75. Telegram From the White House to President Carter1

ToPlains 16/WH70436. Subject: Secretary Vance’s Reports for the President From Saudi Arabia.

1. After about seven hours of meetings with the key Saudi leaders,2 I am more convinced than ever that their role on the Arab side will be a major factor in support of our peace efforts. They are in frequent touch with both Arafat and the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian leaders, urging the PLO to move to acceptance of Resolution 242 and all the Arabs to develop a unified and moderate position. At the end of my final meeting today with Prince Fahd, after lunch and detailed explanations of the approach we are pursuing including our five draft principles, Fahd said that he considers the steps we are taking to be serious and reflective of earnest efforts on our part in the search for peace. The Saudis are clearly impressed with the concreteness and determination we are showing in this present round and will, I think, now be encouraged to intensify their own efforts even more.

2. I began my talks here with a two-hour private meeting with Foreign Minister Prince Saud after dinner Sunday3 night. I went over with him the same ground I have covered in the other Arab capitals, including the draft statement of principles and our suggested formula for PLO acceptance of Resolution 242 with reservations.4 He showed me the latest formula received from Arafat,5 which shows some evolution in PLO thinking although it is still far short of what we need. I urged him to continue to work on Arafat to agree to the kind of formula we have suggested.

3. My audience this morning with King Khalid originally scheduled as a fairly brief courtesy call went on for 1¼ hours. The King showed considerable interest in the specifics of our efforts and particularly in the Palestinian aspects. Both he, and Prince Fahd later, asked whether if the PLO accepts Resolution 242 and recognizes Israel’s right to exist, the United States would invite the PLO to Geneva and guar[Page 413]antee that the Palestinians would have their own homeland. I said that if the PLO took this step, we would enter into official contacts with it and that we supported the concept of a Palestinian entity and of Palestinian self-determination. I made clear, however, that we could not guarantee the outcome of negotiations with respect to the nature of a Palestinian homeland and that the form of Palestinian representation at Geneva was not just up to us; it had to be agreed by all parties, including Israel. The King closed our audience with strong words of support for your efforts for peace and with special emphasis on the importance for U.S. interests of maintaining our friendship with the Arab world. Saudi Arabia, for its part, he said, would continue to encourage the Arabs to cement their ties with us. Throughout my talk with the King, as with the other Saudi leaders, there ran the familiar theme of their concern that without progress toward peace radical forces and Soviet influence will gain in the Arab world.

4. My subsequent meeting with Prince Fahd lasted about 3½ hours, including a real working lunch and discussions both before and after lunch. Fahd began with a long presentation which focused heavily on the Palestinians—the need for them to be represented at Geneva, to have their own state which Saudi Arabia could guarantee to be moderate, and the importance of a U.S.-Palestinian dialogue. He said the time had now come for the PLO to accept Resolutions 242 and 338 and for the U.S. to recognize and deal with the PLO. He also stressed the importance of reaching agreement on the principal substantive issues before Geneva and for the U.S. to announce its own position publicly on these issues. On this issue I said we would make our views known initially only to the parties but that at the appropriate time we would be prepared to make our views public. In my talk with Fahd, at which both Prince Saud and Defense Minister Prince Sultan were present, I affirmed our determination to continue on the course we have set. He said this could only succeed, however, with cooperation and moderation on the Arab side. I confirmed that our position with respect to the 1967 borders with minor modifications has not changed. At the same time, I stressed the need for the Arabs to go further than they have so far in defining the nature of peace. On the Palestinian representation question, I said that at an appropriate time, we would support the idea of a unified Arab delegation including Palestinians. Fahd said Saudis were prepared to support either unified delegation or separate delegations but made clear for first time that they envisaged unified delegation as alternative to their former insistence that PLO had to be represented separately.

5. After lunch, I went over in detail with Prince Fahd and Prince Sultan our draft statement of principles, reviewing for them the position of Israel and of each of the Arab confrontation states on each prin[Page 414]ciple. Fahd did not indicate any problems with the first two principles which have also been accepted by all the parties. With respect to the third principle on normal peaceful relations, Fahd thought this would be easier for the Arabs if it referred to the “development,” rather than the establishment of normal peaceful relations “over a period of time” or “in due course.” With respect to the fourth principle on withdrawal, Fahd echoed the basic Arab position that this must be understood to mean return to the 1967 lines with minor modifications limited to the West Bank. On the fifth principle relating to a Palestinian entity, Fahd thought that the provision for non-militarization would be difficult for the Palestinians to accept. He raised no questions about the concept of a transitional period under international administration. I took exception to this but said we would reflect on his suggestions. Fahd showed particular interest in the idea of self-determination as an alternative to guaranteeing in advance to the Palestinians that they would have a totally independent state which has been his position in past discussions with him. In general, Fahd explained that he saw the Saudi role as different from that of the confrontation states. Rather than adopting a Saudi position on each of the principles, he described Saudi Arabia’s role as explaining to us the position of the Arabs and encouraging the confrontation states and the Palestinians to accept reasonable solutions.

The one issue on which he said Saudi Arabia has a position of its own is Jerusalem. Here he said it would perhaps be acceptable for Israel to keep the part of the city it held before 1967 and for East Jerusalem to be returned to Arab sovereignty with free access to the holy places. This position is similar to Hussein’s and more flexible than former King Faisal’s who used to say there was no place for Israel in any part of Jerusalem.

6. At the end of our meeting, Fahd said the Saudis would keep our discussions in total confidence and only discuss with others what we agreed they could.

In particular, he wanted to know how he should handle our statement of principles with the PLO. In the end, we agreed he would not tell the PLO the position of the confrontation states on the various principles and would not show the principles to them but would discuss with them the list of the principles as part of the Saudi effort to press the PLO to be more flexible.

7. Fahd said it was good that I would be returning briefly to the confrontation states to report on my talks in Israel. Since my schedule does not allow sufficient time for me also to return to Saudi Arabia, I offered to send Roy Atherton back to Taif after our talks in Israel to report to Prince Saud and Fahd welcomed this.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to the Middle East.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Middle East File, Trips/Visits File, Box 106, 7/31/77–8/12/77 Vance Trip to the Middle East: [Progress Reports—Aaron Copy], 8/77. Secret; Eyes Only; Immediate; Nodis; Cherokee. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter was in Plains, Georgia from August 5 to August 10. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. See also Document 77. No memoranda of conversation have been found of these talks between Vance and Saudi leaders.
  3. August 7.
  4. See Document 73.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 73.