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Church, State Department Clash over U.S. Saudi Arabian Policy

February 5, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Carter Administration and Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho), the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, have collided head-on over U.S: policy toward Saudi Arabia. Church, in his first major speech as chairman, told the national executive of the Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. last Thursday that “it is time for plain speaking with the government of Saudi Arabia” and called for “a fundamental review” of U.S. policy toward the oil-rich kingdom, including the sale of 60 F-15 jet fighters that involved heated debate last spring.

“I suggest that now is precisely the time to inform the Saudis that a special relationship cannot be a one-way street,” Church told the ADI. He called for an end to U.S. “pressure” an Israel to accept a peace treaty with Egypt that goes beyond the framework worked out in the Camp David accords and said the Administration had destroyed its own Middle East policy following Camp David.

At the State Department, chief spokesman Hodding Carter said Friday “we believe we have not left the path of Camp David” and added that “we and the Senator have different conclusions on both where we are and how we arrived there.” He noted, “We have a long-standing relationship at confidence and cooperation with Saudi Arabia based on our mutual interests in the peace and security in that part of the world. We will continue to build on that relationship.”

Asked whether and how Saudi Arabia has contributed toward the success of the Camp David accords, Carter said “We continue to involve the Saudi Arabian government in conversations on what we are doing and attempting to do on the basis of the Camp David accords.” But he said, “I will not go into specific analysis of the content of those talks.”

Carter stressed that “positive results have happened from the sale of the F-15 warplanes to Saudi Arabia.” We have no reason to look back on that,” he said. He noted that the relationship with Saudi Arabia has been “successful and beneficial” and that the Saudi Arabians “are playing a positive role in the stability of the area.” Saudi Arabia joined with Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries in the Baghdad conference last November condemning Egypt and the Camp David agreements.

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