176. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State1

Secto 12130. White House for the President and Brzezinski. Department for Warren Christopher only. Cairo for Ambassador and Atherton only. Subj: Meetings With the Saudi Leadership.

1. I had a very full and good day of talks today with the Saudi leadership. I met first with Foreign Minister Saud for approximately one hour and then for approximately forty-five minutes with King Khaled in presence of Crown Prince Fahd and Princes Abdullah, Sultan and Saud. Finished with a meeting of almost two hours with Fahd at which Abdullah, Sultan and Saud were also present.2

2. I gave the Saudis a full rundown on my talks with Sadat, Begin, Hussein and Assad. I underscored our determination to keep up the momentum of negotiations begun by Sadat and Begin and the dedication of all concerned—ourselves, the Egyptians, and the Israelis—to the principle of a comprehensive settlement. I filled Saudis in on Begin’s visit to Washington and on his understanding of the need for steps to match those taken by Sadat. They were interested to hear about the changes that Sadat’s visit to Israel has brought about in Israeli thinking on the Arabs in general and the Palestinian issue in particular. They emphasized that specific steps are needed soon and made clear that they look to the US to bring the Israelis along. They were obviously gratified and reassured by our pledge to work for a comprehensive settlement. In this regard, Fahd said he thought Assad would join the negotiations if Sadat were successful in getting the Israelis to take the steps he has asked of them.

3. Khaled and Fahd both expressed strong support for our peace efforts. They said they realized that US success is in their own interests. They said our failure would be damaging to them as well as to us and would benefit only the Communists and their friends. Khaled and Fahd repeatedly made the pont that Communists are working against US peace efforts. Khaled gave a long explanation of the initially reticent Saudi reaction to Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, indicating that it was mainly due to surprise and to Sadat’s having ignored their request, [Page 859] once Sadat had announced the visit, to delay it. But Fahd said “We support what is happening”, and he, Khaled and Saud all urged us to use our influence with the Israelis to bring about the sort of Israeli reciprocal move that Sadat needs.

4. Saud spoke at length about, and Fahd also stressed, Saudi concern that the Israelis might try to use Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem to legitimize their presence there. He warned that this would be a grave mistake. He said he hoped the US would not take Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem as a reason to move our Embassy there. I assured him that we had no plans to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv. Fahd also mentioned the importance of a just settlement of the Palestinian question, but did not dwell on it and seemed to be raising it more out of duty than anything else.

5. I conveyed your appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s leadership in the move for a freeze on oil prices. Khaled said SAG is vigorously pursuing its efforts for a freeze and thinks they will be successful. Khaled noted that in addition to Iran, Kuwait, Qatar and Abu Dhabi are now with Saudis on this issue, and he said the President of Venezuela had sent him a message saying Venezuela would vote with the majority. Khaled pointed out that the main advocates of a price increase, Libya and Algeria, are also the states that are stirring up trouble. “We don’t want to help them” he said.

6. In our subsequent conversation, Fahd expressed concern that the drop in the value of the dollar would impede Saudi efforts to secure an oil price freeze. Those in OPEC who want a price increase would use the downward trend of the dollar to butress their arguments. He noted that it was also a matter of concern to the Saudi Government because it affected the value of Saudi holdings in the US. I assured Fahd that the problem of the value of the dollar is a matter of highest priority for the US Government.

7. Fahd also raised the question of Saudi Arabia’s request for US arms, stressing the SAG’s need to show the Saudi people and the military that the country has weapons to defend itself and pointing to the danger from Iraq and South Yemen, both of which receive Soviet arms. Fahd said it was urgent now that the Saudis see something done soon. I said I had already begun talks with key members of Congress regarding the Saudi request for F–15s, that the response was generally good and that we would go forward in January with a proposal to Congress.

8. We also discussed the Horn and Aden. The Saudis clearly would like us to do more for Somalia but did not raise request that we provide arms. Fahd said that, in response to Saudi intercession, the Somalis had assured Kenya that they have no territorial ambitions in Kenya. I stressed the need for Somalia to take advantage of the current situation [Page 860] to move for a negotiated settlement, and Fahd agreed. They will wish to raise the question of Somalia during your visit as they consider the Horn to be the most pressing problem after that of a Middle East settlement. On Aden, the Saudis share our concern over the possibility that the Soviets will be given facilities there to replace those they lost at Berbera. [1½ lines not declassified] Fahd said they would keep the Aden regime under close scrutiny. He asked that we continue to hold up on sending diplomatic representation to Aden and I agreed to do so.

9. To sum up, it is clear that now that their initial shock is past—Saud said people in Saudi Arabia wept in grief at the sight of Sadat in Jerusalem—the Saudis very much want Sadat to succeed and are counting heavily on us to use our influence with the Israelis. They themselves will undoubtedly do everything they can to help Sadat short of publicly taking his side in his polemic with the other Arabs. They see their role as one of working to heal the rift in Arab ranks and quietly bring the Syrians and Palestinians into the peace effort, and this undoubtedly is where they can be most effective. Their remarks on Jerusalem are a reminder of the importance that they attach to that issue and their sensitivity about it. They confirm that while the Saudis may be expected to accept anything agreeable to the other Arabs on most aspects of a settlement, they will want to be consulted closely on Jerusalem and will probably have very specific views about it.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840072–1466. Secret; Immediate; Exdis Handle as Nodis; Cherokee. Sent immediate for information to Cairo. Vance visited Riyadh from December 14 to December 15.
  2. Memoranda of conversation of Vance’s meetings with the Saudi leaders are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 108, 12/7–17/77 Vance Trip to the Middle East: Meeting Minutes, 12/77.