On June 14, 1974, President Nixon landed in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, his second stop in a five country peace tour of the Middle East. On the tarmac to meet him was King Faisal, an ardent anti-communist pivotal to the stability in the region.
RN reflected on the meeting in his memoirs:
Saudi Arabia was not directly involved in the Middle East peace negotiations, but Faisal’s stature in the Arab world and the substantial financial support he provided to Syria and Egypt gave him a vital role in maintaining the momentum towards peace. I was also able to discuss with him the serious global impact of the high oil prices caused by the recent Arab oil embargo and to encourage his moves to moderate oil prices.
That night the King hosted a state dinner for the President, who – in his toast – exemplified the essence of his multilateral foreign policy during his five years in office:
We live in a very decisive time in the history of world diplomacy. Over these past 3 years, we have seen the United States of America establish a new relationship with the People’s Republic of China, where one-fourth of all the people in the world live. We have seen the end of America’s longest and most difficult war in Vietnam. We have had a series of meetings with the leaders of the Soviet Union to resolve differences and develop, where possible, areas of cooperation for peaceful purposes.
But I would be certainly much less than candid if I were not to admit that despite these advances in the cause of peace, we know how difficult and long the road ahead is if we are to have a permanent peace.
I think, for example, of His Majesty’s background, the fact that when he was only 14 years of age he attended a conference at the end of World War I, a war that was described at that time as one that would end all wars. But that, of course, was not the case. Versailles left only the seeds for a war that was to follow in the next generation.
And then His Majesty attended another conference after the Second World War in San Francisco, the conference that set up the U.N. And yet with all the high idealism that motivated so many of those who attended that conference, it did not produce a framework which guaranteed what so many wanted, a lasting peace, because wars continued to come.
And that is why, to the extent that we can contribute to a great goal, our goal is not simply a peace that will be an interlude between wars but a peace that can last, and such a peace must be built carefully, step by step, having in mind the fact that if mistakes are made in the making of the peace, the result inevitably will be simply another conflict.
So, I can say tonight that while we do have a new and promising relation with the People’s Republic of China, while we do have a dialog discussing many constructive items with the Soviet Union, we realize that the process of peace is one that never ends. We must continue to work in order to preserve it.
And that brings me, of course, to the area of the world in which we are most interested at this time–the Mideast. We want to play a helpful role. And our Secretary of State, we believe, has played a helpful role working with the governments in the area to settle longtime differences. But we are aware that we cannot produce an instant formula to solve all longtime differences. But what is new in the present situation is that the United States is playing a role, a positive role, working toward the goal of a permanent peace in the Mideast.
And it is for this reason, Your Majesty, that this visit to Saudi Arabia, clearly apart from the very great pleasure it gives us to see you personally again and to see so many of our friends, it is for this reason that this visit is important. Because over the past 27 years, I have had the privilege of meeting and knowing the leaders of over 80 nations in the world.
And I can assure all of those assembled here that in terms of years of experience, in terms of wisdom, in terms of vision, not only for his own country and his own area but for the whole world, there is no man on the world scene who can surpass our host tonight, His Majesty King Faisal.
I know that most people–at least, it is assumed that most people come to Saudi Arabia to get oil. We can use oil. But we need more, something that is worth far more than oil. We need wisdom.
And that is why I am sure that the talks that His Majesty and I have already been privileged to have and that we will continue tomorrow, will help me, help the Secretary of State in our developing the policies and developing the programs that can continue the momentum toward the goal that we all seek, a just and lasting peace for the people of the Mideast and all of the nations in this area.
And finally, just to demonstrate that I am somewhat of a practical politician, let me say that while we will treasure most the wisdom that we will take with us after this visit, we, of course, will need the oil to carry us to our next stop.
And, Your Majesty, I just want to make clear, we, of course, will pay the world price.
As RN departed for Damascus, King Faisal praised the President for his pursuit of a lasting peace and lamented the fractious politics that threatened it:
I was surprised as the reporters who clustered around us when Faisal said at the departure ceremonies, “Anybody who stands against you, Mr. President, in the United States of America or outside the United States of America, or stands against us, your friends in this part of the world, the wrong polarization of the world, the bringing about of mischief, whic would not be conducive to tranquility and peace in the world. Therefore we beseech Almighty God to lend His help to us and to you that w both can go hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, in pursuance of the noble aims that we both share namely, those of peace, justice, and prosperity in the world.