122. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Lebanon
  • Foreign Minister Fuad Boutros
  • Ghassan Tuwayni, UN Permanent Representative
  • Najati Kabbani, Ambassador to the U.S.
  • Ghazi Chidiac, Consul General in New York
  • United States
  • Secretary Vance
  • Philip C. Habib, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Arthur R. Day, Deputy Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Ambassador Richard Parker
  • David Korn, Policy Planning Staff


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fuad Boutros

(The Secretary first met privately with Foreign Minister Boutros, for approximately 20 minutes, before the group meeting began.)2

[Page 642]

The Secretary said he had given the Minister a copy of the joint U.S.-Soviet statement3 which was to be issued at 8:00 that evening. The Secretary stressed that the statement was a positive one. He pointed out that it specifically referred to the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the need for a resolution of the Palestinian question.

The Secretary said he would like to talk about Southern Lebanon. He asked Mr. Habib to give a run-down on the current situation. Mr. Habib said that the Israelis understand that 850 Palestinians will remain in identified positions following the withdrawal of Palestinian forces from Southern Lebanon in accordance with the Shtaura agreement. If these remaining 850 Palestinian guerrillas do not take advantage of being in their positions, everything will be all right. But if they do take advantage of the cease-fire then there will be trouble. The Israelis will not tolerate that. Foreign Minister Boutros noted that until recently the Israelis were still refusing to acquiesce in the presence of the 850 PLO. Boutros asked if it was Israel’s understanding that the withdrawal of the PLO would be followed by the entry of the Lebanese Army in a few hours. Mr. Habib said no, it was expected that there would continue to be a cease-fire after withdrawal but there was no such time limit for the entry of the Lebanese troops. Mr. Habib stressed, however, that it is important that Lebanese forces be sent to the South as soon as possible. Boutros asked if Israel would take advantage of the PLO withdrawal to the 10 kilometer limit in implementation of the Shtaura agreement. He pointed out that Israeli action would jeopardize the agreement. Mr. Habib said no, they won’t, and they don’t have any desire to, as long as the Palestinians maintain the cease-fire. Mr. Atherton added that as long as the Shtaura agreement is being implemented and the Lebanese Army is coming into the South, the Israelis will not interfere.

Boutros asked if we knew what the Israelis would raise in the ILMAC meeting. Mr. Habib said we don’t know precisely, but in general terms we expect they would want to discuss the military aspects of the cease-fire, the positioning of the Lebanese Army in the South, and the protection of the Christians who were fighting on their side in the South. Boutros remarked that if the Shtaura agreement is implemented the Christians will no longer be in danger. Mr. Habib replied that in that case there will be no problem. Mr. Habib asked whether PLO withdrawal had begun. Boutros said no, under the cease-fire provisions it is understood that everybody would stay in place. Mr. Habib said we had heard that some of the PLO who came down late in the fighting had begun to move out.

[Page 643]

Boutros said the question of implementation of Shtaura seemed now to be in Lebanon’s hands. Boutros again asked whether Israel would tolerate the 850 PLO who are supposed to remain in position following the withdrawal of the bulk of the PLO forces. Habib said Israel will not give approval to their remaining but it won’t take any action as long as these PLO troops don’t do anything. Boutros asked what about the Christian militia? Mr. Habib said the Israelis will restrain them. The Christians can’t do anything without Israeli support. Mr. Habib reiterated that the Israelis will not let the Christians move.

Boutros then thanked the Secretary effusively for what the U.S. had done to bring about the cease-fire. He added that Lebanon would need as much assistance from the U.S. for the implementation of the Shtaura agreement as it got for the cease-fire. The Secretary said we will continue to do what we can. Mr. Habib again stressed the importance of getting Lebanese troops in place in the South as soon as possible. Mr. Habib said he assumed the Foreign Minister had spoken to General Khoury about this. Boutros said he agreed entirely; Lebanese forces would be moved in as quickly as possible. We will inform you of the timing, Boutros said. Mr. Habib suggested that the Lebanese also inform Israel through the ILMAC. Boutros said he did not know how ILMAC will work. The Secretary endorsed Mr. Habib’s suggestion that the Lebanese inform the Israelis through ILMAC of the timing of the entry of their troops into South Lebanon.

The Secretary said that during their private conversation he had reviewed with Boutros his earlier discussions with the Israelis and the Arab states and had brought Boutros up to date on the status of the peace negotiations. Now he wanted to ask specifically whether Lebanon wishes to take part in a reconvened Geneva Conference. Boutros replied that Lebanon definitely does. He said he had called in the American and Soviet Ambassadors in March of this year to inform them of Lebanon’s interest in attending Geneva. Boutros said the Soviets had replied, saying that they were taking note of the request and would look into it when the conference was reconvened. The Secretary said that all the other parties to Geneva agree that Lebanon should participate. Therefore, there should be no problem. Ambassador Tuwayni said Boutros had brought this up with Secretary General Waldheim and Waldheim had agreed that Lebanon should be at Geneva. Boutros emphasized that Lebanon must be present at Geneva, particularly for the resolution of the refugee problem. He noted that Syria has 100,000 Palestinian refugees and is refusing to resettle them there, but Lebanon which has a much smaller population has a much larger number of refugees. Boutros said it would be impossible for Lebanon to settle the refugees on its territory. Other arrangements would have to be made for them.

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The Secretary said that, as he had told the Foreign Minister, the big questions before us now are: 1) How to resolve the question of Palestinian representation at Geneva and how to organize the conference. The Secretary said the Syrians, the Soviets, and to some extent the Jordanians, favor a functional approach to the organization of the conference. They would like to have three functional committees: one for withdrawal and borders, one for Palestinian questions and one for the nature of peace and guarantees. The Secretary said we do not agree with this. We think the best solution is some mixture of bilateral and functional working groups. For example, the Secretary said, we cannot see that others should be involved in the peace negotiations between Lebanon and Israel; the same is true, the Secretary said, of Israel-Egyptian negotiations. Boutros indicated that he agreed.

Ambassador Tuwayni said there had just been a press report regarding the possible formation of a PLO government in exile. This government would include West Bankers as well as PLO and might have a non-PLO president. Mr. Day said this had often been spoken of; it was known as the Kerensky solution. Mr. Day added that, of course, Kerensky didn’t last very long.4 Ambassador Tuwayni asked the Secretary if the U.S. would recognize a PLO? The Secretary said he believed it would be a mistake to rush into anything. Mr. Day said the formation of a PLO government in exile would make negotiations much more difficult. The Secretary said he agreed, and that in itself is a good reason for going slowly. The Secretary asked what kind of time schedule the PLO had in mind for this. Tuwayni said there would probably not be a decision before the seven Arab League Ministers’ meeting on November 12. Tuwayni indicated that the PLO’s decision might also be affected by whether or not there is progress in New York on Resolution 242. They are not about to do anything tomorrow, the Secretary asked. No, Tuwayni replied.

Tuwayni raised the question of a possible resolution supplementing 242. Boutros asked what the Secretary’s opinion was on this. The Secretary said we would be very concerned about any modification of 242, or any “242 plus” resolution. The Secretary pointed out that if you play around with 242 you give the parties an excuse to walk away from Geneva. The Secretary noted that in our joint statement with the Soviets we spoke of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the resolution of the Palestinian problem. He also noted that the U.S. and the USSR, as co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference, can make sure that the Palestinian issue is on the agenda at Geneva. Tuwayni said that [Page 645] that should make Egyptian Foreign Minister Fahmy’s proposed resolution irrelevant. The Secretary said he had talked with Fahmy about the resolution and Fahmy said he would not do it if we really think it would have a negative impact.5 The Secretary said he had also taken this up with the Romanians. He had asked everybody to desist and not to change 242 or push 242 plus. The Secretary said he thought our joint statement with the Soviets should be helpful to the PLO.

The Secretary excused himself from the luncheon, saying that he had to go to another meeting. He appreciated having this opportunity to speak with Foreign Minister Boutros and looked forward to seeing the Foreign Minister soon. In the ensuing conversation, Mr. Habib asked the Lebanese what kind of meetings the Arab Foreign Ministers will be holding in New York. Tuwayni said a meeting has been called regarding the non-aligned statement, which might replace the modification of 242. Tuwayni said that if the parties were moving towards Geneva and if “people are happy” then there would be less pressure for modification of 242. The Arabs would be content with a General Assembly resolution in the form of a general statement.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 107, 9/19/77–10/25/77 Vance Meetings with Middle East Foreign Ministers: 9–10/77. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s suite at the UN Plaza Hotel.
  2. No memorandum of conversation has been found.
  3. See Document 120.
  4. Alexander Kerensky served as the Chairman of the Russian Provisional Government from July 21 to November 8, 1917, when the Provisional Government was overthrown by the Bolsheviks.
  5. They met on September 29; see Document 117.