312. Telegram From the Embassy in Saudi Arabia to the Department of State 1

632. Dept pass Cairo, Algiers, Damascus. Subject: King Faisal’s Response to President Nixon. Ref: Jidda 628; Jidda 629.2

Summary: King Faisal in a letter dated Feb 73 thanks President Nixon for his letter of February 64 and for his efforts to reach peace in the Middle East. He says he understands the problems the continued oil boycott causes the President and says he has tried to persuade other Arabs to agree with Saudi Arabia in lifting the boycott. So far, few have. He says the boycott resulted from an inter-Arab decision and will have to be lifted the same way. It has been difficult, he says, to convince other Arabs to take this positive step as long as the Israelis have not started withdrawal from Syria. He says disengagement in Egypt was relatively easy—the world had a great interest in opening the Suez Canal—but the world is less interested in Syria. The Arabs fear that sufficient pressure will not be placed on Israel to withdraw from Golan. He refers to the recent U.S. efforts in Syria and hopes that they are successful; the Saudis are now awaiting information from Syria for reaction to the proposal. He closes with the repeated hope that disengagement will have begun before the Tripoli meeting. End summary.
The text of the letter dated Feb. 7, 1974, follows: “H.E. President Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States of America. Dear President: I am pleased to inform Your Excellency that I have received from Amb. Akins your letter dated February 6, 1974. I fully appreciate all the efforts which you have been exerting for the realization of a just and permanent peace in the Middle East area, and your government’s commitment to a work plan which would reach that goal.
We noted with great satisfaction that this plan has begun to bear fruit on the Egyptian front, and we look forward to the same positive step (occurring) on the Syrian front, since this is no less important than the Egyptian front, both fronts being so interlinked.
Mr. President: I have as I have informed you started contacts with my Arab brethren for the lifting of the oil ban on the U.S. This I did because of my complete appreciation of the positive steps taken by Your Excellency for attaining a just peace in the area, and because of my knowledge of the embarrasing position—especially in these circumstances—this would put you in inside the U.S., if the ban is not lifted. But as you know, other Arabs would not go along with us and we are associated with our Arab brethren in a resolution from which it would be difficult to deviate. It is difficult to convince them to lift the ban if no agreement is signed for the disengagement of forces on the Syrian front. Their (the other Arabs’) rationale in this is that Israel agreed to the disengagement of forces on the Egyptian front only under world pressure for the opening of the Suez Canal in order to facilitate international transportation, but that the world does not much care about the Syrian front because it doesn’t have much influence on its commercial traffic. Also in their minds is the thought that the Soviet Union, although desirous of seeing the Suez Canal open for its own objectives in the Red Sea and for bringing closer its communications with the Far East, is not so anxious to have disengagement on the Golan front. The Soviet Union would like to see this front remain a hot, explosive point which would force the Arabs to fall back on the Soviet Union and continue to open their coffers to it in return for supplying them with the arms they need for their self-defense.
Mr. President: Initial indications of peace have begun to appear on the horizon of the area thanks to your efforts and those of your Secretary of State. We hope that you will continue your efforts to bring about a just and final peace in which the people of the area can enjoy security and stability.
We have given H.E. the Ambassador a verbal message for Your Excellency expressing our great concern that you exert your efforts, before the convening of the Arab Petroleum Ministers’ conference in Tripoli on Feb 14, 1974, for agreement to be reached between the two sides on the Syrian front, so that our stand at the said meeting could [Page 875] be strong and so that we might forestall any attempt by anyone who might desire to put up obstacles in the path of a quick solution.
H.E. the Ambassador conveyed to us at length at his meeting with us the evening of Feb. 6 Your Excellency’s evaluations, and he explained fully to us the embarrassment you are facing as a result of the delay in lifting the ban. The Ambassador also mentioned that you had offered Syria a proposal for disengagement on the Golan front, and assured us of your determination to carry out the terms of the proposal, in the event that Syria agrees to it.
We are now awaiting Syria’s views on this proposal so that we will be able to contact our Arab brethren in order to coordinate with them further steps to be taken.
We hope that you will exert efforts for disengagement on the Syrian front before the Arab Oil Ministers’ meeting is convened so that we would have a strong argument to put before everyone.
We wish Your Excellency good health and success. God keep you. Faisal al-Saud. Riyadh.”
Letter being pouched.
Sayyid Omar Saqqaf, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, was scheduled to return to Riyadh late last night from Damascus (ref A). We understand he met with the King last night and early this morning. Both the Acting Foreign Minister and Sayyid Omar himself have promised to inform the Ambassador as soon as the Minister returns to Jidda. Although he has not returned yet (1200 GMT Feb 8), the Ambassador hopes he will be able to see him this evening.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 631, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Vol. V. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis.
  2. A notation at the end of the telegram indicates it was not passed to Cairo, Algiers, or Damascus. According to telegram 628 from Jidda, February 7, Saqqaf, Royal Advisers Prince Nawwaf and Pharaon, and Faisal agreed at a February 6 meeting that the boycott should be lifted, although Faisal insisted that Saudi Arabia could not act alone. Faisal stated, “it had been difficult to build up an Arab consensus and he could not be the one to destroy it.” (Ibid.) According to telegram 629 from Jidda, February 7, Akins reiterated to Faisal, February 6, Nixon and Kissinger’s commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East, to which Faisal replied “repeatedly” that Saudi Arabia “could not move unilaterally.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Feb 74–July 74) Asad also affirmed the “pan-Arab” character of the oil boycott. (Telegram 57 from Damascus, February 9; ibid., Box 1181, Saunders Files, Middle East Negotiations Files, Middle East Peace Negotiations, 2/9–2/15 1974)
  3. Scowcroft informed Nixon in a memorandum that Faisal’s letter, a translation of which was attached, “was drafted before Ambassador Sowayel reached Saudi Arabia to deliver his report of the meeting with you.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Feb 74–July 74) Both Akins and Scowcroft were concerned that Sowayel might distort Nixon’s message. (Backchannel messages from Akins to Scowcroft, February 9, and Scowcroft to Akins, February 9; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 207, Geopolitical Files, Saudi Arabia, Feb 7–Feb 28, 1974; and backchannel message from Akins to Scowcroft, February 11; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Feb 74–July 74)
  4. Document 307.