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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 08, 1985

CABLE NO. 1373, CHARGE D’AFFAIRES TANABE TO THE FOREIGN MINISTER, 'PROBLEM OF THE RELEASE OF THE AMERICAN HOSTAGES (MEETING BETWEEN SPECIAL ENVOY NAKAYAMA AND MAJLIS SPEAKER RAFSANJANI)'

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    A telegram from Japanese diplomat Ryuichi Tanabe to the Foreign Minister summarizing a meeting between Special Envoy Nakayama and Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani about the American hostages in Lebanon. Special Envoy Nakayama is delivering a letter from Prime Minister Nakasone.
    "Cable No. 1373, Charge d’Affaires Tanabe to the Foreign Minister, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Meeting between Special Envoy Nakayama and Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani)'," August 08, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, File No. 2017-0631. Translated by Stephen Mercado. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/270600
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Number: R107732

Primary: Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau Director-General

Sent: Iran, August 8, 1985, 02:10

Received: MOFA, August 8, 1985, 07:57

To: The Foreign Minister      

From: Tanabe, Charge d’Affaires ad interim

Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Meeting between Special Envoy Nakayama and Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani)

No. 1373 Top Urgent

(Limited Distribution)

Re: Outgoing Telegram No. 1368

From 11:30 on the morning of August 7, for approximately one hour, Special Envoy Nakayama had a meeting with Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani in his office in the Parliament with a small number of persons present. A summary of its main points follows below. (Other officials and I attended on our side; Seventh Political Bureau Director Morshedzadeh and others attended on the other side).

Special Envoy Nakayama: I have brought with me from Prime Minister Nakasone his letter for you, Mr. Speaker (passes the letter to Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani). Mr. Speaker, your visit to Japan was extremely important and epochal for the expansion of relations between Japan and Iran. As for our country, it is all of Japan – not the government alone but together with the Japanese people – that welcomes the advance in relations between Japan and Iran.  Prime Minister Nakasone, for the sake of long-term cooperation between our two countries, is making efforts to make concrete your proposals, Mr. Speaker, and looks forward to these efforts bearing fruit in the near future.  

The building of a firm foundation of mutual trust between Japan and Iran is a major result of your visit to Japan, Mr. Speaker. Upon this foundation, Japan and Iran are able to conduct political dialogue.

As stated in Prime Minister Nakasone’s letter, Prime Minister Nakasone highly evaluates the frank exchange of views conducted with you, Mr. Speaker, on the problem of international terrorism. We believe that, as to the point of rejecting international terrorism, Japan and Iran have the same position. Mr. Speaker, we know that you have consulted with the Syrian government and made efforts for the resolution of the TWA Incident. Mr. Speaker, our country highly evaluates your courageous action taken from a moral position. I would like to request of you, Mr. Speaker, your help to free the hostages, including the seven Americans, who remain captive in Lebanon. We understand that this problem is a complicated and intricate one. I would be grateful for your efforts, Mr. Speaker, if you think it possible to work on it in some form from your high moral position.

This kind of problem is not one simply for the United States alone. It has become a source of global disorder and unease. Japan, too, cannot avoid its repercussions. Also, from the position of desiring the maintenance of peace throughout the world, our country cannot overlook such a problem.

[TN: section of text blacked out]

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

Special Envoy, we welcome your visit to Iran. I was happy to read Prime Minister Nakasone’s letter. I would like on this occasion to express my gratitude for Prime Minister Nakasone’s warm reception at the time of my own visit to Japan and for the hospitality that His Majesty the Emperor and the ministers and others involved showed me and my party. Also, I hope for concrete results to appear in the future from my visit to Japan.  

Iran, too, considers the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon to be an extremely important one. For us, there are points in the aims and activities of the United States in Lebanon that seem unclear. We suspect that this problem may be a stratagem of the (the United States) to achieve some aim in Lebanon. The reason why is that one can imagine that, if Americans were truly seized in Lebanon and if the United States earnestly desired their liberation, then the United States would take greater action (on the contrary, in reality the United States has not taken such action).

President Reagan, who said that he would free the 300 (the number the other side gave) Shiite prisoners in Israel if the TWA Incident were resolved, made a promise to Syria’s President Assad. Therefore, Iran and Syria made efforts to resolve the TWA Incident. The United States, however, has still not fulfilled its promise; the 300 Shiite Lebanese remain held in Israel.

I thank Japan for expressing concern over this humanitarian problem and for having sent you, Special Envoy. Even putting aside our suspicions regarding the true intent of the United States, what has the United States done for the release of the American hostages in Lebanon? I would like you to convey to Prime Minister Nakasone this message: “The United States should first have Israel release the Lebanese held captive and follow through on its agreement on the TWA Incident.” If this were carried out, we may then be able to take some action in concert with Syria for the release of the hostages and exercise our own influence. First, the United States should follow through on what it has promised. Also, as far as I know, the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon is understood to be related to the bombing incident in Kuwait.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

I am concerned about some misunderstandings (between the United States and Iran) ultimately leading to unfortunate consequences. Mr. Speaker, you and Prime Minister Nakasone have relations of mutual confidence. It is because the Prime Minister knows that the United States sincerely desires the release of these hostages that he has sent me as special envoy. I could call Prime Minister Nakasone this evening and confirm it, but I think that the Prime Minister has the same view as I do. Is it not because there are no diplomatic relations between your two countries that misunderstandings have arisen (between your country and the United States)? I think it necessary to fill in somehow this deep gap between the United States and Iran. Mr. Speaker, you mentioned what happened in Kuwait. This matter should be resolved on the basis of reason. Also, I think that the problem of the Lebanese held captive in Israel prisoners is one to be resolved in stages.

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

The problem is clear. First, the Lebanese held in Israel should be freed on the basis of the promise made. The problem in Kuwait differs in character from that in Lebanon. First, with the United States not keeping its promise, we can say nothing to the Lebanese. The reason is that the Lebanese think that the United States deceived Syria and Iran. We suspect that the United States may not desire a real resolution of this problem.  If the United States expects something of us, then, first, the United States must act.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

Is it not possible to build in some form a stronger framework between the United States and Iran? Also, your country calls for the United States first to take action, but should we not consider how to lead to a resolution without linking together the problem of the Lebanese held captive in Israel and that of the seven American hostages in Lebanon? For example, if your country makes efforts for the release of the seven American hostages and what I have just mentioned is achieved, I think that Israel would come under pressure to release the Lebanese detained there and that the situation would turn in a direction favorable to your country.

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

The problem of the Lebanese held captive in Israel is linked to the TWA Incident. It is not related to the problem of the release of the American hostages in Lebanon. So long as the United States does not keep its promise made in the TWA Incident, we can do nothing.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

Do you have any objection to our informing the United States of your country’s position on this problem, your country’s view (suspicion) regarding the United States, and such?

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

I have no objection.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

What kind of points in particular should I convey?

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

We are not in a position to negotiate on this problem with the United States. This is a problem between the United States and Lebanon. We are simply explaining our position to your country.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

Thank you for your explanation. I would like to give a detailed explanation to Prime Minister Nakasone. Also, if I were to visit your country again (in relation to this matter), I would like to ask for your support.  

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

Until the problem of the Lebanese held captive in Israel is resolved, I have nothing more to say. Special Envoy, you are the only one to whom I have spoken of such things.

Special Envoy Nakayama:

As with at the time of the TWA Incident, would it be possible to have you cooperate with Damascus?

Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani:

In the TWA Incident, it was clear that there was an airplane and hostages in Lebanon. With the problem of the American hostages, even where the hostages are at present is not clear.  First, the United States should keep its promise.

I would like you to please relay this.

(End)

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