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Ronald Reagan Administration: Statement Welcoming King Fahd of Saudi Arabia

(February 11, 1985)

The President. Ahlan wa Sahlan [Welcome]. It's a great privilege to welcome a world statesman, a leader of Arab and Muslim people, and a good friend of the United States, His Majesty King Fahd bin `Abd al-`Aziz Al Sa`ud.

Although he is no stranger to our shores, it's been almost 8 years since he has paid an official visit to the United States. And I'm honored to welcome him back again today.

King Fahd's visit is in keeping with the warm, personal relations enjoyed between the leaders of our two countries, a tradition which began 40 years ago this week when King Fahd's father and President Franklin Roosevelt met to exchange views. The good will that emerged from that meeting of two great men has enormously benefited both our peoples in the last four decades.

The friendship and cooperation between our governments and people are precious jewels whose value we should never underestimate. The positive nature of our relations demonstrates that cultural differences, as distinct as our own, need not separate or alienate peoples from one another.

As the guardians of Mecca and the protectors of your faith, you rightfully exert a strong moral influence in the world of Islam, and the people of the United States are proud of their leadership role among the democratic nations.

King Fahd, I hope that we can work together to seek a new rapprochement between the Islamic world and the Western democracies. Destiny has given us different political and social systems, yet with respect and good will, as our two countries have demonstrated, so much can be accomplished.

I firmly believe that in the years ahead, there should be and will be a more powerful recognition of the common interests shared by these two significant world forces. Already, the bonds of commerce are strong, especially between our two countries. Petroleum from Saudi wells helps drive the engines of progress in the United States, while at the same moment, American technology and know-how help in the construction of Saudi roads, hospitals, and communications systems.

Saudi Arabia has grown into one of America's largest trading partners. The commercial and economic power that we exert in the world spurs enterprise and bolsters stability.

I'd like to take this opportunity to express admiration for the responsible manner in which Saudi Arabia has conducted its economic affairs. King Fahd and other Saudi leaders, conscious of the global impact of their financial and economic decisions, have earned our respect and gratitude.

Their many humanitarian contributions touch us deeply, as well. Saudi aid to refugees uprooted from their homes in Afghanistan has not gone unnoticed here, Your Majesty. The people of the United States share with the people of Saudi Arabia a deep moral outrage over the continuing aggression and butchery taking place in Afghanistan. The citizens of the Western democracies and the Muslim world, by all that they believe to be true and just, should stand together in opposition to those who would impose dictatorship on all of mankind.

Marxist tyranny already has its grip on the religious freedom of the world's fifth largest Muslim population. This same grip strangles the prayers of Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. We all worship the same God. Standing up to this onslaught, the people of Afghanistan, with their blood, courage, and faith, are an inspiration to the cause of freedom everywhere.

Afghanistan, of course, is not the only conflict in the region. We're also concerned about the tragic war between two of Saudi Arabia's neighbors -- Iran and Iraq -- a conflict that is raging only a few minutes by air from Saudi territory. This bloodshed has dragged on far too long and threatens peace throughout the region. The United States will do what we can, diplomatically, to end the fighting. And we will cooperate with Saudi Arabia to ensure the integrity of your borders.

Your Majesty, I look forward to our discussions about these and other serious problems which continue to plague the Middle East. Together, our considerable influence and our moral suasion can, at the very least, decrease the threat of war.

If the Saudi and American Governments focus their energies, progress can be made, especially in the lingering dispute between Israel and her neighbors.

I continue to believe that a just and lasting settlement, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, is within reach. The security of Israel and other nations of the region and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people can and should be addressed in direct negotiations. It is time to put this tragedy to rest and turn the page to a new and happier chapter.

Bringing about a better and more peaceful world will require courage, integrity, and wisdom. King Fahd and others in his family before him have been admired for just these traits.

I look forward to our discussions, King Fahd, and welcome to the United States.

The King. [In English] President, Mrs. Reagan, the people -- thank you very much, Mr. Reagan. I'm very sorry because my English is not good. I try to speak English, but I can't speak English good. Now I speak Arabic -- very sorry.

[In Arabic] Mr. President, I should like to express my happiness on the occasion of my first meeting with you on the soil of the United States and express my satisfaction with the steady growth of relations between our two countries. I look forward to a fruitful exchange of views for the benefit of our two countries and peoples in the interest of peace in our region.

Mr. President, since the historic meeting between His Majesty the late King `Abd al-`Aziz Al Sa`ud and the late President Franklin Roosevelt 40 years ago this month, the leaders of our two countries have continued to meet from time to time to discuss ways of promoting friendship and cooperation between our two countries and to consult and exchange views on international matters of mutual interest. This visit to your friendly country takes place in this same context.

Permit me, Mr. President, to turn back the pages of history to the period following the First World War, to the time when the majority of the Arab countries were suffering under the yoke of colonialism; when your country affirmed the principles that advocated the right of peoples to freedom, independence, and self-determination.

At that time, when the name of the United States stood for freedom, justice, and independence, the aspirations of the Arab peoples were directed toward your country as the defender of truth and justice. Now we are in a new era in which the United States reaffirms those principles, this time under your leadership, Mr. President.

Mr. President, the majority of the Arab countries gained their freedom and independence, with the exception of one people -- the Palestinian people, who committed no wrong that could justify what has befallen them. The Palestinians, who were never aggressors or invaders, found themselves, through no fault of their own, the victims of unjust aggression.

The Palestinian question is the single problem that is of paramount concern to the whole Arab nation and affects the relations of its peoples and countries with the outside world. It is the one problem that is the root cause of instability and turmoil in the region. I hope, Mr. President, that your administration will support the just cause of the Palestinian people.

We only ask for a just position that conforms with the history and ideals of your great country, a position that is consonant with its role of leadership in the international community. Such a position will earn the United States the respect and appreciation not only of the Arab and Muslim worlds but also of freedom-loving peoples everywhere.

Similarly, the problem of Lebanon needs to be addressed in such a way that would guarantee the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanese territory and the achievement of Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and full independence.

Mr. President, I share your view that Saudi Arabia, with its Islamic beliefs and principles, and the United States, with its ideals and values, can together find a common ground against aggression, injustice, and oppression.

Mr. President, as far as the people of Afghanistan are concerned, this people who want nothing but freedom against oppression, freedom from killing women and children -- this people deserve our help.

Mr. President, I do not wish to be long, but I would like to say in conclusion that it is, indeed, a pleasure to have this opportunity to congratulate you on the full confidence that your people have placed in you by supporting your Presidency for a second term. This clearly demonstrates the extent of the confidence your people have in your wise leadership and your farsightedness.

And, in conclusion, Mr. President, I would like to thank you very much and to thank the American people and all the officials of the U.S. Government. And I wish you progress and good health. And I would like to thank God for giving us a beautiful sunny day today. [Laughter]

[In English] Thank you very much. I come again in the United States. I see many people, my close friends. And next time, I come just like anybody. Thank you very much. [Laughter]

Sources: Public Papers of the President