30. Memorandum of Conversation1



    • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Council Advisor to the President
    • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Ambassador at Large
    • Harold H. Saunders, Assistant Secretary, NEA
    • William Quandt, National Security Council
    • Hermann Fr. Eilts, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt

    • Mohamed Ibrahim Kamel, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Boutros Ghali, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
    • Ashraf Ghorbal, Egyptian Ambassador to the United States
    • Ahmed Maher, Director of the Cabinet of the Foreign Minister
    • Osama el-Baz, Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs
    • Abdul Rauf el-Reedy, Director of Policy Planning, Foreign Ministry


  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel’s Meeting with Secretary Vance


The Secretary first outlined the proposed schedule for today, including the possibility of an enlarged meeting this evening after dinner. [Page 109]Kamel wondered if we are not moving too fast. Ghorbal asked if we have heard anything from the Israelis which might warrant an accelerated schedule. The Secretary said the Israelis have not presented anything new. At Kamel’s request, the Secretary undertook to inform President Carter of the Egyptian Foreign Minister’s view that it might be wise to proceed more leisurely. The Secretary noted, however, the two Presidents may already have decided on the schedule.2

Camp David Talks

The Secretary invited Kamel to present any points that the Egyptians might wish to make. Kamel said that Sadat is coming to Camp David with an “open heart” and a willingness to listen to “the other party” and to any ideas that President Carter might have. The only point that should be borne in mind is that no concessions should be asked in terms of territory and sovereignty. If there is a positive outcome, Kamel noted, it should bring in the other parties. Hussein should be able to participate and the peace process would have Saudi blessing. Kamel noted that Sadat sees the Camp David meeting as “crucial and very important.” Unless some positive outcome is reached, it will be difficult to continue. It will undermine Sadat’s position in the Arab world.

Sadat, Kamel noted, has stated several times that whatever the outcome of the Camp David meeting, he will get together with the Arabs and report. Sadat is thinking of a mini-summit. The Secretary asked what Sadat has in mind in terms of limitation of numbers. Kamel observed that most of the Arabs are opposed to the peace process because they believe that the Israelis are not changing their attitudes. The Saudis believe that it is imperative that Sadat be supported by other Arab elements. Any Arab Summit or mini-summit does not mean a shift from the peace effort. This will continue on the basis of the decision made at Rabat to search for peace. Asked who might attend such a mini-summit, Kamel thought the Jordanians, Saudis and, hopefully, the Syrians. Asked about the likelihood of Syrian participation, Kamel noted that this will depend upon what comes out of Camp David. The Saudis will tackle the Syrians on this matter.

The Secretary asked about the present state of Egyptian-Syrian relations. Kamel noted these are very negative. There are no permanent channels of regular contact. Sometimes the Syrian UN Representative Shoufi meets with Egyptian Permanent Representative Abdul Meguid. Nevertheless, what the Egyptians are hearing about Assad’s positions is encouraging. Kamel noted, however, that Assad’s positions tend not to be constant. The Saudis believe that things can be worked out with [Page 110]Assad in a manner which would allow the Syrians to come in—not necessarily at the beginning, but later. Brzezinski asked if the outcome of Camp David is a compromise, will the Syrians attend? Kamel answered affirmatively.

Quandt asked (a) is there likely to be another meeting after Camp David if the latter has reasonable success and (b) will the Jordanians attend such a meeting? Kamel responded affirmatively, noting that all Egyptian ideas are based on the concept of Jordanian participation. Quandt asked whether, in the event the Saudis support a Jordanian role and the Syrians do not, the Jordanians will still attend? Kamel thought they will, provided “Palestinian rights” are adequately safeguarded.

Boutros Ghali opined that two other countries might be interested in participating—Morocco and the Sudan. Saunders observed that during his post-Leeds Castle visit to Morocco,3 King Hassan had emphasized the need to obtain Arab support for Sadat’s initiative. Kamel observed that the Egyptians have had similar signals from Hassan. Egyptian priorities are to obtain Saudi support and Hussein’s participation. Hussein, Kamel noted, needs a clear and unambiguous commitment on withdrawal from the West Bank.

Quandt inquired where an Arab Summit might be held. Kamel responded that this is an open question, but identified his preference for somewhere in Saudi Arabia. Saunders asked who besides Morocco and the Sudanese might attend? Kamel spoke of the confrontation states,4 the Saudis, Morocco (if she wishes) and perhaps the Gulf States. Kamel observed, however, that the Moroccans are thinking of a full meeting. The Secretary wondered whether there might be more problems than benefits emerging from a full summit. Kamel agreed, noting that the Libyans would create problems. The smaller the summit, the better. Saunders asked about the Tunisians and the Algerians, and what weight they carry? Kamel responded that they all carry some weight, but did not think the two states would wish to participate. Boutros Ghali commented that the Tunisians tend to be neutralists: neutralists between Morocco and Algeria and neutralists between the moderates [Page 111]and the rejectionists such as Libya. Kamel also reiterated his view that any success at Camp David will attract other Arabs at a later stage.

The Secretary stressed that President Carter is hopeful that something can be achieved. President Carter will outline to President Sadat in the course of their morning meeting what his ideas are. The President has set his sights high. Kamel emphasized that Egypt is concerned that the close U.S.-Egyptian relationship continue even if nothing is achieved at Camp David. Egypt will keep trying for peace and will need U.S. assistance. The Secretary recalled that we have often spoken of presenting our suggestions when the time comes. He thought President Carter will do so at this meeting.

[Omitted here is discussion of the political situations in Somalia, Eritrea, Libya, and Chad.]


The Secretary noted our concern about the periodic flare-ups in Lebanon. We have been in touch on a daily basis with Lebanese Foreign Minister Boutros, with other Lebanese, with the Syrians and with the Israelis. He had sent cables last Wednesday to Assad5 and to the Saudis,6 at a time when the fighting was heavy, urging (a) the Syrians to agree to a ceasefire and a standfast and (b) the Saudis to try to influence the Syrians along these lines. As yet, there has been no reply. Hence, President Carter had earlier today sent another message7 to Assad again urging restraint.

The U.S. has also urged restraint on the Israelis. The Israelis have been deploying reconnaissance aircraft over Lebanon. The Syrians have recently deployed anti-aircraft artillery to Lebanon, but thus far no missiles. If the Lebanese situation should explode, the Secretary noted, it could blow everything up. The Egyptians agreed.

Kamel thought that the Syrians would be only too happy to have a ceasefire. In his view, the Israelis need to be influenced and pressed. He opined that the Israelis are keeping the situation in Lebanon heated, perhaps even in connection with the Camp David talks. The Israelis withdrew their forces, but left behind Haddad and the Christian forces.

The Secretary said we have been in touch on a daily basis with the Israelis. Vice President Mondale had also talked to the Pope8 urging the Vatican to get in touch with the Christians in order to urge restraint. Kamel agreed that the Vatican is trying, and commented that the [Page 112]French are also involved. He asked what answer the Israelis have given to U.S. representations. The Secretary said they have replied that if there were a ceasefire, there would be no reason for Israelis to be involved. Boutros Ghali recalled that, while recently in Rome for the Pope’s funeral, he had talked with Lebanese Christian leader Helou and Moslem leader Sulh. Both had asked for an Egyptian role in resolving the Lebanese problem. Boutros Ghali noted that as long as Egypt is engaged in the peace process, it is difficult for Egypt to play a positive role in Lebanon because of Syrian opposition. They had discussed this with Sadat on the aircraft on the way over. Sadat had said that as soon as something can be achieved at Camp David, this will open the way for a more active Egyptian role in Lebanon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 4, Middle East—1978. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eilts.
  2. See footnote 7, Document 28.
  3. Saunders met with King Hassan in Rabat, July 21, for a three-hour discussion of the Arab-Israeli negotiations and bilateral U.S.-Moroccan relations. Saunders sent a record of the discussion to Vance in Washington, as well as to Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Jidda in telegram 4437 from Rabat, July 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840139–2392)
  4. The “confrontation states,” also known as the Pan-Arab Front for Steadfastness and Confrontation, were comprised of Algeria, Libya, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), Syria, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The group, designed “to face the Zionist enemy and confront the imperialist conspiracy,” was formed at the conclusion of a summit held in Tripoli, December 1–5, 1977, to protest Sadat’s visit to Israel the month before. (Joe Alex Morris, Jr., “Arabs at Summit Agree on Plan,” Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1977, p. A9)
  5. See Document 20.
  6. Ibid.
  7. See Document 29.
  8. Mondale attended the Papal Inaugural ceremony for Pope John Paul II on behalf of the United States September 2–4.