131. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Saudi/U.S. Relations


  • HRH Prince Fahd, Second Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
  • H.E. Omar Saqqaf, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • H.E. Ibrahim al-Sowayel, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Joseph J. Sisco
  • Ambassador Hermann Fr. Eilts, American Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
  • William D. Brewer, Country Director, NEA/ARP
  • Camille Nowfel, Interpreter

Calling on Prince Fahd at Blair House, the Secretary said that the President was looking forward to meeting Fahd and asked that his warm regards be conveyed to His Majesty. The Secretary then expressed pleasure at the good relations which exist between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Both the President and he wished to maintain and develop these ties.

Prince Fahd responded that the Saudis had sensed this feeling on the part of the new Administration. They were proud to be friends with the most powerful country in the world. Because the Secretary’s time was limited, he hoped he could dispense with formalities and get to question of substance. The first of these was the Arab/Israeli problem.

Arab/Israeli Problem:

Fahd said he hoped the USG could work out a just settlement. The Arabs were ready to accept what was fair and just and friends of the USG expected no less. Meanwhile, communism was becoming increasingly strong in the region. Saudi Arabia sought to explain USG positions. While the Saudis relied first on their domestic strength, their larger role required USG help. Over one million refugees could only be convinced of something which was fair and just for them.

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Saudi Domestic Needs:

Fahd continued that, to develop Saudi Arabia, substantial funds were needed. In the light of present area tensions, Saudi Arabia could not afford to devote such funds to economic development. At the same time, he hoped to make every Saudi citizen aware that he is progressing and enjoys freedom and true democracy. Every Saudi should feel that he is part of this process. In these efforts, SAG needed to know it had USG support. Saudi Arabia was compelled to arm itself for its defense. United States experts had studied the question of Saudi naval requirements.2 SAG financial responsibilities were such that Saudi Arabia could not do what it should on this matter right away. The same was true in the case of the Coast Guard.3 Fahd said the Saudis would appreciate the same kind of USG help with respect to their navy and coast guard problems as they had seen in other areas in the past. Fahd also hoped the repayments on the Hawk missile contract with Raytheon could be deferred.

Arms for Israel:

Fahd then noted that some agencies in the Near East, apparently with communist ties, were claiming that the USG intended to give Israel more arms in the future. As far as SAG knew, the USG had no such intention. But it would be in Saudi interest, and that of the USG, for a public statement to be made to the effect that there was no USG intention to supply more arms to Israel and that the USG wished to treat all countries in the area even-handedly.

The Secretary responded that we have long sought to follow a path of fairness and justness on Arab/Israeli issues. He recalled our action in arranging Israeli withdrawal in 1957, an action in which the then Vice President Nixon and himself had themselves been involved. However, for there to be a lasting settlement, there must be flexibility on both sides. Our main effort is to try to help get the parties to agree to a lasting understanding between them. Failing that, unproductive expenditure of resources on arms by both sides would no doubt continue.

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The Secretary continued that there must be Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries. Jerusalem must be a united city with free access for all. We were trying to get more active negotiations going on these bases.

Saudi/USG Relations:

As to Saudi/USG bilateral relations, the Secretary expressed pleasure at Saudi development efforts. He assured Fahd that we would continue our policy of help and support as in the past. In the last few years the USG had been very responsive to Saudi requests. Saudi appreciation for our efforts encouraged us to continue. Fahd expressed gratification. He asked the Secretary to explain the united city concept for Jerusalem. The Secretary noted that the chief need was free access. We opposed Israeli unilateral actions in Jerusalem but felt that other aspects of this problem could best be dealt with after the other questions involved in the Arab/Israeli dispute had been worked out. Fahd noted that a public statement regarding no more arms for Israel would be considered very important by King Faisal. The Secretary said he doubted the utility of saying what we were not going to do but, at present, we had made no decision to do more than we were already committed to do. Fahd said that, as far as he was concerned, the Secretary’s personal statement was enough.

Fahd then referred again to deferring the Hawk payments and help on the Coast Guard and Frontier Force. Mr. Sisco said that we would study Fahd’s requests. Ambassador Eilts outlined the current status of these matters.4 The Secretary indicated that our reaction would be as favorable as feasible.


Fahd then said he wished to discuss “economic aid.” Specifically, he wondered whether the USG could purchase SAG’s share of current oil production. This would help the Saudi revenue picture. Saudi Arabia hoped American oil companies could be encouraged to buy more oil in Saudi Arabia, specifically the Saudi share of current production. Fahd said that he had no special instructions from His Majesty since the King had told him that he would be among friends.

Minister Saqqaf noted that Arab foreign and defense ministers would be meeting on November 8. The meeting might declare that the [Page 413] Jarring mission had failed. As a moderate, Saudi Arabia would be in difficulties. There would be a possibility of a new Arab summit and later preparations for military action. He asked the Secretary if he could request Mr. Sisco to give attention to this difficult Saudi position when he talked to Prince Fahd on October 15.5 Mr. Sisco said he would certainly address himself to this and noted the constructive role Saudi Arabia had played at the most recent regional meeting, the Rabat Islamic Conference. Fahd said he thought the Rabat conference had been successful, since a stand had been taken against communism. The Secretary commended the Saudi Government for the part it had played at the meeting.

Arab/Israeli Reprise:

Turning again to the Arab/Israeli impasse, Fahd said he hoped a solution could be found soon. The longer the impasse continued, the more difficult it was for Saudi Arabia. Expressing understanding, the Secretary said that, after the Israeli elections later in October, we thought that a major effort should be made to make progress.

Saudi Internal Development:

Saqqaf called attention to His Highness’ interest in education and social welfare. The Secretary said he knew of Fahd’s important role in these areas which, in the final analysis, represented the essence of stability. We were gratified that Fahd had accomplished so much for his country in these fields. In response to the Secretary’s request, Fahd then detailed some of the accomplishments in these fields in Saudi Arabia under his aegis. The Secretary extended his warm congratulations for such constructive efforts. Fahd replied that SAG was pleased that its friends, on whom Saudi Arabia depended, understood the actual situation. He praised Ambassador Eilts as extremely cooperative and helpful. The Secretary said that Ambassador Eilts was regarded as one of the USG’s outstanding Chiefs of Mission and was glad to hear that the Saudis agreed.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 SAUD. Secret. Drafted by Brewer and approved in S on November 7. Fahd also met with Agnew. (Memorandum of conversation, October 14; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 1245, Saunders Files, Visit of Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Oct. 13–15, 1969)
  2. The Saudi Government was studying a French proposal for a 10-year improvement of the Saudi Navy, which Thacher regarded as “grandiose,” and a U.S. survey that did not include anti-ship missile capability. (Telegram 2849 from Jidda, August 18; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6–2 SAUD) Prince Sultan regarded naval improvement as of the “highest priority.” (Telegram 2768 from Jidda, August 11; ibid., DEF 19–8 US–SAUD) The preliminary results of the U.S. naval survey are summarized in telegram 5325 from Jidda, September 12, 1968, printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXI, Near East Region; Arabian Peninsula, Document 315.
  3. Saudi review of the U.S. survey of the Saudi Coast Guard/Frontier Forces, regarded as part of Saudi internal defense and aimed at controlling illegal infiltration into the country, had just begun. (Telegram 104077 to Jidda, June 25; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23 SAUD) As reported in telegram 726 from Jidda, March 3, Prince Fahd was “interested in strengthening this internal security force as counterweight to National Guard in eventual succession issue.” (Ibid., DEF 1 SAUD)
  4. In telegram 174564 to Jidda, October 15, Eilts stated that the Coast Guard/Frontier Force study was in its final stages of preparation, and the United States had received no word from the Saudis on the 1968 naval study. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 937, VIP Visits, Prince Fahd Visit, October 1969)
  5. A record of the meeting was transmitted in telegram 175623 to Jidda, October 16. (Ibid., Box 629, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. I) Sisco also met with Fahd as the Prince was departing from Dulles Airport. Sisco told Fahd that he would refer his question on barter oil to the oil companies; that the United States was still willing to be helpful toward the Saudi Navy and the Coast Guard/Frontier Forces; and that the original contract on Hawk missile repayments was “very favorable” and that the United States would study the details. (Telegram 175625 to Jidda, October 16; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 SAUD)