297. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State and the Embassy in Jordan1

Secto 8020. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With King Hussein.

1. S (Entire text)

2. Summary: Secretary and King Hussein reviewed Mid East developments and King discussed at length, though in little detail, his goal of seeking Arab consensus which would bring the Palestinians/PLO to a position with which they, other Arabs, United States and eventually Israel could live. Hussein said that PLO ready now to talk about future of Palestinian-Jordanian relations, perhaps a confederation, and that PLO also seeking Jordanian advice on broader questions of PLO relations within and beyond Arab world. Jordan’s current posture is to respond to PLO proposals. Secretary welcomed Hussein’s description of these developments and stressed his view that what Hussein was suggesting was not necessarily in conflict with what U.S., Egypt and Israel now doing. Challenge is to assure that they do not become contradictory but converge later in time. Key to success in this regard will be timing: what we are now doing concerns transitional period, which we all are agreed is needed, and what King is engaged in concerns shape of eventual final settlement. Our process will continue to go forward and as King develops his concepts it should be as parallel track with view to eventual convergence of the two in most helpful way. On Lebanon, King agreed that improvement there critically important and said that he would be as helpful as he could; he welcomed suggestion that we keep in touch to assure that our Lebanon efforts are complementary. Secretary and King touched also on tank sales—King said deal with U.K. should be completed in week or so—on Maqarin Dam and on regional security. End summary.

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3. Secretary met with King Hussein Sept. 24 for hour and a half. With King were Court Chief Abdul Hamid, Minister Hassan Ibrahim and Ambassador Salah. Secretary was accompanied by Under Secretary Newsom, Assistant Secretary Saunders, Ambassador Veliotes and Country Director Cluverius. Secretary welcomed King and said it had been too long since their last conversation. King expressed his pleasure at renewing their friendship. Secretary then expressed his interest in idea of Jordan-West Bank/Gaza confederation which Anwar Khatib had publicly espoused recently in Amman. King simply said such ideas have been around for a time and moved on to put them in context which he described as willingness of PLO to take a fresh look at Palestinian-Jordanian relations. King said he has been working to bring the Palestinians and PLO to a course with which all, including US and eventually Israel, could live. He said he wanted to bring Arafat to political maturity and he felt Arafat was ready now to discuss future Palestinian-Jordanian relations and wanted to know King’s views. Hussein said he had told Arafat that, on the contrary, it was up to Palestinian/PLO to tell him how they felt future relations should be shaped. Hussein continued that PLO does want dialogue “across the board” and he of course is ready to hear them out. Sharaf interjected that Anwar Khatib’s statements about a united Arab kingdom apparently were inspired by his Majesty’s meetings with Arafat.

4. Secretary then described Romanian envoy’s report to him of Arafat’s view which included PLO acceptance told Arafat that, on the contrary, it was up to Palestinian/PLO to tell him how they felt future relations should be shaped. Hussein continued that PLO does want dialogue “across the board” and he of course is ready to hear them out. Sharaf interjected that Anwar Khatib’s statements about a united Arab Kingdom apparently were inspired by his majesty’s meetings with Arafat.2

4. Secretary then described Romanian envoy’s report to him3 of Arafat’s view which included PLO acceptance of Israel within pre-1967 borders and, specifically, Arafat’s conclusion that ultimate solution is confederation. Hussein said Arafat had told him that Ceaucescu had made some suggestions and added that Ceaucescu had access in useful places and could make a contribution. Hussein said Arafat was concerned about motives behind apparent and seemly increasing USG desire to deal with PLO. Is USG doing it to involve PLO in a genuine way or as device to discredit PLO? PLO is worried that USG may be seeking contacts in order to keep PLO quiet. Nonetheless, King Hussein said, [Page 963] there are USGPLO contacts, particularly in Vienna, and at Arafat’s request Hussein was prepared to advise PLO on how he might handle the situation. Secretary said he had to clarify one point: Vienna contacts have been casual and not at all substantive. There are no substantive USGPLO contacts. Hussein said he had the impression there were. Secretary said there definitely are not.

5. Secretary asked if Arafat is serious about confederation and, if so, how does King see it. Hussein said Arafat appears serious about seeking real cooperation with Jordan, including the peace process. In this respect in response to Arafat’s request for his views on the future relationship between the PLO and Jordan King had said he wanted Arafat to provide a detailed proposal which Jordanians could study. Secretary said that confederation idea is not inconsistent with what we, Egypt and Israel are now doing and, indeed, is fully consistent with long-standing USG position that some kind of formal relationship between Jordan and West Bank/Gaza seemed to us to be most workable final arrangement. In context of discussion on subject, Hussein suggested Jordan and the PLO might be able to come to agreement on future relationship between Jordan and West Bank/Gaza by the time of the Arab summit planned for the end of the year. (Sharaf later noted the timing of the summit might slip).

6. Secretary then expressed his thanks for Jordanian role in delaying the vote on Palestinian rights resolution and turned conversation to Lebanon. He said we have gone to Israelis in strongest possible terms and, so far, ceasefire is fragile but holding. We have told Dayan and Weizman of our concern, and spent a great deal of time discussing it with them during their recent visit here. It is critically important that we move situation beyond ceasefire to real truce and build on truce to achieve some improvements on the ground. Saunders explained that we have a series of steps we intend to take toward this end. We do not have one grand design but a number of packages of steps to put forward over a number of months, perhaps beginning in a week or two. Saunders said Lebanon deserves this attention on its own merits—what is happening there is difficult for all of us to live with—and because of its inevitable effect on the peace process. Hussein agreed that help for Lebanon is critical and Arab summit on Lebanon is being considered. (Later Jordanians said Lebanon would be one item on agenda of summit expected in November or December). First, however, there needed to be some Arab agreement on what should be done. He said he is pressing hard for this and has raised issue with Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrians. Veliotes asked if discussion with Syrians had included idea of timetable for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Hussein did not respond directly but said Assad wanted to get out of Lebanon and would do so under the right conditions, and that such a timetable would be needed eventually.

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7. Hussein turned discussion back to peace issues and said goal is to work out with PLO and key Arabs an agreed Arab position on major issues which would, in effect, provide PLO an Arab cushion for steps toward peace which it must take at some point. This would include agreement on what is needed to change SC Resolution 242 to be acceptable on Palestinian rights. Arabs must be agreed before a position can be brought to the world. Sharaf said an Arab consensus is needed to support PLO on such difficult issues as mutual Israel-PLO recognition and language of any new SC resolution. PLO is considering all of this and Hussein said that Arabs need such agreed positions whatever outcome of USG efforts and that USG might need this Arab consensus if its efforts do end in stalemate which is likely in his opinion due to Israel intransigent attitudes and harmful actions.

8. Secretary asked if King had any timetable on these inter-Arab consultations. Hussein said process, which Sharaf interjected are not yet really formal consultations, should be completed in two–three months. Sharaf said that first question other Arabs ask is what would U.S. view on these ideas be. Secretary said that of course depends on how they come out. What we are now working on is arrangements for transition period, which we all agree is needed, and what King is discussing with other Arabs is a vision of what should happen at the end of that period. They are not inconsistent. Saunders interjected that what is needed as we proceed along parallel tracks is mutual acceptance that what the other is doing is sincere and well-intentioned. We need a meeting of the minds and way to reach it is through mutual respect for the other’s concerns. Hussein said there is no doubt of President Carter’s sincerity and commitment but that peace process had gone astray and is headed for stalemate. Saunders said that of course we do not believe this is the case but, even if it is at some future point, there can be ingredients in a stalemate which can be used to move ahead.

9. Under Secretary Newsom wondered if King was confident that inter-Arab discussion would be completed before the issue of a new resolution comes up in the UN. Hussein said that ideally it should be and Sharaf added that Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria have heard his Majesty’s ideas. PLO is seeking King’s advice and guidance and has a great interest in a new SC resolution which would put Palestinian issues in truer perspective. PLO needs something major in this regard to justify acceptance of 242 and Israel. PLO also needs Arab support for such a move and this support is his Majesty’s goal. Secretary said that Romanian reports of Arafat’s position, about which he wanted Hussein to be fully informed, was that what Arafat needed is resolution acceptable to U.S. and Israel which would recognize Israel’s right to existence within secure and recognized borders and the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination would not be further defined in the resolution but it [Page 965] was Arafat’s position that it should be understood to mean confederation. Sharaf said Arafat also wanted a conference to settle this. Secretary said that this was true, according to Romanians but not very specific. Newsom said he understood it meant a conference to handle those Arab-Israel issues which are not yet settled. Sharaf asked if this was Romanian view or Arafat’s? Secretary interjected that all this was more than Arafat seems to have shared with King; USG would be following this closely.

10. Ambassador’s comment: Hussein appeared taken aback by Secretary’s detailed description of Arafat’s position as reported by Romanians. He might really be ignorant of any such specific, serious PLO positions; it is more likely he was unaware of such a detailed exchange and surprised Arafat would jump the gun with the Romanians on such sensitive issues before they were settled by other Arabs. On the other hand, Hussein might conclude that Arafat is doing his usual thing—telling different people different things. In any case, Hussein should react by becoming even more wary about how far he can trust Arafat as they go down the road of cooperation and address the—for Jordan—jugular issue of Jordan’s future relationship to the West Bank and Gaza. In discussing this and related subjects in subsequent conversation, Sharaf made clear Jordan’s cautious approach to this subject—i.e. willingness only to respond to PLO suggestions, was calculated as best way to proceed for both tactical and longer range strategic reasons. Without being specific, Sharaf was clearly signalling that Hussein sensed he might be on threshold of achieving goal of Arab legitimacy for at least shared mandate re negotiating on behalf of Palestinians and he is going to be very cautious in next few months. End comment.

11. Newsom asked how King saw Assad’s position. Hussein replied that his position is not good but that he is in no immediate danger. Lebanon is in part cause of his troubles. Secretary asked if Hussein thought, as we did, that Lebanese Army is gaining strength and cohesion. Both Hussein and Sharaf replied that Lebanese leftists and Palestinians are still not satisfied with Army’s confessional balance. Hussein said that some major Lebanese factions are still opposed to GOL, that Syrian presence in Lebanon is lowering effectiveness of Syrian Army, but that major problem in the situation is Israeli behavior.

12. Secretary said he wanted to raise Maqarin Dam. He was looking forward to report of new AID Administrator Bennet’s talks in Amman on Maqarin and other aid issues, noting he had recently testified in the Congress to assure that the funding for the Maqarin project is carried over. Secretary said he felt that the project was in good shape as far as Congress is concerned. Hussein said talks with the Syrians are moving along but that a different Syrian Prime Minister would help; present incumbent not really attentive to business.

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13. Secretary said he wanted to mention the tank sale, which we hoped to move forward soon to Congress. He said he wanted King to understand that it would cause us no problem if King chose British or American tanks; whatever his decision, it is fine with us. Hussein said that, frankly, there are problems with U.S. offer: lead time is very long and tanks would not be equipped with sights which others (read Israelis) already have. In any case, deal with U.K. probably will be completed in a week or ten days. Saunders asked how many British tanks might be purchased. Hussein said one division at least. Veliotes noted that this might mean a U.S. purchase of about one hundred M–60s. King agreed. Veliotes added that an early decision of chieftains will help us with the Hill since the rather vague number we have been using has given some congressmen the impression that we do not know what we really want to do. Hussein, Sharaf and Veliotes agreed that it would be useful if all this was settled by time of October joint military commission meeting.

14. Newsom asked for King’s views of Jordanian-Saudi cooperation in Yemen and of situation there. Hussein said there had been no real change in Yemen since situation there rather static. He had discussed it with Prince Sultan in Geneva enroute to New York. King said contingency planning is needed and that SAG and GOJ should look ahead to potential dangers and plan together how to meet them. Hussein said he shared Saudi doubts about Salih and felt his regime disorganized particularly in comparison with much better organized government in Aden. Veliotes said that King’s officials had responded positively to Doug Bennet’s discussions in Amman re need to strengthen North Yemen’s institutions and that Jordan could play a helpful role. Hussein and Newsom agreed that much would depend on Saudi view of Salah which is not good at the moment. Hussein turned to broader aspects of regional security and said that Syria is not yet ready to participate and Iraqis feeling squeezed between events in Iran and Israeli threat. They are increasingly anti-communist, however, and this is to the good. Noting he realized he sounded like the late King Faisal, Hussein said Arabs felt themselves at present under pressure from Communists and Zionists.

15. Secretary wondered what King planned to say to the General Assembly.4 Hussein said he felt it would be positive and, hopefully, [Page 967] well received. Sharaf said his Majesty was not going to attack Camp David but simply explain Jordanian position had direct attention to the needs of the future. Sharaf said there was always chance one or two points might be misinterpreted by media. Veliotes quipped that those points should be dropped. Secretary said his speech5 would include the need to solve the Palestinian problem in all its aspects and would stress the need to resolve the Lebanon crisis. He would give added emphasis to Lebanon in backgrounders.

16. Sharaf asked how President Sadat felt about changing SC Res 242. Secretary said Sadat looked at it in terms of timing. He did not feel time was right now. Once Israelis had moved back to El-Arish-Ras Muhammad line Sadat probably would be more comfortable with the idea of a new resolution. Sharaf asked how Secretary felt peace process would proceed. Secretary said he expected that by end of year we would have 50–60 percent of the powers and responsibilities of the SGA agreed, but not the tougher issues such as legislative authority and control over public lands. In answer to question, Secretary said he did feel, personally, that we would have agreed by end of year that East Jerusalem Arabs could vote for SGA. Meeting closed with brief exchanges on US-Cuban relations, SALT and the recent NAM Summit.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East, Subject File, Box 56, Jordan: 7–11/79. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Sent for information Immediate to Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem, Jidda, London, and Tel Aviv. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. Vance was in New York to address the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. A handwritten notation in the right-hand margin reads: “important talk.”
  2. The repetition of the first phrase of this and the next paragraph suggests that this paragraph is likely a transmission error.
  3. No record of this discussion has been found.
  4. King Hussein addressed the United Nations General Assembly on September 25. During his speech, he accused Israel of refusing to treat Arabs as human beings “but as a human barrier which it must seek to demolish.” The King also rejected calls for autonomy for the Palestinians as described in the Camp David Accords, insisting that the Palestinians must be given their own state. He noted: “Autonomy for the people but not the land” was a principle the Palestinians would not accept. (Bernard D. Nossiter, “Gromyko, at U.N., Calls Concern Over Soviet Units in Cuba Artificial,” The New York Times, September 26, 1979, p. A1)
  5. Speaking to the General Assembly on September 24, Vance called for a ceasefire and a “broader truce” in Lebanon. “There has been a cease-fire in southern Lebanon, the fragility of which is underscored by the events of today,” Vance noted, referring to the dogfight that took place over Beirut between Israel and Syrian jets. (Bernard D. Nossiter, “Vance Says U.S. Seeks Firmer Truce for South Lebanon,” The New York Times, September 25, 1979, p. A1)