President Ford–Umar al-Saqqaf memcon (August 29, 1974)

President Ford–Umar al-Saqqaf memcon  (1974) 
Gerald Ford, Henry Alfred Kissinger and Omar al-Saqqaf





Umar al-Saqqaf, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia
President Gerald Ford
Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Thursday, August 29, 1974
4:08 - 4:45 p. m.
The Oval Office
The White House

President: When did you get here?

Saqqaf: Yesterday. We stopped overnight in London. I saw the King just two days ago.

President: It is amazing how fast you can get places now.

I speak for all Americans when I say we are grateful for the help of His Majesty over all this period. We consider that with your country and the King we have a very good relationship.

Saqqaf: We are glad to hear this, because the King has the same feelings towards the United States. His Majesty was first here in '43 and has always followed this policy of friendship for America. This was his father's advice.

In our assessment we have never felt the U. S. was not friendly to us.

President: We feel the same about Saudi Arabia.

Saqqaf: We have had some difficulty but never because of problems between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, but always because of a third party -- in the Suez business it was France and Britain. We always felt the U.S. was a good friend and we need to keep this friendship. This is not just my feeling but that of the King, his supporters and the people. No one can not respect the, U.S. and its people. We were looking forward to an offer from Dr. Kissinger and President Nixon for help in the Middle East. We think now is the time for more cooperation. Dr. Kissinger has done things that no one would have dreamt could be done.

President: No one.

Kissinger: I must say, Omar's advice has been the best in the Middle East. Before we move, we always check with him. Besides his friendship.

President: His Majesty has always kept his word, even when we maybe didn't like it. That is a great ingredient in friendship and trust.

Saqqaf: The King appreciates your letter and your pledge of the continuity of your policy. We know it is not a one-man policy, but it is reassuring. I was happy after the press conference yesterday. We weren't expecting a change in your policy. We are your friends -- we know what the Soviet Union wants. They want to buy time and let things fester -- and use Iraq and Yemen. They do unbelievable things. Eventually that will help us. There is a vacuum which we don't want filled by any other power. We are opposed to any other bases in the area -- by the Soviet Union, the British, or anyone. Unfortunately, we see everyone leaving but the Soviet Union. They have established bases in Somalia and Yemen.

President: As I said yesterday in my press conference, we must have a presence there. The Soviet Union is there already and we must be there to moderate it. Tell the King that President Nixon was very effective and it was done with the skill, patience and help of Secretary Kissinger. It was done under difficult circumstances. The King should know my relationship with Dr. Kissinger is good and his policies will be supported by me.

Saqqaf: We never doubted it. As a friend I was pleased, but I am also speaking of public opinion in the Arab world. We all were happy and relieved to know he was staying.

President: Dr. Kissinger's popularity has gone down in Israel.

Saqqaf: Off the record, I will convert you and you will convert me.

Kissinger: The King is working on me.

Sagqaf: We are a small country and the Arabs do not count that much. We know when you do something you do it after thought. The more things go in the Arab-Israeli negoiation, the more relaxed we become.

President: We will continue.

Saqqaf: I am 100% sure the Soviet Union can't do anything between now and the Arab summit, which will be on the 24th of October. After seeing you and Henry, it is Inuch easier for me to explain everything.

Kissinger: I explained to Omar our domestic situation -- that the Jewish community would try to drive a wedge between you and me and the Vice President -- they couldn't do it but they would try. We couldn't push during the election. You would talk tough to Rabin, I would talk in September and October and then move into high gear in November. Omar thought he could handle this time schedule. Omar has been a great help with the Syrians. They and Egypt have a kind of rivalry, and Saudi Arabia has been most helpful.

Omar, I lost credit with the President because Khaddam turned out to be so nice.

President: Henry had told me the Syrians were the most difficult to deal with.

Saqqaf: I went to Damascus and talked to Asad. I talked him out of sending a military man. This could be very helpful -- it will calm Khaddam a lot.

Kissinger: I think Omar and Egypt can manage the summit and then we can go into high gear in November.

Saqqaf: Our goal is to solve this by peaceful means. We cannot have another miracle. The miracle was Henry getting the disengagement agreements, especially with the Syrians. It is the principle -- once Israel gives a meter, the principle is established.

Kissinger: Never before has Israel given up a meter.

Saqqaf: Once the people see that there is progress and a chance to live in peace, we will be okay. Israel will see that no one wants to throw them into the sea. Throughout history people have come in from outside. This time by the use of force, but the Arabs are patient and we will call them guests.

President: There are two things. We hope we don't have an embargo again. We understand the circumstances last time, but we hope there is no repeat. It would be very serious. And then about prices.

Saqqaf: I have been asked that question several times. I have said that oil is not a toy to play with. We used it once and we succeeded; if we use it again without reason we punish ourselves as well. To me it is not going to happen. I don't decide the policy of my country, but I am ninety-nine percent sure.

President: That is reassuring.

Saqqaf: Once somebody starts firing....

President: That is different. I believe the American people have a growing friendship for the Arabs and I would hate to see it harmed by something.

Saqqaf: No, things are going better. And in the Gulf things are good. And we hope the time will come when Syria will have dialogues aside from the Israeli-Arab context.

Kissinger: We are beginning with them. We have a rudimentary Joint Commission with them, and if we can we will give them PL 480, to get a US presence.…

Saqqaf: That is good because the Soviet Union is pushing them to do something reckless.

President: We will know in a month what we can do with our crops to help our friends.

Saqqaf: I talked to Marei, the head of the World Food Organization. I promised to help all I could. We are doing what we can to make life easier for others. This embargo -- this is not the way we think. If this issue is raised in the Arab League, it will mean a fight. I would never have.

Kissinger: I told him it would play into radical hands leading to a confrontation between us and the embargoers.

Saqqaf: Some of the Arab countries have no money and no oil and they took a tough game without responsibility. On price, we were the last to accept it. The increase was pushed by Venezuela, Indonesia, Iran, and then the Arabs. I am very tough on this question. The word got out we would lower the prices. Yamani said we would have an auction before we make a decision. We would have had major problems with other Arabs. We will not countenance an increase. There is talk about a surplus. I don't believe it. Countries come to me and say "we are not getting half the oil we want." There is an empire of oil. We must be very careful. The auction was stopped to avoid playing with oil.

Kissinger: An auction could have counter-results. If there is not a surplus, an auction would drive the price up.

Saqqaf: That was what happened last Spring.

President: Are the joint commissions working well? The one on security and the one on development?

Saqqaf: Yes. The security one is going well. On the development one, you have given us ideas. Personally I was expecting more.

Kissinger: Any specific ideas you have, you should let us know.

Saqqaf: I was a member of the last committee. This is my personal opinion. We still have to discuss it.

Kissinger: We want the maximum cooperation, and maybe we didn't have enough imagination.

Saqqaf: I wanted it to be more positive and stronger.

Kissinger: Doing it through the bureaucarcy, they always think of what you can't do. Give me your ideas and I will get them through.

Saqqaf: Some of my thoughts would satisfy the king, and Prince Fahd and the Crown Prince. We will go as far as you want when the Middle East is done.

I have had it from Boumedienne -- whom I respect -- that they have a different lens through which they see the United States. Now they complain about the Soviet Union. No one can refuse your cooperation. This Palestinian thing is the only stumbling block. We don't want to cause you problems while you get your internal situation set. So between the Arab Summit and 5 November, nothing can happen. I expect no problem with Egypt, but they have to face their problems. Don't give them the idea you are giving up. I will talk to the Syrians. And Boumedienne. Even Iraq is coming around. They want to talk with us.

Kissinger: They just settled a problem with Abu Dhabi.

Saqqaf: Concerning price, I will raise it with the King. I can't say anything about it. It would be more important coming from you.

President: We have to keep a healthy economy to exercise world leadership. If there are problems at home, it is more difficult to exercise our role in the Middle East and the world.

Saqqaf: I know and I see people taking advantage of it. I know if it hurts you it hurts us. It is not a matter of billions; it is a matter of balances. But I don't think any increase will be discussed.


Attached notes

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).