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New Documents from the GDR Archives - Honecker and the Middle East

CWIHP has recently translated 6 new documents from the former GDR in the German Federal Archives relating to Erich Honeckers conversations with Middle East leading figures, Yasser Arafat, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah.

Introduction

The Cold War International History Project is releasing a series of newly translated documents concerning East German relations with Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

These records, originally found in the papers of the former GDR in the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv), document Erich Honecker’s conversations with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah. The new documents shed light on Warsaw Pact involvement in the Middle East, particularly in relation to Arab-Israeli tensions and the First Palestinian Intifada.

 

 

Stenographic Transcript of the Official Talks between Comrade Erich Honecker and Comrade Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafiin Tripoli, 15 February 1979
SAPMO-BA J IV 1857. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Honecker and Gaddafi pledge unity against colonialism in Southern Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, referencing developments in Kampuchea, Iran, and Afghanistan. Honecker presses the importance of disarmament and expresses his support for the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front. The two leaders agree that Libyan oil will be shipped to East Germany.

 

Note about the Meeting between Comrades Erich Honecker and Muammar al-Gaddafi on 16 February 1979 in Tripoli, 16 February 1979

SAPMO-BA J IV/857. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Gaddafi describes Libya’s geopolitical position and requests arms, which Honecker agrees to provide. Gaddafi states that he financially supported the Iranian Revolution and intends to support movements in Angola, Zambia, and Mozambique as well. At Honecker’s suggestion, Gaddafi is willing to sign a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” between their two countries.

 

Conversation between General Secretary Erich Honecker and the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Sa'ad Abdullah Al-Sabah, in Salam Palace on 16 October 1982, 16 October 1982

SAPMO-BA J IV 2/201/1446. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Al-Sabah expresses concerns about Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Israeli occupation of other Arab territories, and the conflict between Iran and Iraq. Honecker hopes that East German-Kuwaiti cooperation will help to restore and preserve peace in the Middle East.

 

Transcript of a Meeting between Comrade Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman of the State Council of the GDR, with the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, 14 February 1984
SAPMO-BA J IV/837. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

At a meeting held in Moscow on the occasion of Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov’s funeral, Arafat cordially thanks the GDR for its “permanent support and solidarity”. Arafat and Honecker discuss the Middle East’s fractious situation, agreeing in particular that the Camp David Accords must be nullified.

 

Note of a Meeting between the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED and Chairman, Comrade Erich Honecker, and the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, on 15 September 1988

SAPMO-BA IV 2/1/685. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Arafat reports that the First Intifada, which began ten months earlier, has strengthened the PLO. He describes the PLO’s plans going forward and their anticipated impact on Israel. Honecker expresses East Germany’s steadfast support for the PLO and talks about potential progress towards peace on the international stage.

 

Memorandum of a Conversation between Erich Honecker and Yasser Arafat in Berlin, 15 December 1988

SAPMO-BA J IV 955. Contributed by Stefan Meining and translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Arafat expresses great appreciation for East German solidarity with the PLO. He reports that the Palestinian National Committee is redoubling efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, detailing negotiations in Sweden to end the Intifada. Honecker remarks on international disarmament negotiations and assures Arafat of East Germany’s continuing support.


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The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more