263. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Lebanon
  • Foreign Minister Philippe Takla
  • Permanent Representative Edouard Ghoora
  • Ambassador to the U.S., Najati Kabbani
  • United States
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Robert B. Oakley, NSC Staff
  • Alec Toumayan, Interpreter

Kissinger: I just finished meeting with another Arab Foreign Minister whose Ambassador to the United States is named Takla.

Takla: I hope it was a good meeting. Syria is very important for us.

Kissinger: It is my impression that they will be tough for several months, but they really have no realistic alternative to further negotiations.

Takla: I appreciate all that you have accomplished in moving toward peace in the Middle East. It is of vital importance for Lebanon and the region that the United States continue its efforts, as you have said you intend to do. It is necessary that the Arabs have the conviction that United States efforts will be successful. The present unrest concerning the Sinai agreement is due to doubts that this will be the case.

Kissinger: I fully agree with the importance for continued forward movement but it is necessary for the Arabs to distinguish between appearance and reality. In the United States our policy has succeeded in creating objective conditions more conducive to achieving an overall settlement than ever before. Therefore, the Arabs should take care not to let their emotions carry them away. Should the Arabs return to their 1967 mentality and devote their energies to attacking one another and [Page 931] the United States, instead of cooperation with us, it would become virtually impossible to sustain the favorable conditions presently existing in this country.

Takla: I agree with your analysis.

Kissinger: It is very important that the Arabs keep things calm during this period, but that is not the Arab forte.

Takla: Dr. Kissinger knows us well. We are Orientals, not Occidentals.

Kissinger: What about the situation in Lebanon?

Takla: There is relative calm today but the intermediate and long-term problems are very difficult. There are three pre-conditions for internal peace in Lebanon: Lebanon must remain united with rumors of partition and division laid to rest; there must be a redistribution of political power within the existing constitutional system; and there must be a reduction of external interference. Renewed civil strife and possible efforts at partition would be dangerous for the entire Middle East and even the U.S., not only Lebanon.

Kissinger: We are prepared to be helpful. (As a first step the Secretary and Takla agreed that the State Department spokesman should make a statement about Lebanon following the meeting). If you wish a further statement from me personally, rather than our spokesman, have your Ambassador let us know. What do you judge the Syrians are up to?

Takla: Lebanon is part of the Arab world and cannot escape this reality. Therefore it is essential for us to have close relations with Syria, which is playing a constructive role in the short-term, a necessary role given the weakness of the Lebanese Government. But we are fully aware that Syria’s ambitions for greater influence in Lebanon will create long-term problems. The Syrians have no intention of intervening militarily in Lebanon under present circumstances, but they fear Israeli intervention. The Syrians are not helping us out of love but out of interest, yet they are behaving prudently. Over the long term we have ancestral problems with Syria.

Kissinger: That’s true of all of Syria’s neighbors.

Takla: The Syrians need a period of calm, especially from Israeli threats.

Kissinger: We can keep Israel under control with respect to Lebanon so long as Syria does not move. But if Syria should intervene militarily, it might well be impossible to restrain the Israelis.

Takla: The Syrians will not move militarily. But why does Allon talk about protecting the Christians of Lebanon? It scares me.

Kissinger: I don’t know if the world can withstand the Israeli propensity to comment loudly about every event, even when it does not [Page 932] concern them. We shall speak to them again, and I have already cautioned Peres about Lebanon.

Takla: I am very glad to hear that. Israeli intervention would be too dangerous for Lebanon and the entire region.

Kissinger: We agree. How else can we be helpful?

Takla: Perhaps you could encourage Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to help with Syria and the Palestinians. They have not been at all active, yet they have the potential to help us. Maybe France could be helpful with Iraq, and maybe one could get the Soviets to calm the Lebanese left. But I am making no precise request, merely exposing the situation.

Kissinger: I will talk to the Soviets and to some Arabs. It has been a pleasure talking with you, but now I have another appointment. I will walk to the elevator with you.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 274, Chronological File, Israel, September 1975, Folder 3. Secret; Exdis. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s Suite at the Waldorf Towers.