191. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • SultanSisco Talks—Arabian Peninsula Part I of IV


  • His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Minister of Defense and Aviation of Saudi Arabia
  • His Excellency Ibrahim al-Sowayel, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia
  • The Honorable Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Mr. Francois M. Dickman, Director, NEA/ARP
  • Mr. Camille Nowfel, OPR/LS (Interpreter)

Mr. Sisco appreciated the opportunity to meet with Prince Sultan to have further discussions on several points that had been raised in the meeting with the Secretary the previous day.2


Mr. Sisco said we were pleasantly surprised at what Prince Sultan had reported to the Secretary about YAR intentions to resume diplomatic relations with the U.S. This was somewhat different from indications we had received in recent conversations with YAR officials including YAR President Iryani. Speaking very frankly, Sisco said that it was our understanding that while the YAR wished to establish relations, it felt it was not yet able to do so given Egypt’s public criticism of the US.3

Prince Sultan replied that he had had a meeting with the YAR Premier (al-Ayni) about two months ago following the Premier’s recent visit to Moscow.4 Sultan had told al-Ayni that YARUS relations would be beneficial and that Sultan saw no gain for Egypt in opposing their resumption. He thought this argument had made an impression. He said that YAR President Iryani had recently sent messages to Egypt and other Arab countries to advise them that the YAR is considering resuming relations with the US because of increased Communist activity in the area, the YAR’s serious economic situation, the fact that Arab countries have recently reestablished relations with other Western [Page 584] countries, and the desire of the YAR military to rid themselves of their Communist advisors.

Mr. Sisco said it would be helpful if Sultan could convey, in whatever way he deemed appropriate, two points to the YAR Premier. First, that the US is ready to resume diplomatic relations at any time, now or two months from now. Second, if the YAR were able to resume relations, the USG would be in a position to offer the kind of economic assistance that we had previously described to the YAR leadership.5 This could include about $3 million in grant aid from supporting assistance funds, donations of food for child feeding and food-for-work projects which could amount to $2.5 million, scholarships, and collaboration with the Saudis in recruiting American technicians for projects funded by Saudi Arabia. Sultan recalled that a year ago there had been some thought of a US firm doing a topographic survey and he wondered if this was the type of project the US had in mind. Mr. Sisco indicated it might be but because of Congressional requirements, it is impossible to discuss any projects in detail before relations are reestablished. In response to Prince Sultan’s question whether the US could discuss YAR projects with the Saudis before the YAR establishes diplomatic relations, Mr. Sisco replied that preliminary talks on an illustrative basis would be possible. Before the US could be specific, however, diplomatic relations would have to be established.

Later in the conversation, Prince Sultan returned to the subject of aid for the YAR. While he appreciated requirements of Congress concerning economic assistance, he nevertheless believed that US assistance to the YAR would be very important as a means to contain Communist in-roads from South Yemen. He urged that the US consider offering the YAR $20 million in project aid. Prince Sultan believed that the amounts alluded to by Mr. Sisco would be insufficient. Saudi Arabia had already provided Yemen with $40 million in aid and $20 million from the US would not be large in terms of its own resources. His Highness recalled that the subject of aid to Yemen had been raised when Vice-President Agnew met with King Faisal last year and he hoped that favorable consideration could be given to this proposal.6

Mr. Sisco said he appreciated that the sum mentioned is not great in terms of the YAR’s needs and perhaps more could be done eventually. The problem, however is that the USG’s hands are tied in the absence of diplomatic relations. Prince Sultan commented that we both [Page 585] agree on one thing—that economic assistance for the YAR should be looked into carefully. He hoped that his views concerning the desirability of an important US aid commitment to the YAR, even if it were provided over a period of time in stages, would be conveyed to higher authorities including President Nixon. The Saudis were not urging budget support but financing projects to help build up the YAR infrastructure.


Mr. Sisco said that the US was very sensitive to what was going on in South Yemen. We thought one of the best ways to counter South Yemen’s radical influence would be to help build up the YAR economy and society. The same policy applied in Oman where the US is shortly going to open an Embassy in Muscat. We will be looking at projects in the technical field in which we can participate. Sisco noted Jordanian and Iranian interest in providing advisory assistance to Oman and that he was encouraged to learn that SAG was also considering providing economic and military assistance to the Sultanate. He thought that the help provided by these four countries would serve to insulate this area of the Peninsula from Communist penetration.

Prince Sultan replied that SAG is ready and eager to provide economic assistance to Oman. However, as far as military assistance is concerned, the Saudis have limitations. About all they could offer would be training Omanis in Saudi military schools and perhaps sending a few military experts. Saudi Arabia did not have ammunition it could spare. With respect to a joint effort including Iran, Jordan, US, and Saudi Arabia, Prince Sultan thought this would be very helpful but a cooperative action of this kind required a US initiative. Only under the leadership of the US could such an effort be started immediately.

Mr. Sisco remarked that the subject has already been discussed by the US with the Iranians and Jordanians and we had encouraged them to work closely with the Saudis. Sisco noted that Jordan’s Gulf specialist, General Khammash, was presently in Saudi Arabia to discuss ways in which each nation would help. Sisco believed that there was also a need to decide the means of coordinating our actions since all four countries shared a common objective. Sultan indicated his awareness of the mission of General Khammash who had arrived in Saudi Arabia just as Sultan departed for the US.


Referring to the previous day’s meeting with the Secretary, Mr. Sisco reiterated that the US sees Saudi-Iranian cooperation as of crucial importance to the stability of the Persian Gulf. In this regard, the US would like to see an increase in Saudi-Iranian influence in the UAE. We were aware of the Abu Dhabi boundary question and of King Faisal’s generous proposal for settlement. Shaykh Zayid had recently [Page 586] indicated to Ambassador Stoltzfus that he would welcome an early improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia. We hoped that a close contact might be established since it would allow the Saudis and the UAE to discuss not only mutual security concerns but also outstanding boundary problems.

Prince Sultan appreciated Mr. Sisco’s understanding of the Saudi Government’s position concerning the UAE. He noted that SAG had played a very positive role to help establish the Federation. It had offered to assist in projects to raise the standard of living in the Federation and to work on defense matters of mutual interest. However, there is a problem related to the question of sovereignty. The UAE still occupies part of Saudi Arabia. While SAG might be able to give up part of this territory, it could not relinquish everything. To do so would shake the confidence of the Saudi people in King Faisal’s leadership. Sultan pointed out that Saudi Arabia has had its differences with other countries such as Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan and even Qatar, but in time the situation had changed and Saudi Arabia was now friends with all these countries. While Saudi Arabia has the capability to reoccupy overnight those disputed territories originally occupied by the British and now by the UAE, King Faisal wished to settle the issue peacefully. He hoped the US could impress on the UAE the importance of a boundary settlement.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 SAUD. Secret. Drafted by Dickman. The meeting took place at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. See Document 161 for other parts of Sultan’s meetings in Washington on regional affairs.
  2. See footnote 1, Document 161.
  3. As reported in telegram 204 from Sanaa, March 27. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL SYEMEN–YEMEN)
  4. See Document 187.
  5. As reported in telegram 3500 from USUN, October 14 (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 YEMEN); telegram 703, October 11; and telegram 717 from Sanaa, October 17. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 641, Country Files, Middle East, Yemen, Vol. I)
  6. Agnew met with Faisal July 8, 1971. See footnote 2, Document 155.