President Nixon and King Hussein of Jordan participate in arrival ceremonies as they observe Jordanian troops, June 17, 1974.

On this day 40 years ago, President Nixon touched down via Air Force One at Amman Airport in Jordan, marking the first time a United States President visited the Hashemite Kingdom. During the visit, the Presidents discussed in detail the concept of approaching a final settlement for Middle East peace step-by-step, so that each succeeding step would build on the success and confidence of the preceding one.

President Nixon assured King Hussein that flexibility would be practiced in considering all parties’ interest, including Jordan’s, but maintained that an overall–and agreeable–settlement be found. Nonetheless, the friendship with which President Nixon received from King Hussein throughout his presidential tenure was unsurpassed. Because of this friendship, the President was confident that the lofty goal of peace in the Middle East could be achieved in the very near future. Disengagement agreements between Egypt and Israel and Syria and Israel were already established. Jordan was next in line.

At a State Dinner accorded to President Nixon on the night of June 17 at Basman Palace in Amman, King Hussein expressed his gratification of the new relationship the United States was developing with the Arab countries, or as Hussein described, “the opening up between the United States and the Arab world:”

As a friend of longer standing, I may be permitted to say how gratified I am by the new relationship that has developed between you and President Sadat, and between you and President Asad. Possibly nothing that has happened in these last momentous months will contribute more to a lasting peace in the area than this new understanding between you.

President Nixon customarily responded with a toast of his own, acknowledging the United States’ pledge to bring a new element to the table of Middle East peace discussions:

The new element that has been added, the new element that has been symbolized by this journey which you have referred to, the new element that certainly was not only symbolized but showed actual results in addition, in the long negotiations which were undertaken by Secretary Kissinger in the Mideastern area-one leading to the disengagement on the Israeli-Egyptian front and another on the Syrian-Israeli front–the one new element is that the United States now has made a decision that we will undertake not to impose a settlement because we are not the best ones from the outside. No one from the outside knows what is best as far as a settlement is concerned. But we will undertake, where the nations in the area-and this seems to be the case at this time–where the nations in the area want us to, we will undertake to use our influence and use it effectively to bring leaders of nations who have disagreements on such critical issues as you have discussed tonight, bring them together and try to find fair and just solutions to these problems.