August 9, 1985
Cable No. 1381, Charge d’Affaires Tanabe to the Foreign Minister, 'Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Meeting of Special Envoy Nakayama and Foreign Minister Velayati)'
Primary: Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau Director-General
Sent: Iran, August 9, 1985, 00:40
Received: MOFA, August 9, 1985, 06:41
To: The Foreign Minister
From: Tanabe, Charge d’Affaires ad interim
Problem of the Release of the American Hostages (Meeting of Special Envoy Nakayama and Foreign Minister Velayati)
No. 1381 Secret Top Urgent
Re: Outgoing Telegram No. 1373
1. From 09:30 on the morning of the 8th, for approximately an hour and 30 minutes, Special Envoy Nakayama and Foreign Minister Velayati met at the Iranian Foreign Ministry. A summary of its main points follows below.
(Other officials and I attended on our side; Seventh Political Bureau Director Morshedzadeh attended on the other side.)
Special Envoy Nakayama: Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe told to me, Minister, to convey to you their best regards. They also said that they look forward to being able to see you again at the United Nations General Assembly this autumn. Yesterday, I met Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani and delivered to him a letter from Prime Minister Nakasone (so saying, I handed to Foreign Minister Velayati the letter written by the Prime Minister). I had a long talk with Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani regarding the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon. The Iranian side said that the US side was not serious about resolving this hostage problem. The Japanese side’s impression is that the US side earnestly desires a resolution to this problem. From where, would you suppose, arises this difference between the two countries?
Foreign Minister Velayati: Special Envoy, you are both very sincere and direct. I have received a report of the content of your meeting with Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani. As for your question, I think that the answer was already given you in the conversation with him.
Iran has for centuries had religious and historical relations with Lebanon and knows well Lebanon’s actual circumstances. On the other hand, even though Western countries – such as France – have for many years had relations with Lebanon, they still do not have sufficient understanding. In Lebanon, there are many independent groups competing with one another. No single decision-making organ exists there. No matter what efforts are made inside or outside of Lebanon, no one can make a decision that would be guaranteed to be carried out. As we say, Lebanon is like a “bottomless swamp,” which is why the United States, Britain, France, Italy, and Israel have experienced great difficulties when they have intervened in this region. Every country, including yours, needs to learn more about Lebanon.
We do not know the details concerning the issue of the American hostages in Lebanon. However, the United States should first, by carrying out its commitment made to Syria at the time of the
TWA Incident, work to dispel the distrust of Lebanese regarding the United States and to improve the environment surrounding the United States.
Special Envoy Nakayama: Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani said that releasing the Lebanese Shiites held in Israel was the most important thing and that it would be a first step. Do you think that, if the release of the Lebanese Shiites by Israel were realized, it would lead to the resolution of the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon?
Foreign Minister Velayati: We do not know if there really are American hostages in Lebanon or, even if they do exist, where they are or by which force they have been taken. What we are saying concerns an improvement in the general state of affairs.
We exercised our influence to resolve the TWA Incident, but the United States took mistaken action. If the United States had responded correctly, then it is likely that the United States would have been in a more favorable situation in Lebanon and that the Lebanese would have come to trust the United States.
Special Envoy Nakayama: Do you think that (the handling of the criminals in) that incident of destruction in Kuwait is a source of the hostage incident in Lebanon?
Foreign Minister Velayati: The Kuwait incident may have some relation to the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon, but that is a problem about which you should ask the Lebanese themselves.
The Lebanese are responding in their own way to the treatment they received. Iran thinks that, in regard to this type of problem, one should respond not simply in superficially dealing with each individual problem but in seeking a more fundamental resolution. So, we would like your country, which has good relations with the United States, to tell the United States to carry out their promise in Lebanon. Also, the United States should not become involved in the crimes that Israel commits in Lebanon.
Special Envoy Nakayama: I better understand now the history of conflict in this region, which is very long, as well as deep and intricate. However, taking the opposite approach, is not creating an opportunity for the improvement of the overall state of affairs of this region in realistically resolving individual cases, thereby contributing to the resolution of fundamental problems, also a way to do it?
Foreign Minister Velayati: We doubt whether the United States desires to resolve the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon. The Reagan Administration may be using this problem for domestic unity. Furthermore, the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon is something that the United States is simply claiming. To begin with, it is not clear whether or not this problem exists. In Lebanon, many groups are acting on their own. Even if this problem does exist, grasping the situation would be difficult. In any case, such a problem cannot become a subject of debate at the international level.
Special Envoy Nakayama: Do you think that, in the event that the release of even some of the Lebanese Shiites held in Israel were achieved, it would in its own way help this problem?
Foreign Minister Velayati: I do not know. However, I think that it would be useful in improving the overall state of affairs.
By the way, Majlis Speaker Rafsanjani has been earnestly thinking about the follow-up conducted with Prime Minister Nakasone and Minister Abe. However, according to a report of the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo, it seems that the Japanese side’s response has been extremely late. [TN: portion of paragraph blacked out] For the development of relations between Japan and Iran, this kind of problem must be settled swiftly.
Special Envoy Nakayama: If you permit me to speak frankly, I believe that, for the Government of Japan, the resolution of this problem of the American hostages would be a very powerful lever for the development of relations between Japan and Iran. [TN: rest of paragraph blacked out]
Foreign Minister Velayati: We desire the development of relations between Japan and Iran, particularly the expansion of cooperative relations in the economic field. Frankly speaking, we cannot comprehend how the problem of the American hostages in Lebanon relates to economic relations between Japan and Iran. In any case, we think that the problem of bilateral relations between Japan and Iran should not be linked to other, completely different problems.
Special Envoy Nakayama: Now that Japan has become an economic power, it is being asked to perform in international society a political role befitting its economic strength. In such a situation, cooperation in international politics that appears at first glance completely unrelated to economic relations between Japan and Iran can in reality exert a strong influence on economic relations between Japan and Iran. How, then, if your country were able to cooperate to enable my country to perform that expected political role, would it not be connected with an increase in economic relations between our two countries?
2. In addition, we were unable to schedule a meeting with Prime Minister Mousavi.
I would like you to please relay this to the relevant diplomatic missions. (End)
A telegram from Japanese diplomat Ryuichi Tanabe summarizing a conversation between Special Envoy Nakayama and Foreign Minister Velayati about the American hostages in Lebanon.
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