The Consul General at Beirut (Marriner) to the Secretary of State

No. 278

Sir: I have the honor to enclose copies, with translations,6 of letters exchanged, under date of May 29, 1937, between the French Ambassador in Turkey and the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, constituting a revised agreement with regard to option of nationality by natives of detached portions of the former Ottoman Empire.

While this revision was arranged in connection with the negotiations for the liquidation of properties of Syrian and Lebanese citizens in Turkey and of Turkish citizens in the Mandated Territory, the provision of chief interest to Syria and the Lebanon appears to be that which extends for one year, dating from May 29, 1937, the period during which natives of the States under French Mandate, who have previously neglected to do so under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, may opt for Syrian or Lebanese citizenship.

The Lebanese Government in particular is planning a widespread appeal to natives of this country to take advantage of this opportunity to acquire the citizenship of their country of origin. Arrangements have been made to give the widest possible publicity through French Consulates, especially in the Americas; an appeal to Lebanese citizens abroad by the President of the Republic has been prepared in English and in Spanish for publication in the United States and Latin America; and the suggestion has been made that a commission be sent to tour these countries for the purpose of establishing contact with Lebanese emigrants.

The Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, has stated, both publicly and in personal conversation with me, that the right of option for Lebanese citizenship is to be extended not only to those whose status is uncertain due to their failure to exercise option, but also to persons who may have acquired foreign citizenship. I learn from an official of the French High Commission that the Quai d’Orsay has advised more discretion regarding this phase of the matter, and that it will be given no publicity by French Consulates abroad, as Governments to which the persons concerned now owe allegiance might object to such political proselyting. However, individual inquirers will be informed that their option for Syrian or Lebanese citizenship will be accepted, even though they may have acquired foreign citizenship without the consent of the Government of their former allegiance.

I am informed that the procedure to be adopted in connection with the exercise of option for Syrian or Lebanese citizenship will consist [Page 927] of an application in writing to be signed by the person concerned; that this application will be submitted to the competent authorities of the local governments for approval; and that the act of approval will invest the applicant with Lebanese or Syrian citizenship. Thus, although no oath of allegiance will be required, the act of option, and the decision accepting such option, may be considered as tantamount to naturalization.

Under these circumstances, I presume that the American Government will not be inclined to interpose objection to these endeavors to persuade persons who have acquired American citizenship to exercise their right to acquire other nationality. Therefore I do not plan, in the absence of instructions to the contrary, to discuss with the local authorities this policy in so far as it concerns American citizens of Syrian and Lebanese origin.

However, in view of the fact that many naturalized American citizens in this country, especially those resting under an unrebutted presumption of expatriation, may find it desirable to take advantage of this opportunity legally to acquire Syrian or Lebanese citizenship, I am addressing to the French High Commission a request, of which I enclose a copy,7 that the Syrian and Lebanese Governments advise the Consulate General of the names and the dates of admission to Syrian or Lebanese nationality, of any persons who, having previously acquired citizenship of the United States, avail themselves of their privilege of opting for citizenship of their country of origin under the accord of May 29, 1937.

Respectfully yours,

Theodore Marriner
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