What was the 1969 Cairo Agreement between Lebanon and the PLO?
The famous Cairo Agreement was signed when the Lebanese and PLO delegations met in Cairo on November 3, 1969 in the presence of United Arab Republic War Minister General Muhammad Fawzi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahmud Riyad. Army Commander General Emile al-Bustani was leading the Lebanese delegation while Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, was advocating the case of Palestinian refugees. According to this agreement, PLO was allowed to operate in refugee camps and to train, arm and recruit fighters against Israel, using Lebanon as its base for military operations. The aim of this agreement was to make an attempt at regulating the political and military activities of Palestine in Lebanon while respecting the Lebanese sovereignty.
The end of the Six-Day War in June 1967 brought over 400,000 Palestinians as refugees to settle in the refugee camps in southern Lebanon as well as in the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Following the revolution of 1969, various political factions in the Palestinian refugee camps showed eagerness to establish a new front for launching attacks on Israel. The Lebanese government restrained Palestinians from such activities. Like the Palestinians in Jordan, refugees in Lebanon were not allowed to be a part of government service or the army. To make matters worse, Palestinians were attacked by the Lebanese army, repressed by the government agents and denied travel or work permits. Most people were living in a state of extreme poverty and many of them were supporting the armed struggle.
This oppression was due to the fact that some Lebanese factions feared that the involvement of Palestinians in Lebanese politics or other activities might endanger their political standing and communal balance. Moreover, they feared that the raids on Israel initiated from the refugee camps will in turn bring retaliatory Israeli raids on Lebanon. On the other hand, there were some factions which considered Palestinians as their allies in the movement of political transformation.
Relations between the PLO and Lebanon went on a decline when the Palestinian freedom fighters clashed with the government forces dominated by Maronites all over the southern Lebanon in October 1969. These events led Gamal Abdul Nasser to attempt to mediate the conflicts between the Lebanese army and the PLO forces and so he brokered the Cairo agreement. The agreement stated clearly the extent to which Palestinians could practice military, political and commando activities in Lebanon.
Cairo Agreement laid down a virtual autonomy in southern Lebanon granted to the PLO. It was also allowed to carry out attacks against Israel from Lebanon which the PLO agreed to fire from within the Jewish state. Palestinians were also made free to carry arms and indulge into training activities within the confines of the refugee camps and the transit to Lebanon’s border with Israel. Moreover, Palestinians were asked to set up the camps outside of the Lebanese towns.
Resultantly, an autonomous authority of the PLO was created within southern Lebanon. Through this agreement, Arafat and his organization succeeded in gaining a diplomatic recognition from numerous states and establishing diplomatic missions in a lot of countries.