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Digital Archive International History Declassified

August 16, 1985

CABLE NO. 6170, AMBASSADOR MATSUNAGA TO THE FOREIGN MINISTER, 'PROBLEM OF THE RELEASE OF THE AMERICAN HOSTAGES'

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    A telegram from Ambassador Matsunaga to the Foreign Minister describing President Reagan and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Raphel's response to briefings about Special Envoy Nakayama's visit to Iran and Syria to discuss the American hostages held in Lebanon.
    "Cable No. 6170, Ambassador Matsunaga to the Foreign Minister, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages'," August 16, 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/270613
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Number: R111705

Primary: Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau Director-General

Sent: United States, August 16, 1985, 19:19

Received: MOFA, August 17, 1985, 08:20

To: The Foreign Minister      

From: Ambassador Matsunaga

Problem of the Release of the American Hostages

No. 6170 Secret Top Urgent

(Limited Distribution)

Re: Outgoing Telegram No. 6164

1. On the 16th, I had Orita brief Presidential Special Assistant Sigur regarding the details (including the substance of Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani’s response to the Prime Minister’s letter) of the talks of Special Envoy Nakayama on his visits to Iran and Syria. The other side’s response was as follows below.

(1) I talked to Presidential Assistant McFarlane on the evening of the 15th.  He asked me to tell you that President Reagan was very pleased with Ambassador Matsunaga’s telephone call to Presidential Assistant McFarlane and to convey to you his profound gratitude for the efforts of the Government of Japan on our behalf. Please let me convey to you the gratitude of the United States Government to Prime Minister Nakasone, the Foreign Minister, and others in the Government of Japan.

(2) Please contact us immediately from this point onward in the event of any new developments concerning this matter.

(3) This matter is one of an extremely sensitive character, so we ask that treat it henceforth with great care, even in the White House.

2. On the 16th, I had Orita deliver a similar briefing to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Raphel (Secretary Shultz and Under Secretary Armacost were absent, and Assistant Secretary of State Murphy was on a trip to the Middle East) and asked that he convey it to Secretary Shultz. The other side’s response was as follows below.

(1) The US Government has a strong interest in the problem of the seven Americans and the other foreign hostages, as you know. We appreciate the Government of Japan for sparing no effort, taking prompt action, and informing us of the content of sensitive talks. We will immediately inform Secretary Shultz of what you have said.

(2) Among the things that Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani told Special Envoy Nakayama, of great interest is the part where he said, “If the Lebanese in Israel are released, I believe that we would then be able for the first time to take some sort of action with Syria for the release of the hostages and exercise our influence.” It seems to suggest that Iran, although with conditions attached, itself would take action. On the other hand, in Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani's letter to the Prime Minister, the possibility of action by Iran is ambiguous and Iran’s real intention is hard to fathom.

(3) Please let us know immediately from this point onward of any new developments.

(4) Secretary Shultz has said from the beginning that this matter is an extremely sensitive one and asked that you treat it with great care. The United States, too, intends to handle this matter with the greatest care.

(5) In addition, concerning the release of the Lebanese prisoners in Israel, we have been informed that there is no change in Israel’s policy of freeing all of them. As 100 prisoners have been freed recently, that leaves 250 of them. It is difficult at this stage to predict when their release will be completed but, as the security situation in Southern Lebanon has improved, a somewhat optimistic outlook may be possible. (End)

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