The British Delegation at Yalta to the Secretary of State 26

The principal outstanding question in the Levant States is the settlement of the future relations between them and the French. The Levant States have been promised their independence and are well on the way to achieving it. We have obtained from the French Provisional Government the most categorical assurances that they intend to carry out this undertaking, which Ave have endorsed. The French wish to preserve a special friendly relationship with the Levant States, such as Great Britain has in Iraq. We have told them that we would be ready to admit this in principle, but that it must be freely agreed with the Levant States and that we could in no circumstances attempt that it should be imposed on them by force. We are urging them strongly to adopt a forthcoming and understanding attitude towards the aspirations of the Levant States.

The Levant States are afraid that the French plan to undermine their independence and they have until last week refused to enter into any discussions with the French regarding the future settlement even on quite uncontentious items. It is now understood that they will make their own proposals to the French shortly.
In general it has seemed to His Majesty’s Government essential [Page 1041] that there should be a settlement by agreement. The French certainly seem entitled to have an understanding regarding the continued existence of their schools and the treatment of their nationals and commercial interests, e.g. in taxation matters. Yet if the mandate were terminated tomorrow without any other understanding being reached, they would not even have the same rights as the Americans have under their Treaty of 1924.27
Other rights which the French may possibly claim (e.g. in military or educational matters) are more contentious, but it is hardly possible for us to help the Syrians and Lebanese further unless they discuss the outstanding questions regarding settlement.
Another question which will need an internationally agreed settlement in due course is that of the position of racial and religious minorities. We do not think that the mandate should disappear without the Syrian and Lebanese Governments reaffirming their obligations not to discriminate against their racial and religious minorities.
In general it seems to us inevitable and proper that the termination of a special relationship between two states should he regularised by some kind of agreement, that this is in the general interests of good international relations, and that the present misunderstandings between the French and the Levant States should not be allowed to get out of hand to a degree at which they might well hamper the war effort.
The Syrians have, we believe, in the past harboured a feeling that the United States Government would approve of their resisting any understanding at all with the French. We hope that in the interests of a peaceful and fair settlement of the position in the Levant States the President will, if he sees the President of Syria while in Egypt,28 urge him to adopt a circumspect and forthcoming attitude.
Incidentally President Shukri Quwatly is anxious to create a national army and in principle we are in favour of his doing so, but we earnestly hope that the United States Government will not agree to supply arms to either of the Levant States Governments until some understanding as to the future settlement has been arrived at. Otherwise, our own responsibilities in this theatre may be greatly complicated.
  1. In a memorandum of March 1, 1945, to Assistant Secretary of State Dunn and the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, the Deputy Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs (Hiss) stated: “The attached aide-mémoire was sent to Mr. Stettinius by the British delegation at Yalta on the final day of the Conference. It did not require action and no action was taken with respect to it.” (890D.01/2–1145) The Yalta Conference took place February 4–11, 1945, between President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier); for documentation on the Conference, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945.

    Copies of the British memorandum and of a memorandum of March 15 of a conversation with the Counselor of the British Embassy (p. 1055) relating thereto were transmitted to United States diplomatic missions at London, Paris, Moscow, Beirut, Damascus, and Cairo on March 22.

  2. Convention between the United States and France, signed at Paris April 4, 1924, Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. i, p. 741.
  3. President Roosevelt did not meet President Kuwatly while in Egypt. For documentation on his meeting with the sovereigns of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Ethiopia in February 1945, see pp. 1 ff.