The Department of State to the British Embassy 87


The views of the British Government relating to Syria and the Lebanon, contained in Mr. Wright’s88 letter of June 28, 1943,89 to Mr. Ailing,90 and in the British Embassy’s Aide-Mémoire of September 10, 1943,91 have received careful and sympathetic attention.

The American Government’s policy in respect of Syria and the Lebanon since the events of July 1941 has been guided by its frequently reiterated sympathy with the aspirations of the Syrian and Lebanese peoples for the full enjoyment of sovereign independence and by its established policy of deferring recognition of another government until such government is in possession of the machinery of state, administering the government with the assent of the people thereof and without substantial resistance to its authority, and until it is in a position to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities incumbent upon a sovereign state under treaties and international law.

Within these general lines, the relations of the United States Government with the various authorities in the Levant States have been conducted on a de facto basis, without prejudice to the eventual clarification of the juridical factors involved. Thus this Government was glad to recognize the step taken towards the independence of Syria and the Lebanon in the proclamations of General Catroux by establishing Legations at Beirut and Damascus, and accrediting to the local Governments a “Diplomatic Agent”, a rank customarily used in the case of semi-independent States. While this Government has [Page 1001] observed with satisfaction the successful establishment of new governments in the two States, it believes that the extension of full recognition by the United States would be neither advisable nor warranted until substantial governmental powers still exercised by the French authorities have been effectively transferred to these local Governments.

The United States Government was not a party to the agreements concluded prior to the invasion of the Levant States by British and Free French forces in 1941,92 and is not prepared to admit that France should enjoy a “preeminent and privileged position” in Syria and the Lebanon. However, this Government is in substantial agreement with the views of the British Government as regards the possible conclusion of agreements defining the relationship of the French authorities to the new States. This Government would not object to free and voluntary negotiations for this purpose between the Syrian and Lebanese Governments and representatives of the French Committee of National Liberation, provided the instruments concluded contained proper safeguards of the rights and interests of the local populations and of the United States and its nationals and on the understanding that such instruments would be applied provisionally pending their eventual formal ratification and approval by the interested parties.

The United States Diplomatic Agent at Beirut is being instructed accordingly.

  1. Copies sent by the Department to Beirut, London, and Cairo.
  2. Michael Wright, First Secretary of the British Embassy.
  3. Ante, p. 979.
  4. Paul H. Ailing, Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  5. Ante, p. 989.
  6. For correspondence on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. iii, pp. 725 ff.