Situation in Iraq and Iran Remarks Concerning the Conflict.
THE PRESIDENT. I've met this morning with my principal advisers to review the very dangerous situation created by the conflict between Iran and Iraq. Although the United States is in no way involved in this dispute—and charges to the contrary are obviously and patently false—it is important to make clear our position in this matter.
The fighting between Iran and Iraq is causing needless hardship and suffering among the people involved. It represents a danger to the peace and stability of the region. There should be absolutely no interference by any other nation in this conflict. The fighting should be promptly terminated. Any grievances between Iran and Iraq should be settled at the negotiating table and not on the battlefield.
We strongly support international efforts, both the statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and also by the President of the Security Council of the United Nations, to bring this fighting to a prompt end and to obtain a negotiated settlement. Secretary Muskie, in New York, has consulted with a number of foreign ministers in the last several days, and he's continuing these contacts this afternoon and tonight. I am also in contact with other nations, through our embassies abroad and directly between me and the leaders of some of those nations. We will continue to work vigorously with as many nations as possible and also with international institutions who seek, as we do, a speedy end to the conflict.
I know that the conflict has caused considerable concern that world oil supplies might be severely reduced, therefore driving up oil prices and endangering the economic security of the consuming nations. This concern is not justified by the present situation. It is true that oil companies and shipments relating directly to Iran and Iraq have been interrupted or suspended during the outbreak of the hostilities. But even if this suspension of Iran and Iraqi shipments should persist for an extended period of time, the consuming nations can compensate for this shortfall.
Oil inventories in the world's major oilconsuming nations are now at an alltime high. The world's margin of oil supply security is much greater today than in the winter of 1978 and '79, when the Iranian revolution reduced oil supplies at a time when reserve oil supplies were very low. Our greater security today is due in part to energy conservation and also the substitution of other fuels for oil, both in the United States and in other consuming nations. This has facilitated the building up of reserve stocks to much more satisfactory levels than did occur in 1979. Hence, there is no reason for a repetition of the shortages or the price escalations that resulted in 1979.
Of course, a total suspension of oil exports from the other nations who ship through the Persian Gulf region would create a serious threat to the world's oil supplies and consequently a threat to the economic health of all nations. Therefore, it's important that I add my own strong support and that of my Nation to the declaration which the nine European Community nations made yesterday. Freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf is of primary importance to the whole international community. It is imperative that there be no infringement of that freedom of passage of ships to and from the Persian Gulf region.
Let me repeat that we have not been and we will not become involved in the conflict between Iran and Iraq.
One final point, very important to Americans, is, in our concern for the dangerous situation created by this conflict, we have not forgotten for one moment the American hostages still held captive in Iran. We continue our work for their prompt and safe release, and we continue to hold the Government of Iran responsible for the safety and the well being of the American hostages. Thank you very much.
REPORTER. Mr. President, would you do anything to keep the Gulf open? Would you take any actions if necessary?
THE PRESIDENT. We're consulting the other nations about what ought to be done to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and therefore access to the Persian Gulf.
Q. Mr. President, if Iran asked for spare parts in return for releasing the hostages, would you go that far?
THE PRESIDENT. We're consulting through every means with Iran, as we have been for many months, to try to seek the release of the hostages, but that particular point would perhaps be better for me not to single out from the others.
Note: The President spoke at 3:16 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House.
Jimmy Carter, Situation in Iraq and Iran Remarks Concerning the Conflict. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251650