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Digital Archive International History Declassified

March 09, 1982

CONVERSATION BETWEEN ERICH HONECKER AND YASSER ARAFAT (EXCERPT)

This document was made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation

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    This is an excerpt of a conversation which appears in full at BA-SAPMO J IV 2/201/1416. The conversation opens with the issue of French-Israeli relations. France plans to deliver a nuclear reactor to Israel to the opposition of the Arab world. Also mentioned are the deliveries of arms from the GDR to the PLO. Arafat reports on the use of chemical weapons by Israel in Lebanon. These weapons were reportedly delivered by the FRG. Israel also seems to use biological weapons. Final topics of discussion are the role of the Pope in Poland, the question of Jerusalem, and the Islamic movement in Afghanistan.
    "Conversation between Erich Honecker and Yasser Arafat (Excerpt)," March 09, 1982, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, BA-SAPMO IV 2/1/559, 54-62. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110310
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Yasser Arafat:

As far as France's attitude is concerned, France will undoubtedly be exposed to some economic difficulties. For example, Kuwait immediately canceled the contract for the purchase of the aerobus, that is, these large body aircrafts. Additionally, Cheysson's visit in Kuwait was canceled and refused. At the next summit conference, which took place in Tunisia, this topic will be on the agenda, in particular, the matter of the sale of an atomic reactor in Israel. This atomic reactor is said to be stationed at the Dead Sea, thus, in a region which is geographically contentious.

(Erich Honecker: That is clear.)

Add to that the question of the buying and selling of weapons. Israel wants weapons and more weapons. That is a fundamental question.

Erich Honecker:

As far as the weapon question is concerned, we can only deliver those which we produce ourselves. Unfortunately, we do not have a large production. That is discussed with your military delegation.

Yasser Arafat:

We would like to thank you for your supportive attitude. Our military delegation has prepared a detailed report about it. The members of this delegation came back with an impression of brotherhood, precisely because the military of the GDR spoke with our comrades in detail and very accurately about our situation. We have also explained our military situation in detail from our side. This month, a delegation will occur in order to continue these discussions.

Erich Honecker:

I spoke with Comrade Hoffman yesterday. In the area of armor-piercing weapons, we have a production. In the fight against the Israeli forces, of course armor-piercing weapons are in the foreground. These weapons are quite capable of piercing Israeli tanks. I once saw how that happens. I would never have thought that these things could go through such thick tanks. These are special bullets. Additionally there are still more questions, questions of the distance measurements with the help of lasers. But we've already talked about all of that. One says that today in the Western newspapers there is already much about our military agreements. I am sorry that we can't help so much, as one says there.

(Cheerfulness)

Yasser Arafat:

There is still one more point that I would like to share with Comrade Honecker: the maneuver of the Israeli troops in the coastal area of Lebanon. In these coastal strips, chemical weapons have been used since, which originate from BRD. Biological weapons were also used. We will send you the descriptions.

It has been determined that during these Israeli military action, two Irish soldiers were hit. The company that manufactures these weapons is located in Karlsruhe. We expect that in the coming battles, these chemical weapons will be used. The bad thing is that in the previous week the same chemical substance was used in Beirut on Falange troops. Four people with the same injuries were admitted to the hospital, thus with the same injuries that the two Irish soldiers had.

Erich Honecker:

Perhaps it would be useful to publish something about it, either through the PLO or through other offices, as you see fit. One should publish something about whom these chemical weapons are used on again, and also that they originate from the BRD. We will use this as an opportunity to conduct a wide campaign and thus to mobilize the German public against such a production, since we stand for the respect of chemical and biological weapons. We consider it useful to give our military the documents, so that they can help with the defense against chemical weapons. Both the army as well as the civil defense have protective measure against chemical weapons. There are experts there.

Yasser Arafat:

There is still another point on which we would like to speak. It relates to the actions of the Pope in Poland.

It is known that the Vatican undertakes actions. We have spoken with the head of the orthodox church. There are two directions: one is the Coptic church leadership and the other the leadership of the Orthodox church. That is particularly of importance after the visit in Greece. The patriarch of Jerusalem is an Orthodox. He is the only one who has the right to be patriarch in Jerusalem. The other who are in Jerusalem are metropolitans. That is why we have to face the Pope. We have used the problem of Jerusalem as a counteraction to his attack and his intervention in Poland. I think that we should examine this.

In Afghanistan, it has been attempted, as you know, to mobilize the Islamic movement concerning the Afghanistan problem, above all against the Soviet Union. We immediately raised the counter-problem, namely the problem of Jerusalem. Immediately, the conference made a 180 degree turn. For the first time, Saudi Arabia participated in a such a conference and formulated a resolution against the USA. The correspondents came to us after the conference, including the Western journalists, and they said: We actually went to a conference that was supposed to be against the Soviet Union. -We said to them: You must know that we have many cards that we can play, among them, the Jerusalem card. The first Islamic prayer direction of the Muslims is Jerusalem. For the question of the Pope, it's so that the center of the Church is not in Poland,

(Erich Honecker: That is true!)

but rather, originally in Jerusalem.

Erich Honecker:

So that is. The Pope already pushes for a large opposition in the Vatican itself, while it’s said of him that he is more than a Pope for Poland, but also a Pope for the Catholic Church. That is the problem. From this point of view, that is completely justifiable. The Jerusalem problem is very important for the Arabic states and for all the Islamic [ones].  

Israel has no claim to it anyway. Thus the legalization of the annexation through Israel must be impeded.

Through this, the NATO states also come into a very difficult position; because basically the Western states are less interested in the Arabs that in oil.

(Yasser Arafat: Yes, that's true.)

That’s what it’s about. We’ve said that already some years ago.

Yasser Arafat:

The problem is the following: It is so that that we as Palestinians have great potential as scientific forces. In principle, we stand above each oil drilling rig. Of course, that annoys them. That is why they have made some decision to remove our scientific squad from these oil drilling rigs; because they know the statistics and know exactly how they look. That's why they also know their meaning.

I once met an American senator. He wanted to smoke, but didn’t have a lighter. I took wooden matches out of my bag and gave them to him. Then he said to me: certainly, you don’t smoke at all. Why do you have matches with you? – I said to him: I'll make that clear to your with the understanding that you will also make it clear to your congress. We in the Near East don't need any matches at all.

We only need matches in order to illuminate our interests, namely the oil.

Erich Honecker:

Yes, so it is. There is an old resolution of the UNO, that says that the resources belong to the people in whose land they exist. That is the deciding question. That is also the basic problem with the creation of a new economic world order; that the raw materials benefit the people in whose land they are found, but not the multinationals that make great profits with them. That is also the interest of the USA in the gulf and in the gulf states.

On the basis of your performance, Comrade Arafat, I think that the song that is always sung at the World Festivals also applies from the standpoint of the Palestinians for the Arabic area: “We are everywhere in the world!”

(Cheerfulness)

(Yasser Arafat: That is true. That is the most dangerous weapon that we have.)

That is very important.

Yasser Arafat:

I would like to very graciously thank Comrade Honecker and the other comrade again for the all the awareness that we have experienced here, and for all the possibilities to talk about the questions, on which we’ve spoken in the last 24 hours. That is a new great impulse for the just cause of our people. That is a continuation of the consequent policy and also for the principal international policy, at the head of which Comrade Erich Honecker stands in the German Democratic Republic.

We have nothing that we can offer. But we want to deliver a thing: the friendship, the devotion, and the fact that we stand in a front.

Erich Honecker:

I would like to graciously thank Comrade Arafat and the members of the delegates of the PLO for the development of our meeting here in Berlin. In fact it is so, that this meeting leads to a further deepening of our relationship.

At the same time, I would like to ask you, Comrade Arafat, and the other members of your delegation, to share our warmest greetings with your companions in arms, above all our respect for the combat of the brave Palestinian people against the Israeli aggression. Ultimately, this will lead to thwarting the Zionist plan, which is to deny the Palestinians their right to their own state leadership of the PLO and their leader, Comrade Yasser Arafat. If our meetings have helped to support your courageous and sacrificial struggle, that can only make us happy; because we stand in opposition to a common enemy. It is always good, in a combat so difficult, to know someone at your side helping to secure the future. So we mutually support each other.

That corresponds to the interests of our people and has a great meaning over the borders of our countries.

I am firmly convinced that the day is no longer far away, when the Palestinian problem will also be solved.

(Yasser Arafat: Definitely!)

Again, a very gracious thanks!

(End: 12:00 PM)

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