258. Letter From President Nixon to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia1

Your Majesty:

The past two months have seen momentous developments in the Middle East which have opened up an historic opportunity for ending the unnatural conditions of the past and bringing a just and lasting peace to the countries and peoples of your region based on Security Council Resolution 242.2 As the date for convening a peace conference in Geneva approaches, I want to share with you in some detail how I see the present situation.

Looking back over recent years, I recall the many times Your Majesty has written to me of your concern and of your conviction that we should do more to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. You have always given me wise counsel, and in retrospect your advice was well taken and should have been heeded.

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The latest war, and the shadow it has cast over our relations with many of our friends in the Middle East, has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the situation which has existed for so long can no longer be permitted to remain unresolved.

Secretary Kissinger has described to Your Majesty my determination to move decisively to promote a just negotiated settlement. The U.S. does so in its own interest, but also out of a sense of solemn responsibility to its friends in the Middle East. My efforts, already begun before the recent war, have been further intensified since then, and with concrete results. Those efforts achieved the ceasefire of October 22, and the six-point agreement of November 11 to stabilize the ceasefire. They have caused the Secretary of State, at my direction, to state three times that a settlement required Israeli withdrawals based on Security Council Resolution 242. As a result, and because of the far-sighted and statesmanlike approach of responsible leaders in the Arab world, in particular President Sadat, we are on the verge of a peace conference which holds out greater hope for the future prosperity and stability of the Middle East than at any time in the past 25 years. This conference must not fail, and I am determined to do all within my power to see that it succeeds.

My administration has made a major effort in recent weeks to enlist the understanding and support of American public opinion and of members of our Congress for the endeavor on which we are embarked. The American people, while they feel a strong commitment to the security and survival of Israel, also harbor friendly feelings toward the Arab world and are well disposed to give responsible Arab views the attention they deserve. The American people have even understood how, in the heat of the recent war, the need to demonstrate solidarity with your Arab compatriots led Your Majesty to institute certain measures with respect to the production and supply of oil.

We are now in a new phase, however, and I must tell Your Majesty frankly of my concern that the American people will not understand the continuation of these measures while their Government is making a major and difficult effort over the weeks and months ahead to promote the just peace that the Arab world seeks. If, with the opening of the peace conference at which my Government will be a participant, these measures are not suspended, I fear that public opinion will not permit us to play the sustained role which you and we agree is our responsibility.

I take the liberty of speaking so frankly because only a restoration of mutual good will and cooperation between the U.S. and its Arab friends will create the atmosphere in which it will be possible for us to pursue the diplomatic course we have set for ourselves. An atmosphere of growing confrontation would only work to our mutual disadvantage and to the benefit of those who wish to maintain the status quo. Furthermore, a continuing disruption of the economy of the free world will only weaken its overall strength to the benefit of the Communist [Page 724] countries. This would not be understood here as a contribution to peace and would only work to undermine the values and goals which Your Majesty and we have jointly sought for the Middle East over the many years of our close relationship.

With Your Majesty’s cooperation, I am prepared to devote the full energies of the U.S. to bringing about a just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on the full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,3 in the adoption of which my Government played a major part.4

Let me say in closing, Your Majesty, how deeply moved I was by your expressions to Secretary Kissinger of your abiding friendship for the U.S. This friendship is reciprocated in full measure. I am confident that our two nations will be able to earn the respect and gratitude of future generations for the contribution we can now make, if we work together, to the cause of peace, justice and freedom in the Middle East and in the world.

Please accept, Your Majesty, my warmest friendship and highest esteem.5


Richard Nixon
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Nov–Dec 1973. No classification marking. According to a December 1 memorandum from Scowcroft to Nixon, the letter, which Kissinger suggested be sent to Faisal, “is framed in such a way as to provide a useful vehicle for those in the Saudi government who are prepared to make efforts to relax the oil embargo.” He added that the letter was also designed to “reassure the King regarding your seriousness of purpose in working for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Scowcroft Daily Work Files, Box 5, Chronological File A, December 1–11, 1973) The signed original reached Jidda on December 22. (Telegram 5663 to Jidda, December 23; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV)
  2. See footnote 4, Document 176.
  3. See Document 209.
  4. Nixon inserted the handwritten sentence: “You have my total personal commitment to work toward this goal.”
  5. Akins presented the letter to Faisal on December 8. After a long discussion, Akins concluded: “King is torn between sincere desire to fully normalize relations with US, and concern that such action would be at first misinterpreted by other Arabs and ultimately prove—much to SAG disadvantage—to have been taken in vain. As King ruminates on issues, one group of advisors, including Saqqaf and probably Dr. Rashad Pharaon, will try to keep SAG’s Arab relations in forefront of King’s mind; another, including Prince Fahd, and, we believe, Prince Sultan and Prince Nawwaf, would be more disposed to support our position or seek a compromise.” Akins thought Faisal had not “completely closed his mind.” He recommended that the United States resist giving Faisal the impression of threat or menace. (Telegram 5416, December 9; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 630, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. IV)