69. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House1

183903. For Dr. Brzezinski only. Following repeat Secto 8051 action Cairo Alexandria info SecState from Secretary aircraft Aug 3.

Quote. Secto 8051. Subject: Report for Sadat Damascus Conversations. Eyes Only for Christopher and Tarnoff. Cairo for Ambassador From Secretary.

1. There are three points from our conversations in Damascus2 which I believe you should convey to Sadat and Fahmy as quickly as [Page 403] possible because they will have read reports of Assad’s press conference last evening:3

A. The Syrians have reacted quite negatively to the idea of a formal working group in New York. At the same time, Assad has said that Khaddam would attend the UNGA and would want to continue in close contact with US. Therefore, we still intend to follow the course that Sadat and I discussed with regard to contacts conducted by me in New York, although we will have to find a different way of describing them. You might want to explain that the negative Syrian reaction results partly, according to the Syrians, from the fact that the Egyptians did not consult the Syrians before announcing their proposals and partly, I suspect, from Syrians’ suspicions that this is a US-Israeli-Egyptian idea for evading a formal reconvening of the Geneva Conference, thus leaving the PLO out of the negotiations.

B. In general, the Syrians’ reaction to the five principles was much the same as Sadat’s. However, on all issues I sensed that the Syrians are reserving their positions until they have had a chance to meet with the other Arab leaders following my departure from the area.

C. On Palestinian representation, Assad continues to prefer a unified Arab delegation. He showed some interest in Sadat’s idea of an Arab League delegation, but I suspect that in his mind he may have been thinking of this in terms of a delegation for all Arabs and not just for the Palestinians.

2. For your own guidance, you should be aware that I have decided to try to move away from the term ‘trusteeship.’ Khaddam reacted quite negatively, largely because of the connotations of colonialism and Palestinian inability to manage their own affairs. When I met with Assad I used the term ‘transitional administrative arrangements’ and the reaction seemed much more reasonable. In my six hours of talks here Khaddam and Assad were thoughtful, cautious about the prospects of success, willing to continue working closely with us. They were firm in their desire to coordinate with other Arabs but critical of Egyptian failure to coordinate with them.



  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 106, 7/31/77–8/12/77 Vance Trip to the Middle East: [Progress Reports—Aaron Copy], 8/77. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Documents 66 and 68.
  3. Asad stated in his August 4 press conference that he favored discussions focused on the reconvening of the Geneva Conference rather than Sadat’s proposal for a Middle East working group of Arab and Israeli Foreign Ministers meeting in the United States. (Bernard Gwertzman, “Syria Rejects Idea of Interim Session on the Middle East,” New York Times, August 5, 1977, p. 1)