. We are referring here to the Joint Commission GDR - Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Comrade Steger is chairing the Overall Commission for us. You also would have to submit a proposal for that one. The other commission, namely the Commission for Cooperation in Third Countries, for which you probably have named the Comrade Atrash, will be chaired from our side by Comrade Schumann, Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade.

Muammar al-Gaddafi:

Now this is clear. From our side we will appoint a Secretary - who is the equivalent of a Minister on your side - on the 1st of March. We are also in agreement with the date.

Erich Honecker:

Now next, the leaders of our delegations have to finalize the agreements. This is concerning all the concrete questions like cement factories, freight ships, port cranes, et cetera, I have mentioned, and including subjects of health care and agriculture. Our proposals have already been submitted. This would correspond to our agreements. It can be signed tomorrow.

Muammar al-Gaddafi:

We can say that the two delegations shall continue their negotiations and resolve all open questions.

As fas as the Joint Declaration is concerned: one should include everything where we are in agreement and omit the other issues where we are not in agreement.

Erich Honecker:

Probably there will be very few things where we are not in agreement. We do know each other so well, and we are in accordance on almost all questions. -

Many thanks. I think we can proceed this way. The delegations should work out and draft everything.

(End of the Meeting: 19:25 hours)    

[1] In June 1978.

[2] Gaddafi’s seizure of power in a coup d’etat.

[3] Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y o de Oro (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamta and Rio de Ors, a rebel movement to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara.

[4] Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

[5] Mutual Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR) negotiations between NATO and Warsaw Pact.

[6] Accords between the United States, Egypt, and Israel signed on 17 September 1978 in Camp David, Maryland.

[7] Held in 1973 as an attempt to negotiate a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

[8] UNSC Resolutions 242 of 22 November 1967 and 338 from 22 October 1973.

[9] Anti-Egyptian Front established by the Palestine Liberation Organization, Algeria, Libya, Syria, and South Yemen on 4 December 1977 after Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat’s (1918-1981) visit to Israel on 19 November 1977.

[10] Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000), President of Syria 1971 to 2000.

[11] Yasser Arafat (1929-2004), Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004.

[12] Deng Xiaoping visited the U.S. between 29 January and 5 February 1979.

[13] Jadallah Azzuz at-Talhi (born 1939). General Secretary of the General People’s Committee (Prime Minister) of Libya between 1979 and 1984 and 1986/1987, Foreign Minister of Libya 1987-1990.

[14] Otfried Steger (1926-2002), Minister for Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the GDR from 1965 to 1982.

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