President Nixon toasting President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Mrs. Sadat in the gardens of Qubba Palace on June 12, 1974.

On his journey of peace to the Middle East in June of 1974, President Nixon made his first stop in Egypt, the country at the center of the Middle East peace-building process. Peace being a matter of urgency in a region that has seen 30 to 40 years of endless conflict, both President Nixon and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt sought to solidify a new diplomatic relationship between the United States and Egypt.

Various rapprochement policies among the Arabs and Israelies following the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1973 opened the door for President Nixon’s pivotal visit in June of 1974. On October 22, 1973, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 338, a consultative resolution between the United States and Moscow which called for a ceasefire and, for the first time, for negotiations between the parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute. In November of 1973, the Six-Point Agreement between Egypt and Israel consolidated the ceasefire and set the stage for disengagement negotiations. In December of 1973, the Geneva Middle East Peace Conference convened and established a framework for negotiation. Shortly after, in January of 1974, the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement was negotiated and signed. On February 23, 1974, full diplomatic relations were restored between Egypt and the U.S. Finally, on May 31, 1974, the Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement was signed.

The President’s trip to the Middle East had two primary objectives: to consolidate peace with the various countries he would visit, and to emphasize the movement of peace that had begun and ensure that all parties understood the negotiating strategy the United States was pursuing.

President Sadat and Egypt played a leading role in the movement of peace, and therefore garnered the most attention from President Nixon and the United States. On June 12, 1974, at a reception in the gardens of the Qubba Palace, President Nixon recognized Egypt’s and President Sadat’s leading role in the movement towards peace in the Middle East:

This day’s events signify and symbolize that restoration, and also, this day’s events, we trust, will initiate a new era in our relations in which the Egyptian people, the American people will be able to work together, dedicating their energies to solving the problems of peace and thereby developing the progress that both peoples want in both of our countries as well as in other countries in the world.

Another reason we will remember this day is, of course, this magnificent banquet tonight, and we only wish that time would permit more of an opportunity for us to talk to each and every one of the very distinguished guests who are here, those from your country, the distinguished ambassadors from most of the countries of the world, and of course, those guests from the United States you have been so kind to have.

A third reason that this day will be a memorable one for me has been the opportunity that it has provided to know for the first time through personal discussion–except for a brief telephone conversation a few months ago at Aswan–to know the President of this nation, a man who in a very short space of time has earned the respect not only of his friends and his nation’s friends but those who are his adversaries–or were his adversaries-and certainly the respect of all observers in the world.

This week marks 40 years since President Nixon’s trip to the Middle East in June of 1974. President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger worked together with President Sadat to push Soviet influence out of the Middle East, thrusting the United States into the leadership role as mediator of peace. Egypt was the first country President Nixon visited on this journey, and the first in the Middle East to instigate a shift in Arab-Israeli peace talks.