11. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Syria1

205958. Subject: Presidential Letter on Camp David Summit.

1. Please pass the following letter from President Carter to President Assad ASAP.2 There will be no rpt no signed original to follow.

2. Begin text. Dear Mr. President: I wish to share with you some of my thoughts on the forthcoming Middle East meeting at Camp David.

[Page 30]I know from our talks in Geneva3 of your own deep desire for a just and lasting peace. My understanding is that Syria continues to adhere to the relevant Security Council resolutions constituting the basis for a negotiated settlement and has left the door open to rejoining the negotiations if conditions acceptable to Syria are met. We are gratified that Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat have both responded positively to the invitation to meet with me next month in a major new effort to establish a framework for a Middle East peace settlement.

We have purposely not set a fixed duration for the talks, scheduled to begin on September 6, so as to be able to allow as much time as is needed for our efforts to succeed. This is an encouraging indication of the seriousness with which these parties are approaching this meeting.

I extended this invitation because I believe we have reached a crucial point in the search for peace in the Middle East. Nine months have passed since President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin opened significant new possibilities for negotiations with the historic meetings in Jerusalem and in Ismailia. The sides have made progress toward resolving some of the issues that divide them at this time, but recently, as you are aware, an impasse was threatened. I am convinced that we cannot afford an impasse, since the positions would then harden and the atmosphere deteriorate to the point where the present opportunity for peace could well become another of the lost opportunities that have marked the history of this tragic conflict.

The objective of the Camp David meeting will remain as it has been defined by the two sides themselves in negotiations this year: to make progress toward an agreement on a framework, based on Security Council Resolution 242, that would allow steady progress toward agreement on specific issues, within the context of the agreed goal of a stable, just and comprehensive peace. An agreed framework such as the United States is seeking might ultimately make it possible for other parties to the conflict, including Syria, to rejoin the peace negotiations.

Our experience in attempting to facilitate and promote negotiations this past year has demonstrated that it is impossible to carry negotiations beyond a certain point on the crucial issues unless the heads of government themselves can be engaged in a direct exchange. This was one of the considerations that led me to the decision to extend invitations to the two leaders to meet with me at Camp David. Our objective will be to achieve agreements at the political level which can provide guidance for the negotiators on the key issues. I plan to do everything [Page 31]within my power to help President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin achieve the progress for which we are all searching.

As we move into this crucial new phase of the Middle East negotiations, I wanted to share with you my reasons for taking this step and thoughts about what we hope to accomplish. I am aware of your concerns but I also hope that you will keep an open mind about the contribution such talks might make. I would welcome your own thoughts.

With my best wishes, Sincerely, Jimmy Carter.

End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780332–1115. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by the White House; cleared by W. Nathaniel Howell (NEA/ARN) and Thomas C. Martin (S/S–O); approved by Veliotes. On August 11, Vance sent a draft copy of the letter, along with a list of suggested recipients, to Carter. This draft copy, with Carter’s handwritten amendments, is in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 52, Middle East: Camp David Cables and Memos, 8/1–15/78. In telegrams 205956 to Amman and 205956 to Jidda, both August 16, the Department transmitted individualized versions of this letter to Hussein and Khalid. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780332–1118 and D780332–1113 respectively)
  2. Seelye reported that he delivered Carter’s letter to Dabboul on August 16 for immediate transmittal to Assad. (Telegram 4717 from Damascus, August 16; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780335–0306)
  3. Carter met Assad in Geneva on May 9, 1977. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Document 32.