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Toasts at the State Dinner for King Fahd bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia

February 11, 1985

The President. Your Majesty and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the White House.

It was my honor today to renew my friendship with King Fahd. And when we last met in Cancun, it was a bit warmer, but, Your Majesty, I only hope the warmth of our hospitality helps make up for the coldness outside.

I'd like to take this opportunity, Your Majesty, to thank you for a piece of cutlery. It's a fine, jeweled saber that I received as a gift from the Saudi Boy Scouts who visited the White House last year. And with the budget battle about to commence in Washington, it's going to come in very handy. [Laughter]

King Fahd and the Saudi Royal Family, reflecting the values at the heart of their society, have been sharing and generous leaders. In addition to their humanitarian aid throughout the world, they contribute to such cultural and educational institutions as the American University in Beirut, for example. And closer to home, when fire destroyed a major cultural facility at Wolf Trap here in Washington, threatening to short-circuit an entire theatrical season, the Saudi Embassy quickly located a huge tent and had it flown to Washington, and the show went on. In 1977 Terraset Elementary School in Reston, Virginia, received a solar heating system dedicated by none other than our guest of honor this evening.

King Fahd's exuberance for getting involved is well known. He's maintained the rich tradition of the majlis [council], meeting directly with his people, listening to their ideas as often as not to their problems.

His personal identification with his people has manifested itself in his avid support for Saudi Arabia's soccer team. And, Your Majesty, I understand that you have, on occasion, gone so far as to call the coach and offer suggestions. [Laughter] Being a former radio sportscaster, I'd love to do that. However, in this country, they only permit me to call them after the game is over. [Laughter]

But there's an Arab saying: The sands are blowing. And I submit to you, King Fahd, that if the sands of time give us any hint of the future, it is that in the days ahead the friendship between the Saudi Arabian and American people will be a strong and vital force in the world and that the future of the Middle East is one of peace.

Your Majesty, it's been an honor for us to have you as our guest. I look forward to building on what we've accomplished today.

The King. Mr. President, dear friends, I am pleased indeed this evening to hear these valuable words, these precious words from my good friend, His Excellency, President Reagan.

And on this good occasion, I would like to give my greetings to Mrs. Reagan and all the friends that are assembled here once again.

I was indeed happy when I heard the President is following the news of sports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [Laughter] As a matter of fact, just exactly as the President said, this is true, because I follow the news of sports in my country, and, therefore, the Saudi soccer team was first among all the Asian countries and became the only candidate as far as a candidate for the Olympics in Los Angeles this past summer. The Saudi soccer team came to Los Angeles, but it was not lucky enough in order to win any medals. But the most important thing is that the team participated in Los Angeles, and it showed the world that Saudi Arabia cares about athletics and sports. And the team found all kinds of reception and greetings from this good people in the United States.

And, also, a couple of months ago, the team won the Asian Cup among some Asian countries that have had soccer and practiced the game of soccer for 100 years before Saudi Arabia. [Laughter] The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took up soccer only about 20 years ago, or maybe less, and won the Asian Cup, rightfully so. [Laughter] And, of course, in such matches nobody takes into consideration the good feelings of the other. You play to win— [laughter] —so much so that one of the Asian countries that played against Saudi Arabia said that their team was going to win the cup. As a matter of fact, they even reserved a special desk on the plane for that cup. [Laughter] We did not claim that we were going to win the cup, but the Saudi team won two cups instead of one— [laughter] —the African Cup and also the goalie won the cup for the most valuable player or the best goalie in those games and tournaments.

Of course, in the past, only 5 years ago, we were defeated. As a matter of fact, I have adopted sports in my country, not only soccer but many other sports and athletics. Now we have 125 athletic clubs. Those clubs practice all kinds of sports, including soccer. And we also hope that we will be able to participate in many international tournaments in the future.

The day before yesterday, the Saudi youth group, those who are under 16, won the cup for the youth under 16 years old. And the tournament for the Asian and African games will be held in China next year. And the Saudi team is going to go in order to play. And, of course, we think this is a very good thing that it has already defeated the similar teams in Asia and now it is going to China in order to defeat other, more powerful teams. [Laughter]

Furthermore, there is another soccer team for those who are 18- or 19-year-olds. It has won all the tournaments, and there are only four countries left that it is going to face. And we believe that we are going to defeat those also. [Laughter] When this takes place in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, and faces those four countries, it will go to Moscow. We don't know whether the members of the team will come back as Communists to us or not. [Laughter] But I believe that our team will meet millions of Muslims there in the Soviet Union, so I don't know whether the Soviets will allow the Saudi flag to flutter and to be raised, because the wordings on the flag says, "There is no God but the God and Mohammed is His only Prophet." What is important, that we are going to have matches in China and in Moscow. If this proves anything, it proves that the level of sports in Saudi Arabia is rather good.

And in conclusion, before I finish what I have to say with these limited remarks, I would like to thank His Excellency, my friend, President Reagan, and Mrs. Reagan and all my dear friends assembled here.

I don't know whether His Excellency, the President, realizes that at the present there are some 500 American companies working in Saudi Arabia, doing business. If this is of any indication, it also indicates the close ties of friendship that exist between our two countries. And furthermore, the Saudi-American Commission [U.S.-Saudi Joint Economic Commission] did its duty, and it holds its meetings regularly, once in Saudi Arabia and once in the United States in a regular manner. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the officials in this Commission, be they Americans or Saudis, because they have accomplished many of the important projects, and also those companies that contributed greatly to our progress, and among them, many American companies.

Therefore, what I would like to say, that there are many levels of relationships between our two countries. Be they political, economic, or social, they all indicate the strong ties of friendship between our two countries.

When we are in need of any product that is produced by the United States, be it in the field of technology or otherwise, that means we are in need of this, and we will work to get it. The reason we try to acquire these things, because we consider ourselves as friends of the United States. Our aim, of course, is we want peace and stability for our region in the Middle East, and we want for all people to live in peace.

I forgot to mention something important earlier, and that is that we have about 13,000 of our sons that are studying in American colleges and universities. And they all find very good treatment. I am sure that some of them are probably—who have study in the United States, and they are here this evening. My sons studied in the United States, four of them. And they received their B.A. degrees from American universities. And I have now my young Aziz, Prince 'Abd al 'Aziz. When he is older, he will go to a university. Therefore, I have an interest here in the United States, because my sons graduated from American colleges and universities.

I hope that this friendship will continue, because it was built on firm and sound foundations.

And in conclusion, I would like to thank President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan, again, and all my friends here. And I would like for anybody who wishes to visit Saudi Arabia—you are all welcome to come and see my country. And at this moment, I would like to invite President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan. For any time they wish to come and visit Saudi Arabia, they will find a friendly people there to welcome them.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. King Fahd spoke in Arabic, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. The following morning, the President and King Fahd, together with U.S. and Saudi officials, including Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert C. McFarlane, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Sa'ud al-Faysal Al Sa'ud, and Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud, met in the Residence for a breakfast meeting.

Ronald Reagan, Toasts at the State Dinner for King Fahd bin 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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