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

19. Subject: Letter From Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs to the Secretary. Ref: Jidda 5770; Jidda 0011.2

Omar Saqqaf gave me late last night (Jan 2) his reply to your message of December 28.3 As stated earlier, and in spite of its Jan 1 date, it was drafted before his receipt of your message of Dec 30,4 and before receipt of the letter from Sadat to King Faisal.5
The message is friendly but is not particularly significant except for the statement that the boycott could be lifted when the Israelis withdraw to the Sinai passes, and Saqqaf’s statement to me that the King had read and approved the reply. The statement on oil prices is ambiguous at best.
Text follows; original being pouched to NEA/ARP.
“Mr Dear Dr. Henry: My Dear Friend: Ambassador James Akins has given me Your Excellency’s letter wherein you called attention to his talks with me and with various Saudi officials concerning OPEC decisions announced on December 25, 1973;6 the great frustration of your hopes; your dismay because those decisions preserved the oil embargo against the USA, especially while the USA is the only country trying earnestly to produce the just settlement which the Arab world is seeking and when oil supply to other countries not capable of playing any role has been increased. You point out that this has put President Nixon in a difficult position, in circumstances which are open discrimination against the United States, and therefore you will [Page 792] be totally unable to continue on the course which you have set out for yourself.
“We know that the United States of America is trying now to reach a peaceful solution in the region, and His Majesty King Faisal has no doubt and nor do I, regarding your sincerity or that of President Nixon that you are expending every effort to realize peace in the region. But I should like to point out that all Arabs do not share this opinion. Looking back, perhaps it would be of benefit if we reminded you of President Kennedy’s statements about the necessity of arriving at a just settlement in the Middle East, and what he mentioned in his letter to His Majesty King Faisal in 1963 concerning America’s commitment to the territorial integrity of all countries in the region and to the preservation of their borders.7 Along with that, the affirmations President Johnson issued to the world that there would be no changes in the Middle East brought about by force. Similarly, your predecessor Mr. Rogers many times declared that the United States of America viewed peaceful settlement as based on the situation existing prior to 1967. With all that, the situation continues as it has for more than six years.
“Ambassador Akins has affirmed more than once to His Majesty King Faisal and to me personally that you are different from those before you. He has emphasized your brilliance and the fact that President Nixon supports you and backs you, that President Nixon will not retreat from assurances already given, and that even his adversaries know this very well.
“We have two important personal letters from President Nixon to His Majesty King Faisal8 which affirm his strongest personal concern for a just solution to the problem. Similarly we have your personal assurances of your acceptance and understanding of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, which do not differ in any way from my interpretation and understanding of that Resolution. But I must make it clear to you that I until now have not seen or found anything declared which will appease the Arab people; your understanding and interpretation of Resolution 242 must be demonstrated clearly so that we can discuss it with our Arab brothers, particularly those who believe that America is not separate from Israel but that it is the open enemy of the Arabs.
“I should like to review what took place at the time of your first visit, and at the time of the second.9 When you were in our midst in November, His Majesty King Faisal informed you clearly that he would [Page 793] only lift the embargo and increase production when Israel withdrew from lands occupied on June 5, 1967. In your second visit, His Majesty said to you that we were prepared to lift the embargo if a schedule for Israeli withdrawal was fixed according to a timetable guaranteed by the United States of America.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is fully aware of the suffering in the United States of America brought about by the oil embargo.
“The embargo on Europe was raised for reasons which you know, and I do not believe you have any doubt about the intention of the Kingdom to raise the embargo on the United States of America completely when it perceives Israel prepared both to withdraw completely and to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people. If Israel carries out, in principle, the disengagement which you explained clearly to me as being withdrawal from the West Bank to the Mitla Pass as a first line, then it would be possible to lift the embargo on America.
“Indeed I fully appreciate the significance to you of resolving the matter quickly, just as you mentioned in your letter. But the matter is of no less importance to us and I must say to you that we strongly suspect Israel’s designs. For that reason His Majesty’s instructions to me affirm the inconceivability of lifting the embargo and supplying the United States of America with oil while Israel remains in its present position. We too are seeking the best means to return our mutual relations to their well-known natural state. Therefore, I offer to you His Majesty’s guidance, which to me signifies the only ideal way to clarify our positions to each other. That guidance is that we will wait for your pressure on Israel to be successful, whereby Israel withdraws to the Mitla Pass in Sinai as the first stage of full withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands, and gives the Palestinians their rights to self-determination. At that point the embargo can be raised, after preparing the ground with appropriate declarations and reciprocal visits.
“Regarding the subject of raising the prices of oil. Certainly you more than anyone else know the moderate stand of His Majesty regarding prices. Just as I know very well that the Kingdom and then the Arab countries were the last to study this subject, because another country raised prices first. His Majesty will accept what the Arabs agree on within reason concerning prices because he does not believe that the Kingdom should adopt a unilateral position in this matter.
“I reiterate to you my felicitations for the New Year and I forward to you my warmest personal wishes. Your friend, Omar Saqqaf, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (title crossed out).”
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Dec 73–Feb 74. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis.
  2. Telegram 5770 is Document 276. As reported in telegram 11 from Jidda, January 2, Saqqaf informed Akins of the contents of a long letter from Sadat to Faisal. Akins concluded that “there was no hint in the letter that the boycott could or should be lifted before disengagement.” He added that Saudi Arabia and Egypt “have concluded that disengagement will take place soon; that this will give them sufficient reason to explain to other Arabs why the boycott should be lifted, and that President Nixon will not be done irreparable harm by a short delay.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Dec 73–Feb 74)
  3. Transmitted in Document 273.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 276.
  5. Presumably a letter carried by Saqqaf after his meeting with Sadat; see footnote 4, Document 276.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 271.
  7. See Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, volume XVIII, Near East, 1962–1963, Document 346.
  8. Documents 258 and 274.
  9. See Documents 238 and 267.