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Digital Archive International History Declassified

February 14, 1984

TRANSCRIPT OF A MEETING BETWEEN COMRADE ERICH HONECKER, GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE SED AND CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE COUNCIL OF THE GDR, WITH THE CHAIRMAN OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE PLO, YASSER ARAFAT

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    At a meeting held in Moscow on the occasion of Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov’s funeral, Arafat cordially thanks the GDR for its “permanent support and solidarity”. Arafat and Honecker discuss the Middle East’s fractious situation, agreeing in particular that the Camp David Accords must be nullified.
    "Transcript of a Meeting between Comrade Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Arafat ," February 14, 1984, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, SAPMO-BA J IV/837. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/113589
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[SED Central Committee]

Department of International Relations

Berlin, 14 February 1984

T r a n s c r i p t

of a Meeting between Comrade Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Arafat[1], on 14 February 1984 in Moscow[2]

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Yasser Arafat thanked, after a very cordial welcome, for the permanent support and solidarity of the GDR and especially for the breach of the blockade during the fights in Tripoli[3] by two ships delivering arms. He himself went to one of these ships. This help he will never forget. But the struggle is not yet over. Currently an extremely dangerous situation has emerged in the Middle East. Maybe this is worse than the division of Palestine, because in Lebanon not only the land but also the people are divided. So there are major concerns that [Henry] Kissinger’s words about a balkanization of the Middle East can become reality. Here it only helps to act in unity and cooperate closely with the states of the socialist camp.

Comrade Honecker asked about the status of preparations for the meeting of the Palestinian National Council.

Arafat replied that before the convening of the National Council agreements have to be still reached with two organizations, namely with the Palestinian Communist Party and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This is not about the numerical majority in the National Council. That one is safe, but this is about the political majority. There is supposed to be a meeting with the representatives of the Democratic Front. He has already met in Moscow yesterday with Comrade Meir Vilner[4] and has talked about cooperation with the Communist Party of Israel.

Comrade Honecker assured Arafat of the permanent solidarity by the people of the GDR with the just struggle of the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat for the cause of the Palestinian people. This had been reconfirmed just a few days ago when the Foreign Minister of the PLO, Farouk Kaddoumi[5], had visited the GDR and informed extensively about the struggle of the PLO, which is deserving of all respect and appreciation. The unity of the Arab countries is decisive for the resolution of the conflict in the Middle East. This opinion about the tragedy in the Middle East had become already clear at the recent meeting [of Comrade Honecker] with Yasser Arafat in Kuwait[6]. Comrade Honecker had supported this position also vis-a-vis Syrian President Hafez al-Assad[7] and told him clearly that it is also in Syria's interest to have a decent relationship with the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Notwithstanding all appreciation for Syria’s role, the attitude of Syria towards the PLO is incomprehensible.

Also, from information coming from the occupied territories we know that the Palestinians are on Arafat’s side in their struggle for their own state and that his voice matters decisively. The struggle of the PLO against Israel, and in the background against the United States, is the same Syria is conducting. However, the [Syrian] fight against the PLO is objectively damaging to the Arab cause and helping the United States and Israel. U.S. imperialists want to simultaneously achieve two objectives in the Middle East: on the one hand to keep Israel as a foil against the Arab countries, and on the other to achieve at the same time friendship with the Arab states. However, this is mutually exclusive, even if some Arab regimes are in support of such. The GDR is lining up here in one front behind the PLO under the leadership of Arafat. The GDR is welcoming the clear analysis of the situation in the Middle East and highly values the efforts towards maintaining the unity of the PLO.

President Assad is considering the GDR as a friend and Syria is fulfilling in the Middle East an important role in the struggle against U.S. imperialism. But it is not smart to misunderstand the role of the PLO in such a way as Syria is doing now. It is is positive that the position of the PLO regarding the maintaining of unity is supported by the population in the occupied territory, which is fighting against the occupation regime. Israel has no chance to maintain this occupation in the long run.

Arafat said that now after the Arab Summit Conference[8] many positions have to be newly assessed. In the Arab region a new political situation is on display. The Islamic Conference has supported the return of Egypt into the Islamic and Arab camp. Opinions of participants were very divergent here, the PLO did not support the return of Egypt because of the continuous existence of the Camp David Accords. However, the return of Egypt could change a lot because Egypt is not a country like Djibouti.  

The conversation with Mubarak[9], who is an old friend of Arafat, came about because, to be honest, Egypt has provided the main support for the Palestinians in their departure from Lebanon. The most important contribution, however, Egypt could make would be a balanced position on the Middle East conflict. But this would only be possible if Egypt would have reasonable relations with the Soviet Union. This is what Arafat told Mubarak in all openness as a friend. Before the current visit to Moscow he had received a letter from Mubarak, where he indirectly admitted that he is under strong American pressure and that he is thinking about measures how to overcome this. This alone signifies a certain break with Camp David. It is important that the Arab forces work together with their friends in the socialist countries. If this is not done, then the American and Israeli plans would be implemented.

Comrade Honecker agreed and explained that Camp David has to be nullified. This requires without doubt a process. We can confirm that Mubarak is attempting to distance from some positions. The U.S. policy in the Middle East is part of the global course of confrontation by the United States. Right before this conversation, there had been a meeting with Comrade Samora Machel[10] from Mozambique where he informed about the situation in the South of Africa. There it was referred to the axis United States - South Africa - Israel, which would without doubt function less well if Egypt would distance itself. A return of Egypt into the Arab world, with Camp David nullified, would be extremely important. The GDR has never retreated from Egypt and maintained its relations, especially in the area of trade. Today one can certainly note that something is changing in Egypt. The united appearance of the Arab states is decisive and the decisions at the [1982] Summit Conference in Fez are a good foundation. The proposals by the Soviet Union are also still current. It is of great importance for the development in the Middle East to preserve the great authority the PLO has gained through its political and armed struggle. If one is thinking back to the first meeting 1973 at the World Youth Festival[11], the long path of the PLO from recognition back then through the GDR until the current great international authority is very evident.

We have followed the fights in Tripoli with great concern and were delighted about the success to preserve the main forces of the PLO and evacuate them. The PLO has our full solidarity. If it is continuing to further follow the correct line of close relations with the Soviet Union and the socialist states, and jointly so with other Arab forces, the United States will have no luck in the Middle East. The fact that the United States had to relay on its naval guns and helicopters does clearly unmask their damaging policy in the Middle East. This is also proving the lack of perspective for the Israeli policy of aggression. We hope that Egypt will find it possible to remove itself from the ties imposed by Camp David. Mubarak is not the same as Sadat.[12] A distancing from Cam David by Egypt and its return into the Arab camp would be a big defeat for U.S. policy and a significant victory for the cause of the PLO.

Arafat mentioned that just in these days an important and dangerous meeting is taking place in Washington between Reagan, Mubarak, and King Hussein.[13] Its results could have a very far-reaching impact. When during the fights in Tripoli the impression came up that the PLO is facing its end, a dangerous agreement was made between Jordan and the United States for which even the Jordanian parliament was brought back from oblivion. King Hussein had attempted to draw maximum gain from the extremely bad relations between Syria and the PLO. It is regrettable that the Syrians do not understand this. But like the PLO had to pay dearly, they will for sure have to pay as well. Already at the Islamic Conference it became evident that the Syrians had many Islamic and Arab countries against them.

The meetings between Mubarak, Hussein, and Reagan should be followed by all means with great attention.

Comrade Honecker confirmed that we are also following Reagan's activities with interest. The withdrawal of the U.S. Marines from the Lebanese mainland to the war ships was an open defeat for Reagan since before he had explicitly stated there is no way he would relocate them. Now the United States are attempting to regain their reputation and their positions through the [above] mentioned talks. Our [SED] Politburo is of the opinion that it is difficult for any Arab country to side with the United States, as long as the latter are supporting Israel. Certainly this is also the reason behind the changes in Egypt.

Still, it is important to talk to everyone. For instance, Comrade Stoph[14] has invited the Jordan Crown Prince to a visit in the GDR which will probably take place in the second half of April. A meeting with King Hussein, however, is not intended.

Regarding efforts to win over Mubarak, we are moving in the same direction as the PLO.

Soon the Politburo will address the information about the negotiations with the Foreign Minister of the PLO and the current meeting. Arafat’s public declaration is of decisive importance, according to which a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East can only work with, and not against the Soviet Union. This is the guarantee for success, since the naval guns of the United States are not a testament to their strength.

Arafat added that the retreat of the Marines to the ships is demonstrating that the U.S. policy in the Middle East has reached a dead end.

Comrade Honecker reaffirmed in conclusion once more the solidarity with the struggle of the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat and the support of the GDR against the plans of the United States and Israel. Unlike Romania, the GDR has obviously no relations with Israel and also will not establish such.

At the end, Comrade Honecker expressed his wish that the next meeting with Yasser Arafat should take place in the GDR.

Arafat thanked and said goodbye in a very cordial manner.

The meeting was joined by the members of the party and state delegation of the GDR and the delegation of the PLO.

[1] 1929-2004.

[2] The meeting was held at the occasion of the funeral for CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov (1914-1984).

[3] In September 1982 in Tripoli in Northern Lebanon.

[4] 1918-2003. Leader of the Communist Party of Israel, Member of the Israeli Knesset.

[5] Born 1931.

[6] Oktober 1982.

[7] 1930-2000. President of Syria from 1971 to 2000.

[8] Held from 6 to 9 September 1982 in Fes, Morocco.

[9] Hosni Mubarak (1928-2020), President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011.

[10] 1933-1986. President of Mozambique 1975-1986.

[11] Hosted by the GDR in Berlin from 28 July to 5 August 1973.

[12] Anwar el-Sadat (1918-1981). President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981.

[13] 1935-1999. King of Jordan 1952-1999.

[14] Willi Stoph (1914-1999), Minister President of the GDR 1964-1973 and 1976-1989.

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