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

682. Subject: Arab Mini-Summit Conference; Lifting of Oil Boycott. Ref: A) Jidda 628; B) Jidda 629; C) Jidda 632.2

Summary: Saudi Foreign Minister Saqqaf has come back from Syria where he tried to convince Syrian President Asad that the time had come to lift the oil boycott. He thinks Asad understands the Saudi rationale. Saudi Arabia has proposed a “mini-summit” of Faisal, Sadat, Boumedienne and Asad in Aswan February 14—or in Damascus if Asad insists.3 Asad wants to include the Ruler of Kuwait—this does not enthuse the Saudis. If the group agrees that the boycott should be lifted they will advance a united position at the Tripoli meeting (which may be postponed few days from February 14) and the action will then be announced. End summary.

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Sayyid Omar Saqqaf, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told me this afternoon (Feb 10) that he had made the same points to Asad on Feb 8 I had made to the King (ref A). He had done this because Saudi Arabia, and especially the King, now accepted them all without reservation. They were as follows:
Only U.S. has the ability to bring a just peace to the Middle East;
In the U.S. only the Nixon-Kissinger team has the will to take on this task;
The continuation of the oil boycott does not put pressure on Nixon-Kissinger to take further action on behalf of the Arabs; to the contrary, it weakens them and reduces their flexibility;
Continuation of the boycott therefore is definitely not in the Arabs’ interest;
Accordingly the boycott should be lifted immediately.
He said Asad found your recent proposals (ref B) a sound basis for opening negotiations, and he (Asad) was pleased with your efforts. Saqqaf also said that, contrary to the information I had given him about the Russians trying to block the negotiations, Asad had told him the Russians were urging Syria to be forthcoming.
Saqqaf (speaking for King Faisal) proposed to President Asad that the four heads of state: Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Asad of Syria, Boumedienne of Algeria, and Sadat of Egypt, meet before the Tripoli meeting to decide on lifting the boycott.
Saqqaf said Asad tentatively agreed to go to the “mini-summit” but insisted if it be held that Kuwait also be invited. Saqqaf said this was bad news but he thought he would be able to arrange the meeting for a time when the Emir of Kuwait would be tied up with the Mobuto (of Zaire) state visit.
Kamal Adham, Royal Intelligence Advisor, flew to Damascus this afternoon (Feb 10) with the proposal that the four or five meet in Asuan this Wednesday or Thursday, i.e., the 13th or 14th (or in Damascus if Asad insists), that this was the only time Faisal could be out of Riyadh, that the Tripoli meeting be postponed a few days and that the decision to lift the boycott be announced then (provided of course that this was the consensus of the four).
Saqqaf said Saudi Arabia must decide its own oil policy; and while they must also do everything possible to preserve Arab unity, this is a time when Syria and Algeria must yield to Saudi wishes.
Saqqaf thought that there probably rpt probably would be no problems in the Asuan meeting, provided the Ruler of Kuwait can be kept away (he thought that Sabah might get up on a nationalist soap box and try to win a name for himself by being more Arab than Syria or Egypt).
In a separate conversation, Zaki Yamani, Saudi Minister of Petroleum, was far more optimistic. He said categorically that “your problems are over; you can relax; the boycott will be lifted.” Both Saqqaf and Yamani, while apologizing for seeming to be saying something in favor of “godless Communism,” suggested that it might be useful, particularly in Syria, to let the Russians share part of credit in the next go-round of negotiations.
All the [garble—men?] I saw February 10 (Kamal Adham, Prince Saud, Saqqaf and Yamani) asked that the President and the Secretary try to understand what Saudi Arabia and other Arab friends of America are trying to do: that the President and the Secretary not lose patience. They asked particularly that we institute a moratorium on the use of the word “blackmail.”
Comment: I will not again cry “sheep,” until it is in the fold. But there are new reasons for optimism. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are now clearly in favor of lifting the boycott. Saudi Arabia, for the first time, seems willing to insist that its view be accepted. Asad seems close to an agreement. Boumedienne is vacillating but if he is about to resume diplomatic relations with the U.S., he could scarcely maintain that the boycott should continue.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 139, Country Files, Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Feb 74–July 74. Secret; Immediate; Cherokee; Nodis.
  2. See Document 312 and footnote 2 thereto.
  3. According to telegram 721 from Jidda, February 12, the proposed Arab Summit would take place in Algiers February 13 and 14. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 207, Geopolitical Files, Saudi Arabia, Feb 7–Feb 28, 74) According to telegram 323 from Algiers, February 12, Boumedienne asked Kissinger not to make any statements or take any initiatives that could create problems for summit deliberations, in order to create the “right atmosphere.”(Ibid., Box CL 101, Geopolitical Files, Algeria, Oct 1973–Mar 1974)