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October 15, 1982

Transcript of the talks between Erich Honecker and Hafez al-Assad, on 11 and 12 October 1982 in Damascus

This document was made possible with support from The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Appendix No. 1


[handwritten signature] E [Erich] H [Honecker]

15 October 1982


T r a n s c r i p t


of the talks between the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Part of Germany and Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic, Erich Honecker, with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic and the General Secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, Hafez al-Assad, on 11 and 12 October 1982 in Damascus

H. al-Assad welcomed E. Honecker and his accompanying delegation most cordially. He acknowledged the meeting as an important contribution towards the strengthening of both countries. This is now more necessary than ever before after the attack by imperialism[1] in general and by Israel in the Middle East. Syria is situated directly at the front of confrontation with imperialism. This is why this meeting between the leaderships of both countries is met with special interest and according reaction by imperialism.

Imperialism is thinking for a long time about how it can inflict damage on us. This became especially evident during the recent attacks by Israel on Lebanon and Syria. It is an expression of the attempt to stop the world in its march towards progress. Reagan has repeatedly emphasized that he wants to turn back the clock of history. Today we are just experiencing the preparatory phase of the comprehensive plan of imperialism, which will use all means for its implementation. So far military means have been used [by imperialism] only in part.

We are convinced, H. al-Assad said, that the peoples of the socialist countries and the Third World, or those who are on the path of socialist development, will not be impressed by this policy of imperialism. They will follow the road they have embarked on until the end. We have great problems. Those have increased, but we will overcome them.

In light of the ‘hot confrontation’ we need closer coordination of our efforts and a firmer solidarity and cooperation. The closer our collaboration, the better we are able to overcome problems arising anew with every day.

Our meeting will provide us with the opportunity to discuss numerous issues and to consult how we can deepen our cooperation. We will proceed here from the common line that we have one enemy, and that we are pursuing the great goal to serve our states.

E. Honecker thanked for the welcome and the extraordinary cordial reception. He conveyed the greetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the SED and the Council of Ministers of the GDR. He acknowledged the meeting as an important contribution towards the further development of bilateral relations between the GDR and Syria, as well as its special importance in light of the tense international situation. The welcome and the meeting are an expression of the close friendship, rich in tradition, that has united the peoples of the GDR and Syria for decades. We are united by common objectives and tasks in the struggle for peace, national liberation, and social progress, and against imperialism and war, E. Honecker noted. In this worldwide struggle, the GDR in the heart of Europe and Syria at the juncture of three continents are in an exposed position.

E. Honecker expressed the conviction that the talks held during the meeting will provide new impulses to the joint struggle and friendly relations. In the GDR, the struggle by Syria against the aggressive machinations by the United States, NATO, and Israel, is followed with high respect and sympathy. The  great efforts of Syria, its courage, and willingness for sacrifices, which the Syrian people and the Syrian Army have proven under the leadership of Comrade Hafez al-Assad, are acknowledged by us with high recognition, E. Honecker said. In the GDR one is truly heartened by the manifold achievements by Syria in various areas, especially pertaining to the economy and social welfare. From our own experience we do know well how difficult it is to secure a dynamic development of the country for the benefit of the people in light of the imperialist course of confrontation and arms buildup. Each success achieved by both our countries on this path is a new addition to the power of the global anti-war front.

The workers of the GDR are striving with focus and successfully for the implementation of the decisions of the X Party Congress of the SED. The course of the Main Task [translator’s note: that is “Unity between Economic and Social Policy”] is proving itself again as a great driving force. E. Honecker emphasized the importance of the stable dynamic development of the GDR as the first socialist state of workers and peasants on German soil. Due to the location of the GDR in the center of Europe, it is particularly important for the government of the GDR to guarantee, in combination with the economy, a high material and cultural standard of life for the people. He [E. Honecker] wanted to emphasize that per capita consumption of foods and beverages is evidently too high in the GDR. This applies in particular to the consumption of meat and butter. The party and state leadership of the GDR is eager to work towards a reduction of the consumption of foods. Apparently this does not just succeed with health propaganda, but primarily through a better supply of consumer goods.

The implementation of the social program is closely linked to the dynamic development of the economy. Such a program has never before existed in the history of the GDR. Here he mentioned the residential construction program and the low rents, as well as the stable prices for products of basic needs, services, and fees. With all of that, one has obviously also to take into consideration that there is very heavy travel between the FRG and GDR despite the restrictions imposed. The citizens of the GDR have the opportunity to draw direct comparisons between life in socialism and in capitalism.

The conditions under which we are solving our tasks have worsened further, E. Honecker noted - because of the aggravation of the imperialist policy of confrontation, boycott, and arms race build-up, as well as due to the consequences of capitalist economic and currency crises. A secured peace is the most important condition for the implementation of our policy. Much depends for peace in Europe on the further strengthening of our country, and on its strength and stability. The strengthening of our fraternal alliance with the Soviet Union and the other socialist states is of eminent importance.

Addressing the international situation in more detail, E. Honecker explained that its aggravation is in particular due to the shift of the U.S. administration from a policy of cooperation and detente towards confrontation and arms build-up. The world is facing the question whether it is possible to prevent the outbreak of a Third World War. In light of the current aggravation of the international situation and the emergence of various conflicts, a high level of statesmanship and the vigilance of the peoples is necessary in order to block the path of the war course followed by the Reagan Administration. It is imperative to solve conflicts that have arisen by negotiations.

The aggravation of the international situation is an expression of the growing crises in the world of the capital. Currently there are about 30 million people unemployed. A further increase of all the contradictions within capitalism is to be expected. Certain leading circles of the capitalist countries, among them also those in the United States, are looking for a way out from those crises through a global conflict. This is why they pursue a course of confrontation that is primarily directed against the USSR and the socialist countries.

Since the end of the Second World War, world peace has never been as endangered as much as it is currently, E. Honecker said. Its preservation and securing is and remains the fundamental concern of the policy of the GDR. E. Honecker remarked that already during his meeting with H. al-Assad in Belgrade [at the funeral of Josip Broz Tito] he had expressed that the non-ratification of SALT II by the United States had impacted the international situation in an extremely negative way. Because of the United States, the Geneva negotiations[2] have so far not moved beyond a dead point. Apparently the United States do not want to allow for results on limitations of armaments in the area of strategic and intermediate nuclear missiles. They are trying to deceive the global public by participating in negotiations in order to be able to further continue their course of arms build-up. This course is accompanied by a policy of high interest rates, which is primarily directed against the Western European allies of the United States. With this policy, the contradictions within the United States are also aggravating themselves. In combination with the embargo policy, a trade war has been launched against the socialist countries.

Recently leading circles of the United States have stated that these Reagan policies must not be continued, as they are the first step towards a Third World War.

Seats of fires of a Third World War have already been set up by the United States in several regions of the world and the U.S. are fueling them further. This pertains as well to the situation in the Middle East, the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and the Palestinian people as supported by the U.S., as to the aggressive policy of the United States against states in Latin America, especially Cuba and other countries of the Caribbean; and it is also pertaining to the support of the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, of the aggressive machinations against states like Angola, Mozambique, and Zambia, as well as to the efforts towards eliminating SWAPO and ANC.

He, E. Honecker, does agree with H. al-Assad, that the international situation is demanding a closer cooperation by all anti-imperialist forces; and especially so with the Soviet Union and the other socialist states, since only this way it will be possible to thwart the aggressive policy of the Reagan Administration.

Responding to the question posed by H. al-Assad whether a new world war can be prevented at all, he, E. Honecker, wanted to state that its prevention in the interest of humankind is not only necessary but also possible. He defined as the most important factor the military strength of the Soviet Union and the fire power of their strategic missile forces, as well as of their other armed forces on the ground, in the air, and on sea, and in combination with the armed forces of the states of the Warsaw Treaty. Of great importance are the struggle for the resolution of Middle East issues along the lines of the 6-point proposal by L. Brezhnev and the Summit Conference of the Arab states in Fez, the stabilization of the situation in the Caribbean through pushing back against the aggressive course of the United States, as well as the rejection of the imperialist machinations in the Latin American region; as well as on the other hand the advance of the national liberation movements in the South of Africa, and the stabilization of such countries as Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and of the liberation movements of SWAPO and ANC. In the long run, the 2 million Whites of South Africa will not be able to maintain their rule over 22 million Africans. In the Caribbean region improved fighting conditions have emerged through the anti-imperialist solidarity for Cuba, Nicaragua, Grenada, and other countries; not the least by the response of such Latin American countries as Mexico to the current policy of the Reagan Administration.

In light of the fact that in Europe the two strongest military blocs, Warsaw Pact and NATO, are facing each other, there does indeed exist the chance not only to prevent a third World War, but also to reach agreements over the limitation and reduction of armaments. A certain importance has to be attributed here to the fact that in the United States themselves resistance against the domestic and foreign policy of the Reagan Administration is growing. E. Honecker referred to statements by well-known personalities of the United States like [Edward] Kennedy and [Walter] Mondale, by four former Secretaries of State, two Secretaries of Defense, among them [Robert] McNamara and [James] Schlesinger, the former head of the nuclear commission of the United States, [Paul] Warnke, and many others. They are advocating for the United States to restore a decent relationship with the Soviet Union and for a freeze of nuclear arms at the current level.

The GDR is aware that the defending of the results of detente and its positive impacts on the world is to major extent depending on the position of the FRG [West Germany]. Through the change of government in Bonn the situation in Europe may be impacted negatively. The GDR does not intend to fall into the trap of provocations by the new government. It is prepared to respond in kind to aggressive noise by the new government vis-a-vis the GDR.

Without doubt, the [Helmet] Kohl government supported by the CDU/CSU and the FDP will focus its efforts in domestic as well as in foreign policy on rightist development in the FRG. Those parties have always been more in favor of an Atlanticist than an European policy. Apparently the new government, which the Chairman of the CSU, [Franz-Josef ] Strauß, has called a transitional administration, is an expression of the fact that the American as well as the West German monopolist capital was no longer certain whether the [replaced] government of [Helmut] Schmidt- [Hans-Dietrich] Genscher would be able to support the arms build-up policy of the United States and to devolve its costs on the working classes.

One cannot overlook that the “austerity program” started already by the Schmidt/Genscher Government, which undertook already major cuts in social welfare, will be addressed still more comprehensively by the current government. This way the deficit in the state budget, caused by the economic crisis and arms race policy, is supposed to be balanced by cuts of social benefits. Without doubts, such a policy will be met with the resistance of the trade unions and wide segments of the people’s masses affected by such policies, especially the over 2 million unemployed in the FRG.

E. Honecker explained the impacts on individual areas of social policy, for instance the interference in the free collective bargaining rights of the trade unions, issues of social security insurance, pensions, sick pay and hospital treatments, wage freezes, rents, transportation, and others. There certainly exists the possibility that the Kohl/Genscher Government as the representative of the ruling circles of the Federal Republic will hedge a bit until the Federal Bundestag Elections on 6 March 1983, where so far they [Kohl/Genscher] look as sure winners. After that, they will then move with full force towards cuts of the social policy budget to the benefit of armaments policy and profits.

Here E. Honecker referred to the grave issue endangering world peace, namely that also the current government of the FRG, despite all protests by the people’s masses, is eager to comply with the pressure from the Reagan Administration to deploy new U.S. nuclear missiles of intermediate range and Cruise Missiles in Western Europe. Such a development of the Federal Republic is of course proceeding very contradictorily, and the outcome of the ensuing conflicts is still somewhat open. One must not overlook here that also leading personalities of the Social Democrats, like Schmidt, are so far still advocating for the Brussels missile decision [translator’s note: the NATO Double-Track Decision of 12 December 1979]. All this is contributing towards an aggravation of the international situation. It is coming with high challenges to the Soviet Union and the states of the Warsaw Treaty pertaining to the combat readiness of their armed forces.

H. al-Assad said he does concur with E. Honecker that everything has to be done to prevent a new world war. We know that war is launched always by one side, while peace needs to be agreed and secured by partners and by various sides. We should think about how we can find a new tactic in order to conduct the struggle against the United States with more success.

During our previous talks an important aspect had already been highlighted, namely that this is about to win over the global public. Without doubt this is of great importance, especially for the struggle in Western Europe and in the capitalist countries, where this course has already yielded certain success. However, this is not the only element to prevent a war.

The fundamental factor is the military balance. It can be a safe obstacle against the outbreak of a war. This is why our enemies are always striving for gaining military superiority. They want to create conditions for implementing their demands and, as a result, for creating a new situation.

The military balance is consisting of two sides: a general balance on the international level and a regional balance. Both sides are corresponding to each other and are complementary. A deficit in the regional balance is the same as dangerous as a deficit in the general military balance. 

Imperialism does not necessarily have to launch the big war. It can conduct it in stages and thus establish its rule over certain areas. Such a situation you can find in the Middle East. Here Israel is the strong arm of imperialism. In Africa it is South Africa, it Asia is was back then South Vietnam, respectively today it is South Korea, on which imperialism is based. In Latin America as well, important agents are working for imperialism. In Western Europe, it is the entire Western European camp working for imperialism.

The situation in the Middle East is demonstrating that over the course of 10 years imperialism has achieved certain successes in the region, H. al-Assad continued. Such was possible because it [imperialism] was able to create the military conditions in this regard. In this context, the role of Egypt must not be overlooked. [Anwar al-]Sadat would not have visited Jerusalem [on 19 November 1977.], if he would not have been afraid of Israel’s military strength. In addition, there are further puppets of imperialism in the Middle East. After Sadat's visit to Israel the conditions for those forces have changed. They are able to pursue their actual objectives more covertly.

The issue of the military balance of forces is also becoming evident in demands by the United States as represented by [Caspar] Weinberger. He had recently stated again that, if the Soviet Union will not change its policy towards Afghanistan or Poland, then the United States will strive for changes in the USSR. The United States are camouflaging this aggressive concept with the terminology of human rights. From our perspective, H. al-Assad explained, human rights are not a simple wording, but it as a term with varied content that has political, economic, and military meaning.

Our trust of the Soviet Union is absolute, H. al-Assad reiterated. We have friendly relations with the Soviet Union that become more solid from day to day. We are aware that the Soviet Union does always remain an important base for the struggle of the peoples against imperialism.

If we are analyzing the events in Lebanon today, we are coming to the conclusion that the morale of our enemies has been strengthened by this. The agents of imperialism are in a position to issue statements that correspond to the desires of the United States. Their voices have become louder.

This was also evident at the conference of the Arab heads of states in Fez. At this conference, the demand was addressed to Syria to join the path of the United States and do nothing that is directed against the plans of Reagan. We have rejected this demand and will also in the future always express our conviction on this issue, H. al-Assad said. There had been fierce discussions in Fez. We have attempted to maintain objectivity, and in the end decisions were reached that are not directed against our positions. However, we have to state in full frankness that we were in a minority in Fez.

The central issue of the struggle, in the past as well as in the future, H. al-Assad explained, will be the question how to continue the fight against the Israeli aggression in Lebanon. Israel’s rulers are not the only ones who are delighted over the results of this aggression. The fight was very difficult. Though due to the armament and the technology of Israel there also existed a superiority in ground forces, the resistance against the Israeli aggression has grown. Here the Syrian forces had played a special role. Israel could not achieve its strategic objectives vis-a-vis the Syrian troops.

The situation of the Syrian Army in Lebanon was so difficult because it had to fulfill special tasks. On one hand, it was supposed to exercise police functions without being a police force. On the other hand, it was supposed to exercise defense functions without being equipped and deployed as a regular army. The Syrian troops were not prepared for defensive tasks. The Israeli forces were also technologically superior, in some areas they even enjoyed dominance. The performance of the Syrian Army became further complicated by the fact that there did not exist an orderly situation in Lebanon, H. al-Assad continued. Western Beirut was already encircled before the Israeli Army intervened. There was a lot of talk about an alleged joint leadership for the various progressive military forces active in Lebanon. However, the reality was different.

We had to deal with this kind of situation. There were friendly relations with the various Arab forces in Lebanon. However, there were hardly any joint actions in reality. The Israelis sensed and exploited that. They also realized, though, that with the Syrian Army they had an adversary knowing what to fight for. As a result of the war, elements of Israeli superiority could be mitigated. Where fights occurred, the enemies were not able to gain strategic victories. Beirut was the only place where fighting occurred.

Our brothers, H. al-Assad said, had conducted the political struggle in Beirut alone. At best, we provided support in order to establish political contacts. First, we made it unequivocally clear that we will not allow to bring fighters from Beirut to Syria. We were interested in supporting unity and to make it clear to the United States that the Palestinians have no place where they can go to. [Philip] Habib had repeatedly asked for Syria to admit Palestinians [to Syria]. There even was a personal, hand-written letter from Reagan, where he asked for Syria to make its contribution towards security in Lebanon by admitting the Palestinians. I did reject this request.

With those actions, H. al-Assad continued, it became evident that the United States as well as Israel were acknowledging that Syria had carried the main burden in this fight. First they were eager to destroy the Syrian Army. When this did not succeed, they attempted to induce the Syrian Army by most varied means to withdraw from Beirut. Among else, there was an Israeli leaflet where the Supreme Commander of the Israeli forces addressed the Supreme Commander of the Syrian forces and even praised the fighting of the Syrians and their courage. In this leaflet the Syrian forces were urged to leave Lebanon. This as well was rejected by Syria.

The then Lebanese President [Elias Sarkis] had also addressed Syria with a message. Out of concern for Beirut and to prevent further destruction, he asked to deploy the Syrian forces at a different location. We knew that this message had occurred after instruction from Habib. We replied to this message that we are cognizant that the Lebanese President has certain authority over the Syrian forces in Lebanon, but not in this form. If Israel is encircling Beirut, we have to jointly counter this action and prevent it. Only after such we would follow the order by the Lebanese President. In the end we remained in Beirut.

After the ‘agreement’ with the United States, the Lebanese President again turned towards Syria. At that point we agreed to a relocation of the Syrian forces.

We had been uninformed about the negotiations between the Palestinians in Beirut until after they were concluded, H. al-Assad stated. There was no coordination between them and us on this issue. We knew about the things unofficially, for instance we got informed by certain organizations friendly with us.

In order to make a contribution towards a resolution of the conflict, I traveled to Saudi-Arabia. My objective was to explore a joint position for the Arab cause. I had drafted some proposals without harboring major hopes that I will return with results. At the beginning of the negotiations, Saudi-Arabia submitted the points to us that had led to negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. A day later I was informed in Saudi-Arabia that an agreement had been reached on these points. We returned from Saudi-Arabia without any respective results. Still at this point, we had made it clear that even though Damascus is the seat of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], the Palestinian fighters are supposed to remain in Beirut.

After returning to Damascus, we received a letter from Arafat where he asked us to admit 2,600 Palestinian fighters. In a parallel move, a request reached us from progressive Palestinian organizations asking us for the same thing. As a result, after thorough deliberations we accepted this request since a new situation had emerged.

Parallel to our fights against the technologically, especially electronically, superior Israel Army, we had begun to hold negotiations. They were aimed at reaching a ceasefire. For that purpose, on 9 June Habib came to Damascus and asked me to receive him. This was the day when the fighting of the Israelis against the Syrian Army had reached its peak. The Syrian units were fired at with missiles. There was air combat to major extent. Both sides deployed about 150 aircraft. Our missiles had been totally eliminated. We suffered big losses of aircraft.

Habib received an appointment for a meeting the same evening. He proposed to agree on a ceasefire coming into effect on 10 June at 6:00 Hours. He made clear that it is not necessary for Syria to issue demands, and he submitted the Israeli demand that the Palestinians should withdraw from Lebanon. This was rejected by me. Syrian is not discussing an Israeli proposal, in particular as it is concerning the situation in another country. Habib then dropped the demand but insisted on agreeing on a ceasefire.

We demanded the complete withdrawal by Israel from Lebanon. This issue led to intense discussions between me and Habib. After about 3 hours, Habib asked for another meeting. I received him again at 11:00 in the evening. Habib handed me a letter from Reagan, where it was proposed to agree on a ceasefire and that the Israeli forces would withdraw. This meant that our demands were met. Then I demanded in addition that the withdrawal of the Israeli forces should begin immediately after the ceasefire. The United States were interested in delaying such, respectively in guaranteeing Israel the so-called 40-Kilometer security zone.

Habib stated that the new Syrian demand cannot be accepted right away. Furthermore, this would be impractical in the shortness of time. He left without us reaching an agreement.

On 10 June Habib communicated around 5:30 hours in the morning with the [Syrian] Foreign Ministry and informed that the Israeli cabinet is currently meeting. Therefore the question of a beginning of the ceasefire at 6:00 hours was still unclear. The fighting continued at 6:00 hours. At 10 June in the evening another meeting was held with Habib. He suggested to me a so-called interim solution on the issue in dispute. He proposed to find a wording, where it is expressed that the [Israeli] withdrawal will occur without stating its endpoint. I agreed with that. Habib flew to Israel via Cyprus. Then in Israel the decision regarding a ceasefire was announced. We issued an according statement.

In this final phase before the ceasefire Israel had attempted to block the road connection between Beirut and Damascus. However, this did not succeed.

H. al-Assad noted that the United States as well as Israel had not fulfilled the commitments they had agreed on. After that, there had been many fights ongoing. To the question why the fighting is continuing, Syria always received the response ‘because the Palestinians had opened the fire’.

This was about all in all the situation from our perspective, as it had emerged in those days when the Israeli bombing of Beirut had reached its peak (on about the 4th of June), H. al-Assad said.

Recently we told Habib hat Syria is sticking with the agreements based in principle on Reagan’s letter to me. Regarding the issue of a withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, we had explained to Habib that an agreement with Lebanon is possible instantly. For that Syria does not need the United States. The U.S. are making efforts in this regard in order to sow discord between Lebanon and Syria. If the United States are interested in the unity of Lebanon and its independence, it would be necessary to work towards calm in Lebanon and to further good relations between Lebanon and Syria. We have made it repeatedly clear to Habib that Syria was called into Lebanon, on the one hand by Lebanon itself and on the other following a decision by the Arab League. There is no state of war between Lebanon and Syria.

However, let us return to our actual subject, namely the issue of the military balance of forces. If there would not have been a strategic superiority of Israel, all this would not have been possible. The United States do now know that we are defending our interests. However, we could do this better, if we would be in a more favorable strategic position. Israel emerged from the war with weakened morale; the same did others who were initially on Israel’s side. This course by Israel and the United States is not bedded on roses. If the military balance has shifted in our favor, then also the Arabs will be on our side. The past has proven that repeatedly.

A decoupling of the regional balance from the overall military balance in the world is only theoretically possible, H. al-Assad noted. Syria does completely agree with the proposals by L. Brezhnev. They are corresponding to the position the Soviet Union has held for a long time. This position is also in accordance with the demand for a [international] conference, a thought Syria has agreed with.

At the same time, Syria has to be militarily strong. This means it needs armaments that are superior to the U.S. arms with which the Israeli Army is equipped. Certainly, he [H. al-Assad] stated, the T-72 tank has proven itself as far it was used. However, there is a long list of very recent insights making it necessary to talk with the USSR; since Syria does need an equipment with arms enabling the proven Syrian fighters to thwart Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East, which gets expanded by the United States. 

In the context of his statements pertaining to the combat strength of the Syrian Armed Forces he mentioned his meeting with members of the U.S. House of Representatives.[3] He had told them that the United States are based on false assumptions, if they think that the Israeli aggression has provided evidence for the superiority of American arms over Soviet weapons. During the course of the military battles it was demonstrated that one cannot talk about a superiority of the Israeli Army because of the excellent training of the Syrian soldiers. The advance of the Israel Army was possible there, where they only faced the militias equipped with weaker weapons.

Originally the Syrian units in Lebanon had no combat but just security assignments, this is basically police functions. Only when the Israeli units advanced further, there was a deployment of 3 Syrian divisions with heavy tank equipment. The T-72 tanks deployed at the last minute did prove the superiority of the Soviet over the Israeli tanks. In contrast to all propaganda in the United States, not one single Soviet tank fell into Israeli hands. Only 3 tanks of the T-72 type failed due to malfunctions. 

Furthermore, the U.S. should take into account that Syria is equipped with good Soviet tanks, aircraft, and missiles. However, these are not yet the newest and best types such as the Soviet Armed Forces are equipped with. From the course of military combat in the Middle East so far, one cannot derive a superiority of the Israeli armed forces over the Syrian ones, and even less so a superiority of the American weapons over the Soviet ones - with the exception of one anti-tank gun of the United States, which the Israelis used at the end of the fighting intermittently.

In responding to the statements of H. al-Assad, E. Honecker indicated that without doubt the Israeli aggression has resulted in a military success of Israel; as well as in a certain weakening of the PLO. However, thanks to the heroic fight of the United Forces of the PLO and the national-patriotic forces of Lebanon, Israel has gained only temporary success and was unable to implement its strategic objectives.

In assessing this issue, one must not omit that Israel’s aggression went to such lengths because the Arab countries did not unite their forces in order to halt the Israeli advance and smash its forces. This has left the world with the impression of the superiority of Israeli over Arab armed forces, which obviously does not exist.

In this context, E. Honecker drew attention to the fact that is obviously important to master the excellent Soviet weapons. He was able to convince himself of the combat readiness of the Syrian Armed Forces, but the training with modern technology is the decisive factor for using it effectively.

E. Honecker emphasized the need to continue the struggle against Israel on the political and, if necessary, also on the military field. The Six-Point-Proposal by L. Brezhnev as well as the action program agreed by the Arab countries in Fez - both of which are essentially in accordance - are a good foundation for further struggle. One cannot view the Middle East conflict independently from the need for securing the peace in Europe and other parts in the world, because behind everything are standing the most aggressive circles of the United States.

In this context E. Honecker addressed the thoughts expressed by H. al-Assad on the international situation, the securing of peace, and the Middle East conflict. It is correct that the military balance, as explained by H. al-Assad, has two sides: the overall military balance between the Soviet Union and the United States as well as the regional [balance] in the Middle East between Israel and Syria and the other Arab states. However, one must not overlook that the approximate military balance in the world does exist due to the military strength of the Soviet Union and its allies. It has its positive impacts not only in Europe, but also in such regions as the Caribbean, South Africa, and the Middle East. Without the existence and the strength of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism would certainly be in a position to steamroll over the national liberation movement in individual regions. Since this is not possible thanks to the strength of the socialist community, especially of the Soviet Union, the chances are improving for anti-imperialist struggle and the national liberation movement in individual regions to change the situation to their favor.

The establishment of the military balance in the region of the Middle East is primarily a question of unity among the Arab states and their unified action. Without any doubt, Syrian has performed bravely in its confrontation with Israel. The same is true for the PLO and its allied national-patriotic forces in Lebanon. Explicitly he, E. Honecker, had also stated that Syria is the symbol of resistance against Israel and that both Israel and the United States have not achieved the strategic objectives of their aggression. This is to the special credit of the Arab armed forces, among them the Syrian ones.

In his meeting with L. Brezhnev in Crimea[4] where, as is well known, also the Comrades [Andrei] Gromykoand [Konstantin] Chernenko had participated, the bravery of the Arab armed forces was praised and simultaneously - as expressed in the communique- the full solidarity with Syria and the PLO under the leadership of Y. Arafat stated.

Without overestimating the strength of the United Starts he, E. Honecker, wanted to express his concerns over the efforts by the United States to increase their military presence in the Middle East and to include the Arab states in their course of confrontation. Like other NATO states, the FRG is also actively supporting these efforts through respective measures. The participation of France, Great Britain, Italy, and the Netherlands in the so-called multi-national Sinai forces does actually signify the expansion of NATO into the Middle East. On the other hand, contradictions between Western Europe, Japan, and the United States are continuing to remain.

The Israeli aggression in Lebanon is the attempt of imperialism to create the conditions for the continuation of the Camp David policy by military means. It is a result of Israel’s aggressive policy of expansion favored by the course of confrontation by the imperialist states. There is no doubt: If the United States would succeed to subjugate the Middle East under their strategy, this would have great impact on the balance in the world. The United States are interested in Arab oil. President Carter already had threatened an intervention force without even asking the Arabs whether they would be at all willing to support such. Certainly it is no coincidence that Arab countries agreed with the Israeli attack. Here you can see the interdependence between oil and imperialism.

Major importance is residing with the increase of Syria’s military readiness. It is no secret that the USSR has declared its willingness to support Syria also with modern armaments. This way the Syrian Armed Forces will be able to successfully parry the Israeli advances. It is important to use the respite for the military strengthening of the Syrian Army. Through strengthening the progressive forces in the region, it is possible to decide and solve the questions in the Middle and Near East.

The GDR is demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli aggressor from Lebanon. In the future as well, the GDR will support with solidarity the Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese people, the PLO, and all forces confronting the Israeli policy of aggression.

In light of the current situation, the unity and cohesion of the Arab states and all progressive forces are of particular importance. With attentiveness and sympathy, the GDR is monitoring all activities directed towards this goal.

It is supporting the six principles of L. Brezhnev for the resolution of the Middle East problem, which were propagated at an extraordinary important moment - after the aggression of Israel in Lebanon and the 12th Arab Summit Conference in Fez. The GDR did welcome the results of this summit conference, and it is aware what crucial impact especially Syria had for the decisions of Fez being directed against Reagan’s plans. It is of great importance that the decisions of Fez do not differ from what the USSR, the GDR, and other socialist states have advocated for many years.

We deeply regret the still not terminated conflict between Iraq and Iran. It is diverting the attention of the peoples in the Middle and Near East from their true enemies, especially the United States and Israel, and it is ultimately only benefiting imperialism. From our side it has been communicated many times to the leaders of Iran and Iraq that the GDR is urgently deeming it necessary to immediately end the fighting and to resolve the issues in dispute peacefully.  

The military presence of the United States and the expansion of their network of bases are assuming ever more dangerous dimensions, E. Honecker continued. The GDR is advocating for a transformation of the Indian Ocean towards a zone of peace and for implementation of the according U.N. decision. It is wholeheartedly supporting the proposals of the USSR for the security of the Gulf Region.

We are in support of the peoples of Southeast Asia resolving their problems without external interference and on the basis of peaceful coexistence and the principles of good neighborliness. Therefore the GDR is supporting the proposals by the SRV [Socialist Republic of Vietnam], the VDRL [People’s Democratic Republic of Laos], and the VRK [People’s Republic of Kampuchea] to transform the region into a zone of peace, stability, and cooperation.

Firmly the GDR is condemning the ongoing imperialist interference in the internal matters of Afghanistan. It does support the constructive proposals by the government of the DRA [Democratic Republic of Afghanistan] to establish normal relations with its neighboring states.

The GDR is attributing great importance to the Non-Aligned Movement in the struggle for peace. We are welcoming the active participation of Syria in this movement. Through coordinated action of all progressive and anti-imperialist states, there does exist an important precondition for the movement to be able to fulfill its role in the interest of peace and the independent development of the peoples, in the rejection of the splitting attempts of imperialism, and in the preservation and strengthening of the basic anti-imperialist orientation also in the future. This is of extraordinary importance in light of the forthcoming 7th Summit Conference [to be held 7 to 12 March 1983 in New Delhi in India].

We are noticing with delight a continuous and dynamic further development of our relations on the basis of the “Joint Declaration about the Friendship and Cooperation between the GDR and the SAR [Syrian Arab Republic]” agreed in 1978, E. Honecker explained. Since our last meetings many new pages have been opened up in the book of our relations. For instance, he is thinking here about the close cooperation between the parties, numerous social organizations as well as about the direct relations between the National Fronts.

The GDR is attributing great importance to the deepening of relations. Special attention does deserve in this regard the mutually beneficial economic cooperation, which in previous years has developed continuously and dynamically. Through the delivery of facilities and equipments, the delegating of experts and the training of Syrian cadres, the GDR has supported and is supporting the friendly Syrian Arab Republic with the industrialization and economic strengthening of the country.

The GDR is willing to steadily continue with the economic and industrial cooperation for mutual benefit in various areas, like for instance in the cement industry, rural electrification, transportation and communication, as well as in agriculture. For that purpose the GDR does propose to sign a “Program for the Further Development of Economic, Industrial, and Scientific-Technological Cooperation until 1990”.

The relations between the SED and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party are supposed to be deepened also in the future. The main focus should remain on the exchange of opinions and experiences on international as well as on national issues. We are proposing to sign a new agreement between both our parties.

He is very satisfied, E. Honecker said, about this exchange of opinions [with H. al-Assad]. It was both rich in content and useful. He is considering it as especially valuable that there exist congruent positions on important issues of global policy, as well as pertaining to the development of bilateral relations. Those are expressed in the Joint Communique. He does agree with its text.

He is certain that the trusting and frank conversation, and the results of the visit, will provide a strong impulse to the development of relations between our parties, peoples, and states. E. Honecker invited H. al-Assad to an official visit to the German Democratic Republic.


[1] Translator’s note: “Imperialism” is basically a GDR code for “the West”.

[2] Translator’s note: the bilateral Negotiations on limitations of intermediate nuclear forces between the Soviet Union and the United States.

[3] Translator’s note: a meeting on 25 July 1982 with an U.S. congressional delegation led by Representative Nick Joe Rahall 2d, Democrat of West Virginia, and five other members of the House of Representatives.

[4] Translator’s note: a meeting between Honecker and Brezhnev in early August 1982.

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SAPMO-BA, J IV 2/201/1446. Translated by Bernd Schaefer


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