WASHINGTON (May. 24)
President Carter, in his first talk today with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Fahd, seemed to go a step further in pursuit of his concept of a Palestinian homeland. In a review of their nearly two-hour conversation at the White House this morning, Presidential News Secretary Jody Powell told reporters at a press briefing that the two leaders spoke of “recognized boundaries” for Israel and the “homeland.” Powell said Fahd and Carter had a “very good discussion of that general issue” but he was “not in a position to present it with some degree of specificity.”
Powell’s statement came in response to a question on Fahd’s view published in Time Magazine on the right for a Palestine Liberation Organization state and Israel to exist. “The process by which you would reach the stage where there was a secure homeland for Palestinians and a secure State of Israel with recognized boundaries in each case certainly was a major topic of conversation,” Powell said.
The News Secretary insisted that there were exchanges of thoughts and ideas but no “attempt to reach conclusions.” Fahd and Carter will meet again tonight and tomorrow. Powell said that Fahd did not present a joint position of the Arab states as a result of the meeting among the heads of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia last week. But he said Fahd indicated the points of view of the other Arab leaders.
Powell said the question of an oil embargo and pricing and the level of oil production did not come up at this meeting. He also said that the Israeli election” was not a matter of discussion at any length at all.” He said it is “too early to judge the consequences” and it would “not be productive” to judge them.
ISSUES DISCUSSED AT MEETING
In a notice to the press, the White House said that Fahd expressed the “view that the Palestine issue is at the core of the problem” of the Middle East conflict. “The President went over in detail the core issues–territorial and security problems, the nature of peace in the Middle East, and the Palestinian question, both the immediate problem of Palestinian representation in the negotiations and the question of a Palestinian homeland in the final settlement.”
The White House said that the two leaders agreed that the “major effort should continue toward trying to reconvene the Geneva conference in the second half of 1977.” Powell also said that Carter and Fahd touched briefly on the Arab boycott but not in detail. Carter presented it in terms of free trade, Powell said.
FAHD OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CARTER
Carter and Fahd opened two days of talks on oil and Middle East politics today with the visiting potentate expressing optimism that their discussions will prove fruitful because of the President’s “attitude” towards the area’s problems.
“Frankly,” Fahd said to Carter in the welcoming ceremonies on the White House lawn, “this optimism stems from your views–your own wise views–that the issue of the Palestinians is the core of the problem and it is necessary to create a homeland for the Palestinians.”
In addition, he said, his optimism is supported by the President’s “urging” to “all countries” to “seize this opportunity for a settlement or else it will be lost.”
In his welcoming remarks, Carter was restrained in his view towards the future. This, he said, is an “important period for the search for peace” and “our business today and tomorrow is designed to accommodate that search in the face of a tremendous challenge and at the same time tremendous opportunity.” The President noted the “great trade” between the two countries, including imports of oil, and their “growing friendship and inter-relationship.” He said “we share the same commitments,” including “belief in the free enterprise system” and said “our countries are the centers for deep religious convictions.”
Fahd’s visit to Washington was heralded by full-page ads in major newspapers by the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington proclaiming “A Very Special Relationship” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, an apparent play on the words referring to the “special relationship” Carter said exists between the U.S. and Israel.