July 18, 1993

Born in Baniyas, Syria, in 1932, Abdul Halim Khaddam was one of the few Sunni Muslims to make it to the top of the Alawite-dominated Syrian leadership. He served as Syria’s Foreign Minister in the 1973-1974 period and then became Vice President of Syria. In 1973, Syria and Egypt were close allies, but Sadat slowly, from the Syrian viewpoint abandoned its commitments to the Arab world in favor of a peace deal with Israel and a closer alliance with Washington. In this interview, Khaddam provides intimate details of Syria’s keen disappointment in the context of this sea-change in Egyptian diplomatic policy, and more pronounced and hurtful to Syria, Egyptian acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy.  

Khaddam tells us that the Syrian leadership suspected that Egypt sought a bilateral peace with Israel as early as the weeks before the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Khaddam does not inform us of how that belief evolved with Syrian President Assad. For Syria, the outcome of the war was a disaster. The Egypt-Israel ceasefire, signed on October 25, exposed Assad’s army to military defeat and assured that Israel seized even more territory in the Golan Heights. In so doing, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat violated a pre-war agreement, certified by both him and President Assad, that Egypt and Syria would “not stop the military operation until (they) came to a common decision.” 

Khaddam explains how Kissinger after a four-hour meeting with Assad was stunned to realize, contrary to what Kissinger believed from his meeting with the Syrian President, that Syria would  not be participating in the December 1973 Geneva Middle East Peace Conference. (The minutes of that December 15, 1973 meeting may be found here.)

In Khaddam’s eyes, Sadat’s wartime diplomacy constituted an act of “treason,” as well as a perturbing harbinger of bad events to come with the frequency of Egyptian-Israeli contacts and then creeping Egyptian closeness to the Washington. After the October War, Sadat went on to sign not only two military disengagement agreements with the Jewish state, but a full-fledged peace treaty in 1979. President Assad’s meeting with President Nixon just prior to Nixon’s August 1974 resignation from office,  Khaddam recounts how Jimmy Carter met with Assad in May 1977, and that we – the Syrians insisted on a unified Arab delegation to any peace conference. Syria, he said, was deeply concerned that Sadat would act unilaterally with Israel. And as we learned from Sadat’s close adviser, Tahsin Bashir, one of Sadat’s major reasons for not wanting to attend an international Middle East conference was his long fear that Assad would limit Egyptian negotiating options. By September-October 1977, Sadat and Israel had secret contacts where Sadat understood that Begin would negotiate directly with Egypt about the future of Israeli held, Egyptian Sinai. Khaddam confirms that Syria feared that Egypt would act unilaterally. And it did. Sadat went to Jerusalem in November 1977.   The Camp David Accords, negotiated in September 1978 by Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin, laid the foundation for Israel’s full withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, but did nothing to move Israel from the West Bank or from the Golan Heights. “The outgoing of Egypt created for us a lot of bitterness and worry; Egypt is not like any other Arab country.” Sadat shocked the Syrians by going his separate path,” Khaddam said.

 In 1979, Syria voted with other Arab states to expel Egypt from the Arab League, and Syrian Israeli negotiations twenty years later during the Clinton administration did not result in any agreement between the two countries, remaining in a war state of affairs for the next quarter century at least.    

Ken Stein, May 24, 2024

Ken Stein Interview with Vice President of Syria Abdul Halim Khaddam, July 18, 1993

KWS: I have written now 550 pages. And it is basically a history of American involvement in the peace process, from basically ’73 to ’78. I’ve interviewed 70 people and this gives you a list of the people already with whom I have spoken. Most of the Americans: Quandt, Atherton, Sisco and Saunders, people that you know. The Egyptians: Ashraf Ghorbal, Hafez Ismail, Tahsin Bashir, Mustafa Halil, Ismat Abdul Meguid, Usamah el-Baz. In Israel, a dozen people who

have participated and it’s the first effort I think anyone’s done to try and include everyone’s point of view. No, please keep that. So may I begin? Thank you. You first met Henry Kissinger at

the Foreign Minister’s luncheon in New York just prior to the ’73 War. Is that correct?

AK: No, I met him after the 1973 War.

KWS: After the ’73 War, but not in New York at the Foreign Minister’s luncheon that he gave about the 25th or 26th of September. He gave a speech there in which he said we’re going to postpone negotiations until next year. We have to wait until after the Israeli elections.

AK: Yes.

KWS: Okay, so the first time you met him was when he came here on December 15th?

AK: Yes, I met him at the General Assembly meeting, but casually. But the serious meeting that we had together was after the October War.

KWS: After the October War, but before he came to Damascus. He was here in Damascus. So he came here to work on the invitation for the Geneva conference?

AK: The beginning of December 1973.

KWS: Yes. During the war itself, did you have any contact with Kissinger at all?

AK: Actually, I left New York on the 5th of October. According to The New York Times, he tried to contact me but I was already on my plane. And he met my deputy, which I left at that time in

New York. He was Dr. Muhammed.

KWS: Okay. Until the ceasefire, the ceasefire was the 22nd of October, Resolution 338… Until the ceasefire, was there any contact between Kissinger and the Foreign Ministry here? Do you

recall? The Americans tell me there was no contact at all. Quandt said there was no contact. Bill said the only contact that they had was on the second day of the war, when Sadat contacted them

through the CIA back channel.

AK: But we had no relations in such context. And we never knew about them.

KWS: Right, that’s what we understand, that you did not know about it at all. General Gamasy, when I interviewed him, told me the plans which they drew up for the war were different than what you thought the Egyptians plans were for the war.

AK: Yes there was an agreement between the united army of commanders for the two armies and it was really certified by the two presidents of the country. And this agreement has been really

implemented by Syria but not on the side of Egypt. 

KWS: Egypt had said to Syria that it was going to go to an all-out war and take back all of Sinai, but it stopped at 10 kilometers. 

AK: Yes. The agreement on the war was that we should continue all out whatever the difficulties might be in order to obtain our objectives in liberating the Sinai and the Golan. And it was supposed that this army would arrive through straits of the sea there but this had not really been achieved. The Syrian forces had advanced, according to the plan, and the Egyptian forces really passed the canal and then stopped. Therefore, that what General Gammasy said and what Sadat had done differed from what had been agreed upon really was true.

KWS: O.K. He said it to me in person and he also said it in his memoirs. O.K.. I’m merely trying to confirm what the perception was before the war. And what actually happened. Comparing the two. Mahmoud Riad wrote, and so did General Shazali, that Egypt gave Syria intentionally wrong information during the war. Is that correct?

AK: What is wrong was he diverged from what had been planned. The second point, yes when there was really a breakthrough in the area…

KWS: The breakthrough (from the Suez Canal into central Sinai which did not occcur)

AK: Breakthrough.

KWS: Yes.

AK: We have really been given incorrect information. And we have known really that not all the information that had come over was complying with what really happened. And this really caused us a lot of harm.

KWS: Did you know anything about what Sadat and Kissinger were talking about before the Arab summit meeting in Algiers in November?

AK: The summit was really during the war. I couldn’t recall now the exact time. But the two persons met in Kuwait. And after then there was another meeting before the Arab summit in

Algeria. But there was a contact really going on all the time.

KWS: But in Kuwait and at the summit President Assad said to Sadat: “I’m very cautious, I’m very aware, I’m very afraid that you may be going a separate way.” Is that correct?

AK: Yes, that was correct. We had a plan for this war together. And he said to him that we have agreed not to stop the military operation unless we come to a common decision. And after we obtain the objectives that we have planned for whatever the time might take. So you have surprised us to seclude this plan and it was a surprise to us. Without making an agreement with us. That was really a concern to us because you had started your contacts in order to put an end to the problem between Egypt and Israel. At that time, Sadat denied that he had anything of this intention. And he said that he preferred to achieve the withdrawal on all fronts and that he never had in his mind a unilateral solution. But really a few days passed to prove that these words were not true.

KWS: What did you feel as Foreign Minister and what did President Assad feel at that point knowing that the person that you had gone to war with was now beginning to enter into separate negotiations with Kissinger while the Israelis are 40 kilometers from Damascus? What went through your head at that moment? What was the feeling? What was the emotion?

AK: We felt bitterness and were afraid. And we have considered that this kind of action is just treason. Sadat tried to contact us after he met Kissinger, after the ceasefire. He sent us a letter, the conclusion of which that he is trying to attain withdrawal from the 2 fronts and there will be a disengagement of agreement. And that Kissinger had agreed upon this. And our ideas that concerned the withdrawal or by disengagement or the formula for the peace conference. Therefore, when Kissinger came over here, we listened to him and he had long discussions with the president. And through discussions we came to a conclusion that the information that has been given to us by Sadat was incorrect. Therefore, even before the end of the sessions, just 5 minutes in, Kissinger believed that Syria was going to agree on the Geneva conference. But

he was surprised when His Excellency, the President, said to him that this question is not of our concern. And he said to him that Sadat gave us information for such and such conference. Kissinger confirmed that what Sadat had said was incorrect and therefore, according to this, we will not go to the Geneva conference at that time.

KWS: I spoke to Zaid Rafai and this is how he received the information from Kissinger about the story as Kissinger was leaving President Assad’s office. Now this is Zaid Rafai telling me. Now I will give it to you and please correct it since you were there and he wasn’t. Kissinger left and was given an open invitation by Assad to return as an honored guest. Assad smiled and said he agreed with the letter of invitation. Kissinger breathed a sigh of relief and beamed. He turned to Sisco and smiled. The American delegation just had not expected a quick, affirmative reply. Assad went with Kissinger to the car, passed all the Syrian officials who had lined up to greet the Secretary, and he reached Mr. Khaddam and Kissinger said to the Syrian Foreign Minister: “I’ll see you in Geneva.” And Assad said: “What Geneva?” Kissinger replied: “The conference in Geneva.” To which Assad replied: “You are certainly not going to see my Foreign Minister there.” “What do you mean, Mr. President?” replied Kissinger. Assad responded: “We have no intention of accepting the invitation or going to Geneva.” Kissinger replied: “But Mr. President, you’ve just accepted all amendments to the text.” Assad said, “yes, I accept these and any other amendments which you like because I refuse the whole invitation. So you can amend it any way you like now. It doesn’t concern me. You can put the wording any way you like, we will not go.'” Now tell me how much of that is accurate.

AK: Yes, that was true but this was not near the car. When the course of the discussion was over…

KWS: Excuse me, as I read it, I could see your face smile remembering the moment.

AK: I said to you that before the discussion was over, a minute before the discussion was over, Kissinger discovered that we are not going to Geneva.

KWS: Ah, so it was not at the car.

AK: No, no. His Excellency the President does not… this was in the office of the President. And Kissinger at that time, before the end of the session, he discovered that Syria was not going to participate. And I did not mention this in the tape because Kissinger mentioned this in his memoirs.

KWS: But not this way.

AK: The same spirit.

KWS: The same spirit. Patrick Seale, when he wrote his biography of Assad, said the President believed that no one would go to Geneva if Syria didn’t go. Is that true?

AK: No, we knew at that time that Egypt will go and that Jordan will go.

KWS: Did you try and persuade Jordan not to go?

AK: No, but we knew that Jordan has taken the position to participate. At that time, Jordan tried to convince us to come over at a later time, but our status was decisive.

KWS: In May of 1980, President Assad gave an interview in which he made mention of why he did not go to Geneva. He spoke about all the reasons which you gave, but he also indicated in that interview, I think it was on Damascus television or radio, he said: “The pace of negotiations was too quick. It wasn’t the way we wanted it and we weren’t going to get anything out of Geneva, so why should we go?” And then he added “We had agreed, Sadat and me, Egypt and Syria, that if we went to war together, we would go to negotiations together.” 

AK: Yes, for the reasons of our not going our President said that Egypt at that time could not abide itself to the war as it was planned and not to the political action as has been planned,

according to the meeting in Kuwait. And the two presidents… we knew that Sadat had agreed with Kissinger on an interim withdrawal, which was called at that time a disengagement on both

points. But in this situation, it was before the Geneva conference. Therefore we were surprised, when Kissinger visited us, that this information was not correct and therefore it was quite natural to take our position.

KWS: Understood. I don’t think anyone has ever said that in the history of the October War, because the history has always been written from the Egyptian-American point of view. That’s what’s there. And this is very refreshing to hear. Was it a Syrian objective in the war of 1973 to go to war and then go to diplomacy like Sadat? 

AK: The agreement between the two countries to wage the war in order to obtain peace. It means to liberate the land which forms the basic element for peace. And therefore that…when Sadat really conceded that this disagreement was acting in a malfunctional way, all the circumstances have changed. If I understand your question, the objective of the war was not really to move the political activity but was in the first place was to liberate the land and to open the way for the political action in order to obtain peace. We have realized after that that Sadat’s objective was to move the problem in order to obtain what he has already obtained.

KWS: But your common goal was to use diplomacy to rid Israel from all of the Golan. Is that correct? And for Egypt to rid Israel from all of Sinai, via diplomacy. In other words, before you went to the war, you knew the war would end somehow, what did you want to have happen after the war?

AK: We had already agreed upon that we were not going to stop the war before obtaining liberation of the land.

KWS: All of the land.

AK: All the land, the Syrians and the Egyptians whether militarily or through the security council. That was the agreement. Sadat entered the war and from the first day of the war, he stopped. And then the arrangement had been arranged. And therefore this war, according to Sadat, was called a moving war. While to Syria, it was a liberating war, however. So it was quite natural that if we were able to execute or implement the military plan in order to liberate Sinai and Golan. We knew that this was going to be followed by peace negotiations. And whether this would be through the Security Council, which at that time we were concentrating on, or through the international contacts which was really going on between the United States of America and the Soviet Union at that time.

KWS: But you did not expect it to be just the United States.

AK: At that time, you know the Soviet Union was taking a role to the side of the United States. And we all remember Assad and Kissinger met in Damascus more than one time.

KWS: For your information, to confirm what you say, Zaid Rafai, the Foreign Minister of Jordan at the time,  told me that he spoke to Sadat after the October War and hear Sadat say,  “The October War was a war for movement, not a war for liberation.” Almost your exact words. So the confirmation is very good. Immediately after the signing of the first disengagement agreements in January of ’74, Sadat came and traveled around the Middle East. He tried to tell people again that “This is not a separate agreement.” How did you receive him in Damascus in January when he came like on the 19th or 20th? Do you remember?

AK: We were blaming him and he tried to justify his movements, especially the military policy. But we were not convinced with the logic that he was trying to present to us. And therefore, really, we boycotted the Geneva Conference and then the military operations had been resumed in Quneitra and Hermon. And that was called the War of Attrition.

KWS: Right. Kissinger came here on January 20th. And then he came again on February 22nd. And then the next time he was here was the shuttle, the 33-day shuttle. In February,  Qabbani  went to Washington as did Hikmat Shihabi (former Syrian Army Chief of Staff) also was there. So in the period from January until May, the contacts between Syria and the United States have increased. Both Kissinger coming here and Syrians going there. What did you want from the United States now that you knew you were negotiating alone? What leverage did you have? What was your objective in negotiating the disengagement agreement?

AK: The objective was really to increase the contacts in order to find a guideline for a comprehensive peace settlement in the area. And to attain a disengagement agreement, which was considered to be apart from this comprehensive image. And all the discussion that has taken place between us and the United States was within this favor. Therefore, the disengagement agreement was over 6 months, during which USA would continue its activities in order to put an

end to the second phase and that the withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories. And to attain measures in order to put an end to the state of war.

AK: His Excellency said that we knew that there has been a lot of changes taking place in the United States of America which led to Watergate and to the fall of Nixon. Therefore, our situation changed. And therefore, the commitments that really have been given by Nixon in order to obtain the execution of the two resolutions of the Security Council, 242 and 338, really were not implemented by the new administration. And we believed that the reasons for the fall of Nixon was this commitment to the implementation of these two resolutions. And when he visited us, and there were discussions with His Excellency, the President, Mr. President Assad, insisted on a stark commitment in connection with the withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories. And then Nixon said clearly “The United States of America will never agree to annex any part of the occupied Arab territories.”

KWS: Will not agree to Israel annexing.

AK: No, no. And all the occupied territories should be back to its own legal owners. And we have to push the Israelis backward until we put them in the proper Israel and out of the occupied Arab territories.

KWS: And this was a commitment Nixon made to Assad when he visited here?

AK: And I was present.

KWS: It’s the first I think any American has ever heard of this commitment.

AK: Anyway, Kissinger was here. As I remember and I can’t see now in front of me exactly what was happening in that meeting, and his Excellency President reiterated 5 times, insisting on the

question of the withdrawal. And at that time, the point of view of Nixon was quite clear saying that Israel should withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories. And here Kissinger entered in a gross manner and said to Nixon: “You are an elected President by the people and you will be held responsible.” And after that, Nixon fell down. 

KWS: Yes, because of something that had nothing to do with the Middle East. When Ford came to office, did he commit himself to pursue a comprehensive peace and another Syrian Israeli agreement?

AK: There were written letters and Kissinger brought these letters to show.

KWS: What influence did Syria have over the removal of the oil embargo in 1974? Was it connected to diplomacy at all?

AK: Yes, Syria and Egypt during the October War… they asked the Arab countries to boycott. And the Arab countries really responded to this. And after the stopping of the war and disengagement on the Egyptian front, Sadat and the United States of America tried to put an end to this embargo. And the Arab countries really were positive with us. They stood positively for our side. And there had been an agreement to make contact within these countries and the United States of America. Even the United States tried to make an intensive effort towards the disengagement on the Syrian front. The United States of America, in order to get this commitment, Kissinger really came back to the area and resumed his shuttle trips. And at that time the embargo had been devastating.

KWS: Is it fair to say that the removal of the oil embargo, or the promise to remove the oil embargo, was made on condition that Kissinger achieve a Syrian Israeli agreement. Sisco and Saunders tell me that the Saudis told Kissinger, that “you get an agreement between Syria and Israel and we can begin to remove the oil embargo.” But Kissinger does not admit that in his memoirs.

AK: As I have referred to earlier, there has been an agreement between us and the oil producing Arab countries, and Egypt, to exercise pressure on the United States in order to move for 2

reasons. First of all, for the disengagement of the forces and secondly for the implementation of the Security Council Resolutions 338. And, indeed, the Saudis and the oil producing countries were positive with us. And they have insisted on such a move. And for such a move, the embargo should be lifted.

KWS: Joe Sisco said to me, quote, “Moscow was terribly worried that Henry Kissinger would dislodge the Syrians from Moscow’s orbit.” Did you detect the Soviets being concerned about Henry’s diplomacy?

AK: In the first place, really, we can say that Syria was not really revolving in the Soviet Union orbit.

KWS: What does that mean?

AK: It means that if people say that Syria was moving into the orbit of the Soviet Union at some time, they call it, this is not true. In other words, Syria is not a part of the Soviet bloc. The Soviet Union was a friend to Syria, on the principle of interest you know. There was a mutual sort of interest between us, and sometimes we agree on most of the issues and sometimes we are different. And therefore, nobody can say that Syria was part of this Socialist bloc.

KWS: I understand.

AK: Kissinger really could have in his intentions to work in order to widen the gap between Syria and the Soviet Union.

KWS: It was his intention.

AK: And if I was in his place I would do that. And we knew that. And therefore, we became, according to you know, our national interests.

KWS: But you weren’t happy that the Soviets endorsed the Geneva conference or that they went to it, were you? You were displeased. You were angry with them.

AK: Yes, yes.

KWS: O.K.. And Sisco also said: “At no time did President Assad encourage the United States to include the Soviets in the negotiations for the disengagement agreement. At no time did President Assad encourage the Soviet Union to participate.”

AK: But the Soviet Union really was involved. And there were a lot of contacts between Kissinger and Gromyko. Kissinger visited Moscow many a time.

KWS: And he met Gromyko here, but he never told Gromyko everything. He kept Gromyko to the side like he did at Geneva. And he made the Soviets feel like they didn’t know anything. And

you must have known that. 

AK: This is not correct. Kissinger put Gromyko in the picture, in the complete picture for all the movement that had been happening over there. And the reason for Kissinger to meet with Gromyko in Moscow is that Syria never hides anything from the Soviet Union. Therefore, why should he hide? And we were conversing, and the Soviet Union gave us all the picture about the negotiations at that time and we sent that to Assad. Sure, the Soviets were not quite involved in the negotiations because this is something that belongs to Syria. And the mediator was the Secretary of State.

KWS: And you were preserving Syrian national interests in your negotiations, and you felt that only the United States could deliver Israel. 

AK: Not exactly. The United States has relations with Israel. Due to these relations and the interest of the United States in the area, it can play such a role. We know that the United States of America had interests and these interests had been threatened. And this has really pushed the United States in order to play such a role. Not because we see that the United States is the only power that can be able to do so. But the United States is like any other country which moves according to its interests. And the United States realized at that time that if it did not obtain this solution to the problem, there will be really a rise in the wave of hate to the United States of America in the area. And at that time, the Soviet Union which was the arch enemy of the United States was ready to pick up the ???. Therefore, the United States moved according to their interests.

KWS: Absolutely. After the signing of Sinai II, after September 1975, when did you learn of Ford’s commitment to Israel about the Golan? The private letter. 

AK: We knew about this letter when he came to us to tell us about the President Bush initiative. It was obviously the truth and we asked Baker about it and he said that letter ???.

KWS: I don’t believe it, but I believe it.

AK: This is the fact.

KWS: O.K.. That’s why I’m here.

AK: And it was really a big surprise to us. The one who knows Ford is not so ???.

KWS: (Laughing) Well said. Were you aware that Sadat was using Romania in 1976 to probe with the Israelis?

AK: Yes, we had some suspicions. And once we had some information about the activity of Sadat in this direction, we considered that it could be true. Because he has taken an option or a choice in order to disengage himself from the Arab block and to continue his own way.

KWS: So you knew after Carter was elected, but before he took office, that Sadat said comprehensive peace. But you felt he really still wanted something just for Egypt. Is that Syria’s view?

AK: We were not quite confident.

KWS: You’re polite. 

AK: Because we have really witnessed a great difference. Because what we used to say was ???.

KWS: When Carter took office, did you know that a comprehensive settlement was going to be the US policy? Or did you try and persuade the Carter Administration early on to pursue the

comprehensive peace?

AK: Just after Carter took office, Vance came over here in February and we had an impression that the American administration will have the power to obtain a comprehensive settlement. And we understood that the United States was raising the question of the Palestinians at that time, the questions of the occupied Arab territories. I mean, the withdrawal, and the question of the Palestinian people, and the political rights of the Palestinians, and the arrangements for peace. I myself went in April to the United States, after Carter came to office. And I had visited Washington and I met Carter. And the talk was clear about the new American administration orientation to make a comprehensive settlement and there was really the Geneva conference in May between the two presidents. And we were really comfortable because the image was quite clear concerning a complete withdrawal, the question of the Palestinians, and all the security arrangements for peace. And later Vance came in August with the new ideas in order to activate.

the Geneva conference…. We discussed about the formula of Geneva. At that time our point of view was that the Geneva conference should continue with…

KWS: Functional committees, not geographic committees.

AK: And the PLO should represent the Palestinians.

KWS: And you wanted a second UN resolution to perhaps support that. Right? O.K..

AK: Carter, at that time, asked for the Palestinian representation. And at that time, Carter said that the Palestinians could be represented but not by the PLO from the first negotiations. As for the committees, he was not against the functional, but he said that the geographical policies could be formed by them. And then the meeting went on and it was attended by the two delegations. And I had noticed that ??? in a way, not quite in confines with which we have talked in the closed meetings. But there are some points that he would not agree to before it is right. And then the American-Soviet communique and it was really declared. And then I met Vance

again in New York. 

KWS: He virtually canceled it.

AK: Yes, canceled. And therefore, these things went on to complicate it.

KWS: Let me just…a couple of specific points. When Vance came here in February, Saunders was with him. And Saunders said that Vance took out his notebook of ideas on how to resume Geneva and Khaddam looked at him and thought, “my gosh, he’s serious. They really do want to go to Geneva.'”

AK: Yes, this early we wanted to go to Geneva.

KWS: But you were surprised to hear the Americans say it after negotiating separate agreements. So you were happy. You were pleased.

AK: Sure, because we believed the Geneva conference was an obstacle in the unilateral agreement. And we exerted a lot of effort in order to make the conference continue. And really we were comfortable with the meeting that had happened between President Carter and President Assad. Later on, the situation got more complicated.

KWS: What was the most important part of the Geneva meeting between President Assad and President Carter? What did that do for President Assad’s confidence in America? One of the problems Syria has always had with the United States, it lacks trust and confidence in what we do. You don’t know the whole story, you know half the story. Did this meeting build confidence between President Assad and President Carter?

AK: Because really President Carter had given the impression, a very comfortable impression to President Assad during the meeting. And this impression was to understand that he wanted to obtain solutions to this problem. And at that time, he was bearing a sort of moral basis which was really overtaking the political side. 

KWS: Did Carter promise to include the PLO in a Geneva conference before it was convened? Already in May he said not the first conference.

AK: Yes, with the Palestinians from the first conference. Apart from this, from the ???, it was possible, apart from Arafat.

KWS: O.K.. Carter… I don’t know if you read his memoirs, but this is Carter’s recollection of the meeting with Assad. And I’d like you to correct it if you would. “Assad saw my suggestions as a means by which we could get back in near the center of plans for the future of the Middle East. At that time he was sitting way on the outside, Assad was sitting way on the outside. I mean, he was totally removed, he was a puppet of the Soviet Union, he was not consulted except as concerned the Golan Heights. I think that Assad then, and since then, including now, sees an international conference as a way to play a substantial role.” 

AK: This impression of Mr. Carter is not true. We know our position in the area and we know the importance of our role in the area, and in what way we can orient things in the area. And it never had occurred to the President that he was sitting on the outside or that he is a puppet to the Soviet Union. And if it was true, it would be difficult for him to call for an Arab summit in which this summit took a decision to isolate Egypt and to, you know, sanction them. So this impression of President Carter is not correct.

KWS: Did you know about the meeting of Tuhami and Dayan?

AK:  Tuhami.

KWS: But only afterwards you learned about it. When Vance came here in ’77, his second trip in August. He came in February, he came in August, and then he came in December. In August he was trying one last time to get to Geneva. And he couldn’t convince the Syrians. He writes: “I couldn’t convince the Syrians that the Palestinians had to be part of a joint delegation. The Syrians did not want a joint delegation with Jordan. They wanted a unified delegation.” And Vance said that “that was our problem after my trip. We couldn’t agree on Palestinian representation.” Is that accurate?

AK: Yes, we have raised the question of the unified delegation in order to find a way for the question of the Palestinians. Because at that time Sadat rejected them, and the reason for that… Sadat did not want to abide himself with one unified Arab position. And secondly Israel was rejecting to negotiate with a unified Arab delegation which is going to represent the unified Arabs. If you will permit me, I have a meeting at 7 o’clock and if you find time, we can resume our talks about this subject. 

AK: If you can shorten the remaining questions…

KWS: I can if you have 5 to 10 more minutes, I’ll try to. Bill Quandt in his book wrote: “When [you] came to Washington in September and saw Carter,” on September 28th ’77. Quandt writes that “Syria wanted a veto on Egyptian actions.” If you went to Geneva, you wanted to be able to veto the prerogative of all the other delegations because you were afraid of another separate agreement. Is that correct?

AK: The Arab delegations and the Palestinians are represented by the PLO and the Geneva conference is going to discuss all the questions… will discuss issues like withdrawal, security, etc. We have rejected the geographical committees. Of course, we were afraid of the unilateral (action by Sadat).

KWS: The last question, I mean I have many more but we’ll make this the last one. After Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, Sadat wanted to have a preparatory committee meeting in Cairo, MENA House talks (December 1977). He invited all of the Arab states and Israel and you rejected going. Why did you reject going?

AK: Is it logical that after Sadat had given up all his commitments, and he went to Jerusalem, and after he really agreed to Sinai I and Sinai II, and after that he wanted to abolish what we

call the Geneva conference and the globality of the peace process, could we go to such a MENA House meeting?

KWS: Did you feel like Sadat had done it to you one more time?

AK: He had never gave up going to a sort of unilateral dealings or agreements.

KWS: You must have felt abandoned.

AK: We had been really confronting Israel with Egypt since it had been established. And Egypt is a main country in the confrontation. And therefore, it is quite natural that the outgoing of Egypt will create for us a lot of bitterness and worry. Because Egypt is not like any other Arab country. It’s quite natural to make a sort of shock to us.

KWS: Let me not keep you.

AK: If you had another time, we could see each other.

KWS: I’ll try.