302. Telegram From the Department of State to the Interests Section in Egypt 1

23000. Subj: Oil Embargo. For Ambassador from the Secretary.

Please see Fahmy and ask him to convey the following letter from the Secretary to President Sadat.2
Begin text: Dear Mr. President: As I know you are aware, President Nixon and I have appreciated your efforts to be helpful in bringing about an end to the oil embargo against the United States, and we also understand the problems you have faced in your contacts with the other Arab states. We have received with increasing encouragement assurances from you and personally from your advisors of the expectation that there will be a speedy end to the boycott.
I am now deeply disturbed, however, at word I have just received from King Faisal 3 that as a result of soundings he has taken with other Arab states and of his recent meeting with President Assad, a lifting of the embargo will not be possible unless a disengagement agreement is achieved and is being implemented between Israel and Syria. He therefore expresses the hope that this will be accomplished prior to the Arab oil conference on February 14, whose decision, he says, will otherwise be negative. This information is, of course, directly at variance with what we have heard from your government—notably your letter to President Nixon of January 274—that, as a result of your diplomatic efforts, the King had agreed to lift the embargo, and that Bahrain, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi had also agreed to take this step.5
Mr. President, I am sure you are aware of the importance of what is involved here and are as disturbed as I am by this unexpected new development. His Majesty’s Government originally told us that all that was required was a reaffirmation of our support for Security Council Resolution 242, which we have done many times. We were then told that some demonstration of good faith was needed, and we achieved the six-point agreement of November 6. Next we were told that a disengagement of forces was required involving some Israeli pull-back. This has also been achieved. Now we are informed that there is yet another prior requirement: disengagement on the Syrian front. It is of course entirely unrealistic to expect such an agreement by February 14.
I am sure you will understand it when I say that in these circumstances we cannot continue the role that you and I have so carefully and exhaustively talked about. From your own communications with us you know how important it was for President Nixon to be able to convey to the nation on January 30 favorable news about the lifting of the embargo. The statement he made on that occasion was much less then we wanted—or indeed that we had been led to believe he would be able to make—but in deference to the King’s wishes it was worded in this manner on the basis of explicit assurances and in a genuine effort by us to be helpful. That effort by the President to be helpful now threatens to become for him a major political liability, which in turn would undermine much that Egypt and the United States have [Page 851] accomplished in recent months. If the embargo continues the President will have no choice but to make public the nature of the assurances which we have received from the Arabs on this matter. The damage this would cause to Arab credibility and statesmanship, and to the President’s and my own efforts to build support within this country for an active United States role to bring about a peace settlement, would be tragic, but I would be doing you a disservice, Mr. President, and it would not be in the spirit of the deep understanding of our talks if I failed to convey to you clearly the inevitable consequence of a continuation of the embargo.
The matter cannot wait until a disengagement agreement is achieved with Syria. You know that my government is fully committed, as you are, to achieving such an agreement as the next step. I gave you my personal commitment in this regard, on the assumption that commitments made to us with respect to lifting the embargo would be fulfilled. I believe the chances are good that we can get serious talks on Syrian-Israeli disengagement started by the time Egyptian-Israeli disengagement is completed in early March, if the embargo is lifted. A major effort with Israel will again be needed to achieve a Syrian agreement, and it will be impossible to proceed with this in the face of a congressional and public reaction in this country against the Arabs for maintaining an embargo against us in the light of what we have already achieved in the Middle East.
I hope you will make further urgent efforts to convey to King Faisal and to President Assad the need for a lifting of the embargo prior to or during the Arab oil conference on February 14. The United States has carried out its undertakings thus far, and you have my renewed assurances that we will proceed with the next stages toward a peace settlement according to the program we have talked about. It is now up to the Arab states to demonstrate that they too can live up to their undertakings. I am confident you will do everything in your power to make sure that what our two governments have so painstakingly built thus far will not now be placed in jeopardy.
With best wishes, Henry A. Kissinger. End text.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 133, Country Files, Middle East, Egypt, Vol. X. Secret; Flash; Nodis; Cherokee. Drafted by Michael Sterner (NEA/EGY); cleared by Sisco; and approved by Kissinger.
  2. Ambassador Eilts delivered the letter to Fahmy on February 5. (Telegram 582 from Cairo, February 5; ibid.) Kissinger reiterated the basic message of his letter to Sadat in a February 5 letter to Asad on disengagement issues. Kissinger wrote, “I will only be able to initiate with Israel such efforts to solve the immediate problem of getting Syrian-Israeli disengagement moving after the oil embargo has been lifted.” (Telegram 23475 to Damascus, February 5; ibid., Box 1181, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East Peace Negotiations, 2/1–2/8/74)
  3. See Document 298.
  4. See Document 292.
  5. Saudi officials in Egypt, including Kamal Adham, insisted to Eilts and Fahmy that Faisal had not reneged on his promises to Nixon but had simply passed on the position of other Arab leaders. (Telegram 602 from Cairo, February 6; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 129, Country Files, Middle East, Middle East, 1971–1974)