The Consul at Beirut (Steger) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 10.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to despatches Nos. 226120 and 2301, dated respectively October 26 and November 9, 1935, from the American Embassy at Paris, reporting the results of representations made to the French Foreign Office regarding the unilateral denial to American philanthropic and educational institutions in French Mandated territory of privileges previously assured by agreement between the American and French Governments.
From these two despatches it is noted that, although a note of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs under date of November 8th invites the American Embassy to enter into an exchange of views for the purpose of reaching a new agreement, an official of the Ministry has verbally suggested that the conversations be postponed pending further consideration of the situation by the French High Commissioner at Beirut, and discussions between him and the representatives of American missions in this country.
I now have the honor to enclose a memorandum of a conversation which I had yesterday with M. Kieffer, Chief of the Political Bureau of the High Commission. It will be seen that, although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs duly transmitted to the French High Commissioner the suggestion that he initiate negotiations here, the latter has definitely declined to take any such action.
My opinions as to the general situation, based on local observations and frequent discussion with competent officials of the French High Commission, have been duly communicated to the Department in previous despatches. I now feel it incumbent upon me to express the opinion that the officials of the High Commission, and possibly also those of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Paris, are deliberately evading the issue. They realize that their legal position is weak; however, the provisions of Arrêté No. 292/LR of December 20, 1934, constitute a fait accompli, and the High Commission has every interest in postponing, rather than in meeting, the issue.
It is my understanding that the Department takes the attitude that the provisions of Arrêté No. 292/LR, being in contravention of treaty rights, are inapplicable to American institutions, and that, pending the consent of the American Government to eventual modifications, the rights formerly enjoyed by these institutions continue [Page 473]to exist unimpaired. I am inclined to believe that if the Department should insist strongly upon practical recognition of this legal situation, the French Government would find in this insistence an incentive for altering its present policy of procrastination.
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