Crown Prince Fahd Ibn Abdelaziz of Saudi Arabia said today that "all Arabs, including the Palestinians" were ready to negotiate a Middle East peace agreement with Israel and that his country would not use the threat to bring about a settlement.
Fahd, who recently held talks with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, told reporters he believes that "leader of the Palestinian people will be willing to accept a peaceful solution if it includes the establishment of a Palestinian state" on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan and in the Gaza Strip.
The prince is due in Washington May 24 for talks with President Carter. He will be accompanied by the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Faisal, who said yesterday that it was "very obvious" after the Palestine National Council meeting in March that the PLO leadership would accept a peace agreement that included recognition of Israel if it also provided for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Taken together, the comments of the two Saudi leaders provide a clear indication that the Saudis and their diplomatic allies in Egypt and Syrian have brought the Palestinians around to the bargaining position they have been aiming at for months - formal acceptance of the existence of Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in the 1967 war and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Fahd, Saud and other leading Saudi officials expressed doubt that Israel was willing to accept such an accord, but they said they were encouraged by what President Carter has done and said about the Middle East. They insisted that oil would not be used as a weapon to bludgeon the United States into putting pressure on Israel.
On July 1, 11 of the 13 OPEC members are scheduled to raise their prices again, to 15 per cent above the 1976 levels. Saudi Arabie and the United Arab Emirates did not join that price agreement and are pledged to hold the price line at 5 per cent over last year. While the Saudis insist that there is no direct linkage between the U.S. performance in the Middle East peace negotiations and the Saudi price decision, the implied threat is always there.
Fahd and Saud said they foresaw dire consequences, possibly including a new Middle East war, if there is no major progress toward a peace eagreement this year. In that event, the said, the oil weapon might be used.
"If we face a political situation that would coerceus of use all weapons in self-defense," Fahd said, "the use of oil prices as a weapon cannot be excluded."