Richard Nixon photo

Exchange With Reporters During a Train Trip From Cairo to Alexandria.

June 13, 1974

REPORTER. How do you feel the tour has gone, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. President Sadat and I have been really overwhelmed by not only the size of the crowd but, even more important, their enthusiasm. I, on the one hand, have been impressed by the enormous personal respect and trust that President Sadat has among his own people, because they are not here just to see me, they are here also to pay their respects to him.

And the other thing that, of course, is impressive is the fact that these crowds show a very deep feeling of affection and friendship for America. The fact that this could exist despite almost 25 years of misunderstanding, and off-and-on relationship, in the last 7 years very bitter misunderstanding, the fact that this gracious relationship still exists here in Egypt shows that Egyptian-American friendship is a natural reaction among Egyptians, and I am sure it is among Americans, and therefore, we are building on a foundation that will last because it is built on natural and not unnatural interests.

I don't know whether the President may have something to add to that or not.

PRESIDENT SADAT. Well, it is a great occasion for us to have President Nixon among us and to show him our true feelings towards the American people and towards himself, also. President Nixon by all measures has performed a great act in our most dangerous area here for the first time since 26 years to the millions that you have seen hailing him, and you have seen what they wrote on the balconies and so, "Nixon's America is a peace loving nation." So they want to show you and tell the American people that the most natural thing for us is to be friends; the unnatural is that there may be any conflict among us.

Q. Mr. President, your being here perhaps, too, might raise some very high expectations. Do you feel that your being here might raise expectations that cannot be reached?

THE PRESIDENT. President Sadat and I have had very extensive conversations, first, about the needs of Egypt and, second, about how we can meet those needs in an effective way without overpromising and without disappointing people as a result of expectations that have been raised. It is not a case of coming into a nation, for example, led by unsophisticated men who simply think that the visit of an American President means that instantly the problems will be solved.

President Sadat, for example, wanted me to see what he called the slum areas of Cairo. He wanted me to see the Delta, which is very rich, but many of the peasants are poor. It was interesting to note that the people in both places, incidentally, were just as friendly as they were in downtown Cairo around the Palace. But we have been very careful in our talks and in our public statements to speak of what can be done.

And I would say that I look for an era of cooperation, not just government-to. government, but an era of cooperation in which American private enterprise will be welcomed in Egypt and will bring not only capital but technology to Egypt.

So, in a word, naturally the unsophisticated individual may expect that instantly life will be better. That will not be the case. The foundation has been laid for steady economic growth, and the President's programs which I have examined in some details--for one, reconstruction, two, industrialization, three, in the field of agriculture, and four, and most important, education--in all areas, these programs will build a solid base where Egypt will go no place but up, and it will not be plagued by what it has had for the past 25 years, intermittent wars, which every time they began to move forward they were pushed back. That is my view.

Q. President Sadat, what is the principal contribution that the United States can make for continuing peace in the Middle East?

PRESIDENT SADAT. It is to keep the momentum of the whole thing going on, and I must say, you have read what my people wrote. They wrote, "We Trust Nixon." Since the 6th of October and since the change that took place in the American policy, peace is now available in the area. And President Nixon never gave a word and didn't fulfill it; he has fulfilled every word he gave. So if this momentum continues, I think we can achieve peace.

Q. What new pledges would you like, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to see not only the officials, and for me to know people like President Sadat who will provide great leadership for this part of the world, not only his own country, but also to get a sense and feeling about the people themselves, what their problems are, what their hopes are, what their feelings are toward America, and how we can play a part in helping them to a better way of life on a cooperative basis.

Q. Do you think we ought to have a railroad car like this in the United States, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I must say that I like the car, but what I like better is the roadbed, because as I told President Sadat, the roadbed between Cairo and Alexandria is infinitely better than the roadbed between Washington and New York. As we know, that is almost an obsolete roadbed, and when I go back, I am going to tell some of our people that railroads, instead of just concentrating on building fancy new air-conditioned cars, they ought to pick up the roadbed. This is a smooth ride all the way.

I think too, I would only add to what President Sadat has said, that he recognizes-as a mature leader of this part of the world--he recognizes and feels very deeply about the goals he wants to achieve, and therefore, nobody can condemn him as being one who is not dedicated to the goals that people in the surrounding nations want to achieve.

On the other hand, he is a man who is aware of the intricacies of international diplomacy and realizes, as we do, that where you have a number of nations with different interests and different viewpoints and different approaches, that rather than a huge public forum as being the place to put it all out on the table and solve it at once and immediately and then have it blowup, rather than having that approach, what is needed is the step-by-step approach, not because we want to go slow, but because we want to get there.

And so, nation by nation, first with Egypt, then with Syria, taking up each problem as it is timely to take it up in a quiet, confidential way--like President Sadat and I have talked to each other in complete confidence--and we find that we have a general agreement on a great number of things, but particularly we understand the necessity in the field of diplomacy to handle each one of these problems in a case-by-case, very considerate basis, and not in a melodramatic grandstand play where everybody cheers and then all of a sudden it falls down.

I don't know whether the President agrees or not.

Q. Mr. President, are you suggesting, sir, that perhaps there should be more bilateral talks before a Geneva conference?

THE PRESIDENT. We do not want in our first stop to indicate that we are going to say what ought to happen, because these are decisions that must be made by each of the leaders that we talk to. However, I would say that before ever going to a summit conference where a number of leaders representing different viewpoints sit down around a table, it is essential that the way be prepared by bilateral discussions in which you iron out those differences which can be ironed out before you get to the summit. That is President Sadat's recommendation, too.

PRESIDENT SADAT. We have discussed in our meeting, and we have agreed upon this form.

Q. Who should those bilateral discussions be between?

PRESIDENT SADAT. Between President Nixon and me and then between our two Foreign Ministers.

Q. But you are not suggesting bilateral discussions with other countries?

PRESIDENT SADAT. We shall be doing this. We shall be doing this with our Arab colleagues, also bilateral, we shall be doing it with the Soviet Union, also bilateral, and when the time comes, we are proposing a small Arab summit for discussing the next step.

Q. This would be before Geneva, sir?

PRESIDENT SADAT. I hope this would be before Geneva.

Q. You are not suggesting bilateral discussions with Israel?

PRESIDENT SADAT. No, not at all. Not yet.

REPORTER. Thank you, gentlemen.

Note: The exchange of remarks took place shortly before the train's arrival in Alexandria at 2: 30 p.m.

Richard Nixon, Exchange With Reporters During a Train Trip From Cairo to Alexandria. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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