Saudi Official Hopeful Mideast Problem Will Soon Be Solved

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Omar Saqaaf emerged from a three-hour meeting with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger at the State Department today to tell reporters that he hoped the Middle East problem “will soon be solved” and that he was confident that Kissinger would “continue his efforts to achieve a final settlement based on justice and the rights of the people in the area.” But the Saudian diplomat pointedly ignored a question by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as to whether the final settlement he envisaged included an independent Israel.

Saqaaf, who arrived here last night for the latest in Kissinger’s continuing talks with Middle East figures and who met with President Ford at the White House late this afternoon, was understood to be carrying a letter to the President from King Faisal. Although there is no indication of its contents, observers here believe the Saudian monarch may be hinting that he would relax his efforts to lower oil prices unless the U.S. puts more pressure on Israel in a Middle East peace settlement.

Kissinger told reporters that he and the Foreign Minister had discussed bilateral relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and the next steps toward Middle East peace. He said they had achieved “good progress” and “understanding” and that “from our point of view” the talks were “productive.”

Kissinger also affirmed that he would be going to the Middle East some time in Oct. for what he termed a “quick trip” but did not say which countries he would visit. His trip, however, will take place after his meeting with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin. By then the Secretary will have met officials from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel and will undoubtedly have a clear picture of the next required steps in the Mideast peace settlement. Kissinger’s trip will also precede the resumption of the Geneva talks tentatively scheduled for some time in Nov.

SAQAAF MUM ON ISRAEL’S FUTURE

Emerging from his meeting with the Secretary, Saqaaf told reporters, “We hope the Middle East problem will soon be solved,” and added, “We are people who are for peace and all we are after is to raise the level of life of our people and avoid war and killing everywhere.”

When the JTA reporter asked Saqaaf whether his country’s desire for a peaceful solution in the Middle East envisaged an independent Israel–a question asked of previous Saudian visitors and never answered by any of them–Saqaaf abruptly turned away and engaged in conversation with Secretary Kissinger who was standing at his side. A moment later, when JTA asked Kissinger if Saqaaf had given assurances on an independent Israel, the Secretary replied, “All our decisions are in that framework. There is no other possibility for any discussions in which we participate.”

NO PRESSURE ON RABIN

Kissinger displayed impatience when reporters questioned him about his premature announcement that Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin was coming to Washington next month–an announcement made before the Israeli Cabinet had approved the visit, which raised eyebrows in Israel. “Oh. come now,” Kissinger replied, obviously irritated. “It was simply to indicate we were eager to continue our talks with the Israelis. There was no question in our minds that he would come and no pressure on him to come. There is no problem between us and Israel,” the Secretary said.

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