Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Kohler)

Participants: Mr. Michael Wright, Counselor, British Embassy
Mr. Murray7
Mr. Ailing8
Mr. Kohler

Mr. Wright called at his request to present the attached aide-mémoire9 enclosing copies of recent instructions of the Foreign Office to the British Minister at Beirut and Damascus10 and asking us for our support of the representations which the latter was instructed to make to the local governments with a view to the settlement of the present impasse between them and the French.

Mr. Wright also read two telegrams sent to the Foreign Office by Mr. Shone, H.M. Minister at Beirut and Damascus. In the first Mr. [Page 1036] Shone reported a conversation between M. Ostrorog11 of the French Délégation Générale and the Syrian President12 in which the former had suggested that a high calibre Syrian representative, possibly the Foreign Minister,13 should proceed to Paris to initiate direct discussions with the French Government authorities; the reaction of the President had been negative. In the second Mr. Shone reported that he had discussed the attached Foreign Office instruction with his American colleague14 and that both agreed that the suggested representations would not be opportune at the present moment in view of agitated local atmosphere.

In reply to Mr. Murray’s question, Mr. Wright said that he believed the British Government would instruct Mr. Shone to go forward with the representations in any case at the earliest suitable opportunity. In the ensuing discussion, which reviewed the previous steps taken by the British and American governments in connection with the situation in the Levant States, Mr. Wright expressed his strong personal view that some settlement of this question must be reached in the near future if we are not to face serious difficulties not only in Syria and Lebanon but throughout the Near East a year hence which would be likely to involve Russia as well as the other Allies and could have serious consequences. It was generally agreed that the intransigeant negative attitude of the local Governments was quite indefensible,15 particularly in view of the written assurances which they have already given to this Government regarding the recognition and protection of American rights and interests in those territories.16

Mr. Murray assured Mr. Wright that the Department would give prompt and careful consideration to this question and would keep him advised of developments.

  1. Wallace Murray, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  2. Paul H. Ailing, Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs.
  3. Infra.
  4. Terence A. Shone.
  5. Count Stanislas Ostrorog, Diplomatic and Political Adviser, French Délégation Générale in Syria and Lebanon.
  6. Shnkri al-Kuwatly.
  7. Jamil Mardam.
  8. George Wadsworth, Minister to Syria and Lebanon.
  9. On February 2, 1945, Mr. Kohler informed Mahmoud Hassan, the Egyptian Minister, that the United States was hardly in a position to support the Syrian and Lebanese Governments in their refusal to negotiate agreements of any kind with the French (890D.01/2–245).
  10. See telegram 182, September 9, 1944, noon, from Beirut, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 775. The written assurances of the Syrian and Lebanese Governments were given in letters of September 8, 1944, to Mr. Wadsworth by the Syrian and Lebanese Foreign Ministers. For these letters and the pertinent United States communications of September 7, 1944, to the Syrian and Lebanese Governments, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series Nos. 434 and 435, or 58 Stat. (pt. 2) 1491 and 1493. respectively.