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Digital Archive International History Declassified

September 15, 1985

CABLE NO. 769, AMBASSADOR KATO TO THE FOREIGN MINISTER, 'AMBASSADOR NAKAYAMA'S VISIT TO SYRIA'

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    A summary of the meeting between Foreign Minister Shara of Syria and Special Envoy Nakayama about the relationship between Japan and Syria and the American hostages in Lebanon. The two discuss how the release of the Lebanese prisoners in Israel influences the situation of the American hostages.
    "Cable No. 769, Ambassador Kato to the Foreign Minister, 'Ambassador Nakayama's Visit to Syria'," September 15, 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/280695
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Number: R125187

Primary: Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau Director-General

Sent: Syria, September 15, 1985, 18:30

Received: MOFA, September 16, 1985, 01:11

To: Foreign Minister      

From: Ambassador Kato

Ambassador Nakayama’s Visit to Syria

No. 769 Secret Urgent (Priority Processing)

(Limited Distribution)

Re: Outgoing Telegram No. 768

On the 15th, Ambassador Nakayama met with Foreign Minister Shara for about an hour. The main points of their remarks are as follows. (I was present; Hayashi served as interpreter.)

1. Following the report on Ambassador Nakayama’s recent meeting, both Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe highly evaluated the Syrian side’s good will and efforts. [TN: rest of section blacked out]

2. Minister Shara

I thank Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe for their kind words. I also reported on that recent meeting to President Assad. President Assad and the Syrian Government are eager for and have a strong interest in strengthening relations with Japan. There is a need for the strengthening of relations between Japan and Syria in the cultural, economic, political, and other fields. The Syrian side has a strong interest in strengthening economic relations with Japan.  In addition, the Syrian side would like to continue the dialogue in politics and believes that such a relationship would contribute to the interests of our two countries and to peace in the Middle East.

(After Ambassador Nakayama said that our side hopes for a beneficial discussion with your country’s government, having organized the Japan-Syria friendship mission with a senior member of the Japanese business community as its leader and prominent individuals of enterprises interested in Syria’s economic development as its members)

I would like to welcome the visit to Syria of the Japan-Syria friendship mission and the holding of Japan Culture Week. I think that these events are a reflection of the positive side of Japan-Syria relations and are important for mutual understanding between the peoples of our two countries. I would like to direct Syria’s mass media to cover Japan Culture Week.

3. Ambassador Nakayama

(1) (Replying to the question of Minister Shara regarding progress in the relationship of economic cooperation between Japan and Syria)

I think that, together with the strengthening of political and cultural relations, the strengthening of economic relations is also important. From this point of view, we added prominent business leaders among the members of the Japan-Syria friendship mission but, together with making economic relations closer globally, Japan’s cooperation on specific economic development projects is also important. Minister Abe is enthusiastic about a follow-up to the August meeting so, when you meet Minister Abe in New York in the latter part of this month, I would really like to talk with you and hope to see concrete results.

(In response, Minister Shara said that he, too, hoped so.)

(2) At the time of Foreign Minister Shamir’s visit to Japan, the Government of Japan, in consideration of Syria’s standpoint, strongly requested that the Israeli side release the Lebanese hostages. I would thus like to hear what you have to say regarding the recent situation for the American hostages.

4. Minister Shara

(1) I respect the Government of Japan for its understanding of Syria’s position. I am happy that Japan expressed its position regarding the Middle East problem at the time of Shamir’s visit to Japan in a clear and straightforward way and that Japan understood Syria’s position and took it into consideration. I think that the visit itself resulted in conveying Israel’s obstinacy and stubbornness to senior officials of the Government of Japan.

(2) As for the problem of the American hostages, it has no connection to the problem of the Lebanese hostages. It is related to the TWA hostage incident.

5. Ambassador Nakayama

I can say to you with pride that, even with the Shamir visit to Japan, there is no change to the Government of Japan’s Middle East policy. Also, the Government of Japan is fully aware that the problem of the Lebanese hostages has no connection at all to the problem of the American hostages. Simply, it was a strong appeal to the Israeli side in the hope that the release of the Lebanese hostages would lead to an improvement of atmosphere and that there would be a turn for the better in the situation in which the release of the American hostages could be realized.

6. Minister Shara

The Syrian side is fully aware, via Minister Abe’s recent visit to Syria, of the Government of Japan’s strong interest in the release of the American hostages and its efforts from a humanitarian point of view. Knowing the strength of Japan’s interest, Syria has come to make further efforts concerning this problem. Syria will work from this point onward as well toward a resolution of this problem. However, this matter is a very difficult problem, in which there is the difficulty of the hostage problem itself in addition to Lebanon’s complexity. The most important thing is to return the hostages safely home. The condition of our having to make sure that the lives of the hostages are secure makes the problem more difficult. I see this problem being resolved in the near future.

(Special Envoy Nakayama said that there was news that two French hostages would be freed soon and asked whether the outlook was for the American hostages and the French hostages to be freed at the same time or whether one group would be freed first.) No one can predict that. The hostages are not in our hands, and we are at a loss even as to where they are.  They may be released in a week, or 10 months may pass without their release.

7. Special Envoy Nakayama

I think that the timing of the release of the hostages is important. The Government of Japan is proceeding with the examination of [TN: part of sentence blacked out] under the direction of Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe. If the cooperation between Syria and Japan for the release of the hostages is successful, then cooperation between Japan and Syria can be widely put before Japanese and world public opinion. For this reason, I think that this will be very important for relations between Japan and Syria.

9. [sic] Minister Shara

(Lastly, in response to Ambassador Nakayama inquiring as to messages to convey to Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe) I would like you to convey President Assad’s salutation to Prime Minister Nakasone and to inform him that President Assad is greatly concerned about this hostage problem. I would also like you to convey my best regards to Minister Abe and to tell him that I look forward to seeing him in New York.

(End)

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