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Nixon: Mideast Crisis Has Highest Priority for the United States

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President Nixon told the Congress today in his annual foreign pol- icy report that no other world crisis “has greater importance or higher priority” for the United States than the Middle East. His 232-page document, however, gave no indication, of specific progress or fresh initiatives towards settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict during the past year, either towards an interim agreement, initiated by the U.S. or an overall settlement as sought by the United Nations, in its virtually moribund mandate to Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring.

Responding to questions on the 12-page section on the Middle East, Dr. Henry Kissinger, in a White House news conference, reiterated that the U.S. is “in favor of both the comprehensive and the so-called interim agreement” and that “we support the Jarring mission and others” that would “clear the Suez Canal and bring about withdrawal from some areas.” The President’s national security advisor suggested the U.S. “should be flexible regarding the modalities” of its approach but emphasized the long-standing American policy that “the parties must be engaged in some form of contact in some stage of the negotiations.”

“Stability in the Middle East does not depend only on an Arab-Israeli peace and stable relationships with and among the great powers,” the report observed. “Personal rivalries, ideological conflict, territorial disputes, economic competition, religious and ethnic divisions are indigenous sources of turmoil which exacerbate –and are in turn exacerbated by –these other tensions. Stability therefore depends also on strengthening regional forces for cooperation and collaboration.”

THREE SPECIFIC TASKS

Regarding his future agenda for the Middle East, Nixon said the U.S. will address itself to three specific tasks. The first of these, he said, is the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict through a process of negotiation in which “there must be realism on all sides about what is achievable.”

Secondly, “the principles of restraint, peaceful settlement, and avoidance of confrontation that are set forth in the basic principles of U.S.-Soviet relations must become enduring realities.” In this connection, with reference to the area oil resources, the President noted that “outward-looking economic relations among the Middle East, North Africa, the European community, and the United States…will require stable and dependable relations between suppliers and consumers of energy.”

Thirdly, the report said, “the United States will seek to strengthen its ties with all its traditional friends in the Middle East and restore bilateral relations where they have been severed.” This was apparently a reference to the absence of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and a half dozen Arab countries which broke them after the Six-Day War.

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