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Haig Says It is ‘Too Early’ to Speak of Saudi Arabia’s Role in the Mideast Peace Process

March 27, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Alexander Haig said today that it was "too early" to speak about Saudi Arabia’s role in the Middle East peace process. Haig, who leaves April 3 on a four country tour of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, was asked by Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) what he was doing to bring Saudi Arabia into the peace process.

A contention of U.S. opponents of the Reagan Administration’s intention to provide Saudi Arabia with equipment to improve the combat capabilities of its 62 F-15 warplanes is that Saudi Arabia is campaigning against the Camp David accords.

Haig told D’Amato at hearings on foreign aid before the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, that from his "first-hand experience while in the White House," when Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State, Saudi Arabia was "relatively constructive" and " at least benignly respectful." He said, however, that the Camp David accords had "disrupted that somewhat" and indicated that it would be up to historians to determine if that was caused by "American mismanagement and incompetence or something deeper."

When D’Amato persisted in asking Haig if he would raise the matter of the peace process with the Saudis, the Secretary of State replied, "Not in the context of your question." He noted that "the peace process involves the parties themselves," observing that "Saudi Arabia is certainly one of those neighboring states."

Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D. Ariz.) asked Haig if the Administration is supportive of the Camp David accords. In a tone of surprise, Haig responded, "Absolutely; I hope I didn’t leave any doubt about it. The peace process is a consequence of the Camp David accords. We are now engaged in it from two aspects–the autonomy talks (for the West Bank and Gaza) and the peacekeeping force" in Sinai.

Haig said that among the differences in approach between the Reagan and Carter Administrations in the peace process was that "We are not going to have a myopic preoccupation with the Arab-Israeli conflict exclusively." He was alluding to the Administration’s view that the overriding priority is to stem Soviet intervention in the Middle East.

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