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

617. From Richards. I have received effusive show of welcome Saudi Arabia. First audience afternoon April 9 was in King Saud’s residence palace, where he said he had previously received no foreigners except Chiefs of State. As HM expressed it, he viewed Americans as his closest friends and not as outsiders, and he wanted to show special deference to personal representative of President Eisenhower.

I conveyed President’s respects and abiding friendship. HM reciprocated these with feeling and said he was working on means of even further strengthening these friendly relations not only between two Chiefs of State but also between two peoples.

After dinner given by HM, had private audience his office, where President’s gifts proudly displayed. HM began by emphasizing he was exerting “every possible effort create understanding and friendship other countries for America, that we may coordinate our efforts maintain world peace and tranquility”. HM later said “I shall fight every destructive influence in this area of world”.

I said my mission has been impressed by what HM has done in area relations. Said however we were disturbed by recent developments Jordan and Syria. I outlined basic elements mission goals and said we had been met everywhere so far in tour by friendly people and friendly governments. HM responded “I pray for continued success of mission”.

In response my invitation for HM’s comments on area developments HM first observed that he and his country were outspoken opponents of Communism, as was well-known. HM continued “your promise to come to aid of country threatened by direct Communist aggression is clear. What is not clear is definition which countries are under domination of forces international Communism. This lack of clarity enables some elements make statements against [Page 490] your interests this area. For instance, while I do not deny there are extremist elements in Syria I do not believe it is country dominated by international Communism. You should clarify these points concerning that portion of American Doctrine which relates to indirect aggression.”

I said we had attempted make plain American Doctrine not designed settle intra-area disputes. As to decision re specific countries being dominated by international Communism, this must be left to good judgment of President. King asked whether we would accuse Syria of being Communist dominated and therefore come to aid of Israel in event trouble between them. I replied no governments had asked us for help against Syria. Some governments in this area have asked us for help in strengthening their internal situation so they can withstand pressures of Communist or leftist elements from within or without.

HM then presented at length problem of Aqaba. He kept reasserting his eternal friendship for President Eisenhower. HM said Aqaba question would not affect our basic friendship but he wanted friendly cooperation from USG in fighting his enemy. He was determined never to consent to Aqaba Straits being considered international waterway. “We will never permit in any way Israel transit through our territorial waters” he said he would stir up entire Moslem world to prevent this. I told him I knew he could do this, but hoped his faith in US would make him hesitate in doing such a thing, because he knew President Eisenhower and His Majesty when they sat down together could settle this great question in amicable way. I asked King Saud to consider both sides of American position on question. While we fully understood sincerity of his position, I hoped he would concede sincerity of ours. Informed him that principles involved in Aqaba question applied also to other waterways in world and stand taken by US had to apply to all parts of world. We could not make exception in Aqaba just because of Israeli situation. Called his attention to US efforts build firm structure of international law through which disputes of all nations could be settled. Said our experts state precedents point to Aqaba as an international waterway. We had shown our respect for world law and United Nations itself by condemning Israel aggression, and demanding Israel forces retire from Egyptian territory. Pointed out we had in many additional ways helped to formulate through UN respect for world morals and world law. Since we believe that under world law Aqaba waters are international waters, we would not be honest and consistent if we did not say so. I granted it was possible that we were wrong and position King Saud took might be right. In that light, I asked if HM would agree to refer matter to world court for determination and abide by its determination. I did not venture [Page 491] to assert that US would be bound by decision but I presume that he assumed that we would. He would have no part of such procedure and asked that US have nothing to do with it. HM insisted whole Gulf was Arab Sea and belonged not to SA alone but to Islamic world, and that Israel had seized Aqaba as avenue of expansion. He mentioned pilgrimages to Holy places and I replied President Eisenhower had guaranteed there would be no interference and that we reasserted that principle. King remained adamant in his position and I promised him I would convey what he said to President.

I said where there is friendship and good will much can be done. HM answered “I have no doubt whatsoever President and his Government and people will always try to do what is right” ….

In courtesy call on Crown Prince Faisal later same evening, Faisal said “may God help and speed you in accomplishment your mission”. Subject of Aqaba was again brought up and briefly discussed. Arrangements were made for technical discussions following morning with Prince Sultan, Minister of Communications and Mohammad Surur, Finance Minister. Faisal’s parting words were to effect we would continue have trouble in this area so long as British and “Zionism” were present.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 120.1580/4–1157. Secret. Repeated to Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman, and Paris.