91. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State1

7435. From Assistant Secretary Saunders. Subject: Talk With King Hussein. Ref: (A) Amman 8074,2 (B) Amman 8082.3

1. Assistant Secretary Saunders meet afternoon October 17 for two hours with King Hussein. Hussein had Royal Court Chief Sharaf with him; Ambassador Veliotes, Suddarth and Howell accompanied Saunders. Generally cordial discussion was marked by moments of frustration, some bitterness at Arab colleagues, and some moving deeply personal comments about dedication to peace.

2. At outset of meeting, Saunders presented original of US responses4 to Jordanian questions to Hussein, stressing that United States had been acutely aware that Jordan was not represented at Camp David and had accepted Jordanian queries with full respect for the considerations which led Jordan to pose them. Hussein expressed appreciation for response and for President Carter’s personal interest in reviewing and signing them. He indicated that he would wish to study [Page 322]them further and get into details during his meeting with Saunders on Oct 19.5 He welcomed, however, Saunders’ offer to outline US thinking and philosophical approach which had resulted in Camp David Agreements. King made point of restating his familiar position on Jerusalem and questioned Saunders closely on status of US disagreement with Israel on West Bank settlements issue.

3. Following introductory remarks by Saunders, King who had clearly been briefed by Sharaf, replied that he considers that the US and Jordan are engaged in a very constructive dialogue which Jordan hopes to pursue. He observed that the US and Jordan have similar objectives but appear to be working at the problem from different directions. Half joking, he suggested that the US has attempted to avoid making the framework as tight as it might be. In a later remark, which is probably indicative of the strategy he will pursue at least until after the projected Baghdad summit, Hussein said he would continue for a period of time to pester us with questions which he jokingly said the US “will continue to try to evade.”

4. Hussein said, in a more serious vein, that Jordan needs something in hand to assure it that there has been no erosion of the US position on the shape of a final settlement. Decrying the fact that Jordan has no external guarantor, he said he wished that he had a commitment from the US similar in fact, if not in depth of sentiment, to that enjoyed by Israel. Jordan, he emphasized, is being asked to enter into the framework negotiated at Camp David from a position of great weakness. The results of Camp David, he stated, had come as a complete surprise to Jordan. Nevertheless, he said he had been seriously considering what Jordan might do to bring about a starting point for further progress. Scattered throughout his discourse were references to his unhappiness at what he perceives as Egyptian strategy and, at one point, he stressed that Egypt must realize that it is not the “shepherd” with Jordan and other Arabs playing the roles of the “flock”. Hussein also felt obvious discomfort with the Saudi role which he felt put Jordan on the line without quote anything in terms of meaningful support. End quote. King also repeatedly stressed with bitterness continuing Saudi support for the PLO.

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5. Reflecting his contacts with President Assad of Syria, Hussein expressed his conviction that Syria continues to desire a comprehensive peace, but that Assad will insist that the Soviets be involved with Syria to provide, Hussein suggested, a protector for Syrian interests. He added somewhat cryptically that he and Assad had agreed in principle to meet and discuss possible alternatives to the Camp David approach. In response to his rhetorical query about whether the US had made a policy decision to keep the Soviets out of the process, Saunders returned at a subsequent point in the conversation to a discussion of the Soviet role. Saunders reviewed Soviet involvement, including the US-Soviet joint statement6 of October, 1977 and the lack of subsequent results re progress towards Geneva. The US, Saunders observed, has not closed the door to a Geneva-style forum in the future if that should prove useful, but, he pointed out, that would only be helpful if the Soviets were able, as they have not done in past, to contribute positively to the process.

Neither Egypt nor the Israelis desired such a role at this time and, Saunders reminded Hussein, there are aspects of the Soviet position, [such] as advocacy of an independent Palestinian state, which are not necessarily in Jordanian interests. In any case, he continued, we have before us a framework which holds promise of ending Israeli military occupation in the West Bank/Gaza as soon as the Jordanians and Palestinians decide to take advantage of it. Those who shape what evolved in the occupied territories, Saunders concluded, will be those who negotiate in the next few months. Saunders said our assumption has been that Jordan wants a role in shaping future of West Bank and King affirmed that it does.

[garble] acknowledging the difficulties of the choice confronting Hussein, Saunders raised the issue of the forthcoming Arab summit7 and pointed out that, historically, such meetings have seldom had positive results in terms of peace. Hussein did not disagree but said he had felt such a summit was inevitable following Camp David. He urged the Saudis, he reported, to take the lead in convening the meeting in the hope that this would have assured moderate control over the venue, agenda, etc. The Saudis, however, had not acted, he said with bitterness, permitting Iraq to seize the initiative.

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7. If Jordan were to decide ultimately that it could not take up the negotiations offered by the CDA, Saunders asked, what would be its attitude toward the inclusion of West Bankers in an Egyptian delegation? Hussein replied that Jordan had made it clear that it would not stand in the way of West Bank Palestinians and will support whatever action they decide to take. Jordan has already begun increasing its contacts with the West Bank, he said, but needs time to organize its compaign. Asked whether those West Bankers who might be inclined to participate in negotiations could be supported effectively against those with PLO connections and those who oppose the CDA, Hussein said this was possible but would require more resources than Jordan possesses. The Saudis, he said, are tipping the balance in the West Bank and elsewhere by their generous financial support of the PLO. Saunders asked what US could do to help. The King replied: (1) provide Jordan with materials (such as answers to questions) for a dialogue with West Bankers, (2) “Ask your friends (read Saudis) to make up their minds”.

8. Saunders closed the discussion by saying that he looks forward to a more detailed discussion of US responses when he returned from talks in Saudi Arabia. Once again, he emphasized that the replies are straight-forward and honest reflection of precise US position. To have gone beyond them in terms of specific commitments about the results of negotiations would have been a disservice to the spirit of frankness that characterizes US-Jordanian relations. He added that Hussein has received statements of the US view on issues, such as Jerusalem, which are important to him and to all Arabs and that he had President Carter’s commitment by word and deed to continue as a full partner in the negotiations until a successful conclusion is achieved. Saunders pointed out the strong congressional and public support the President enjoys for his efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and the high priority that objective has for the President. He suggested that Hussein ponder these important considerations along with the other elements of his decision on Jordanian policy. In closing, King Hussein suggested he now had a better understanding of US strategy at Camp David and is sympathetic to giving fullest consideration to our views, in particular on ways to maintain pressure for Israeli withdrawal and West Bank self-determination.

9. Saunders comment: Jordanian policy toward West Bank/Gaza negotiations and Baghdad summit8 is still very much in flux. Today’s reading had to be that Jordan is not likely to make a decision before Arab summit, but there is a serious interest and increasing activity with West Bankers which Sharaf promised to discuss with me in more detail Thursday. Jordanians keep stressing the risks in joining a process [Page 325]without knowing where and increasing activity with West Bankers which Sharaf promised to discuss with me in more detail Thursday. Jordanians keep stressing the risks in joining a process without knowing where it will lead. I think, nevertheless, it may be possible to engage Jordanians in getting West Bankers into negotiations. Many elements in Camp David Framework seem not to have been understood.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850027–2755. Secret; Immediate; Exdis Distribute as Nodis. Sent to Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Tel Aviv, and the Secretary’s delegation. Vance was in Pretoria for discussions on the Namibian question with South African officials.
  2. Telegram 8074 from Amman, October 17, summarized Saunders’s initial three-hour October 16 meeting with Prime Minister Badran on the U.S. responses to Hussein’s questions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780424–0841)
  3. Telegram 8082 from Amman, October 17, confirmed Hussein’s agreement to U.S. release of the answers to his questions to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and “selected key congressional leaders” on a “confidential basis.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780425–0229)
  4. The text of the U.S. responses to Hussein’s fourteen questions is printed in Quandt, Camp David, pp. 388–396. The Department cabled answers to the Embassies in Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Jidda on October 17. (Telegram 262521 to Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Jidda, October 17; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 77, Sensitive X: 10/78) In telegram 262527 to Jidda, Cairo, Tel Aviv, and Amman, October 17, Christopher conveyed Carter’s instructions to Eilts, Lewis, and West to present copies of the responses to their host governments once Saunders had presented them to Hussein. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780424–1059) The Department also provided copies of the responses to Hussein’s questions to the Egyptian and Israeli delegations at the Blair House talks. (Telegram 263280 to Jidda, October 17; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780425–0915) The final draft version of the responses, with Carter’s handwritten amendments, is attached to an October 14 covering memorandum from Brzezinski to Carter indicating textual changes proposed by Mondale and Vance. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 77, Sensitive X: 10/78)
  5. Saunders again met with Hussein at Hashemiya Palace in Amman, following the former’s return from Jidda, on October 19. Following the ninety minute meeting, during which Saunders’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the upcoming summit of Arab leaders in Baghdad, and Hussein’s continued study of the U.S. responses to his questions were discussed, Saunders concluded: “In short, King Hussein is not yet prepared to join Camp David framework negotiations on West Bank/Gaza himself—at least not before Arab summit—but he is prepared to encourage West Bankers to participate in Egyptian delegation and to discuss mechanics of Egyptian recruitment efforts with Egyptians. (Telegram 8137 from Amman, October 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850101–1868)
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Document 120.
  7. On October 10, it was announced that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had invited the Foreign Ministers of all the Arab states, except Egypt, to a conference to be held in Baghdad beginning on October 20 in order to develop a “common approach to the Camp David accords.” (Edward Cody, “Saudis Insist Arab Summit Invite Egypt,” The Washington Post, October 11, 1978, p. A20) The conference was ultimately set to begin on November 2.
  8. Ibid.