Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

 

October 8, 1987

 

The administration is making advance notifications to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee of four separate arms sale cases for Saudi Arabia. The sales are 12 F - 15C/D aircraft to be delivered on a one-for-one basis to replace losses of aircraft sold under previous agreements, 93 artillery ammunition carriers, and upgrade and modernization packages to keep Saudi Arabian F - 15's and M - 60 tanks at an adequate level of operating effectiveness compatible with U.S. equipment of the same model.

 

Today's advance notifications inform Congress that these sales are under consideration and initiate a 20-day period of additional consultations and discussions. At the conclusion of this 20-day period, the administration will formally notify Congress of the systems it plans to offer for sale to Saudi Arabia.

 

Having taken the situation in the region into account and after extensive consultations with Congress, the President at this time has decided to withhold notification of a proposed sale of Maverick air-to-ground missiles. The administration will keep the issue of Saudi need for Maverick missiles under very close review in the light of threats to Saudi security and will maintain close contact with Congress. The President has personally assured the Saudi Government that in the event of an emergency, the United States would provide Mavericks from American stocks with appropriate notifications to the Congress.

 

These sales are an essential part of the U.S. strategy of protecting U.S. interests, as well as those of our friends in the Gulf region, through security cooperation. The sales support Saudi Arabia's legitimate defense needs at a time of heightened threat to Saudi and U.S. military and economic interests in the Gulf. They follow other sales to Saudi Arabia approved earlier this year of armed helicopters, electronic countermeasures systems, and Bradley fighting vehicles. They do not upset the basic military balance in the Middle East.

 

However, they come at a time when there is greater demand placed upon Saudi Arabian Armed Forces and at a point of unprecedented U.S.-Saudi security cooperation. If we fail to meet these legitimate needs, our willingness to support friends -- who are in need and who are helping us in the face of very real threats -- will come under serious question in the Gulf and elsewhere around the world. The administration has made a detailed case for these sales during extensive consultations with the Congress over a period of 5 weeks prior to the advance notifications. The administration will continue to consult on the overall situation in the Gulf and on the arms sales.