890D.01/4–1645

The Syrian Minister (Koudsi) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to inform you it has come to the attention of my Government that the French Foreign Office has opened up negotiations with the British Government with a view to the separation of the “French” army in Syria from the Allied Middle East Command and the withdrawal of the British forces from the Syrian territory.

It is the view of my Government that, prior to any decision in this matter, it is necessary to transfer the immediate command of the forces in Syria which are now under French command to the Syrian Government. The so-called French army in Syria is predominantly composed of Syrian nationals, and it is only fair and legitimate that it should be placed under the authority of the Syrian Government.

The independence of Syria has been internationally recognized. She has declared war on the Axis powers and joined the ranks of the United Nations. There remains no reason why such an independent and sovereign state should not possess the command of its forces within its territory. Without an army, independence and sovereignty lose much of their force and meaning.

The attempt of the French Government to secure exclusive command of the forces in Syria runs counter to its own recognition of Syrian independence. Its present demand for the withdrawal of the British troops from Syria gives the Syrian Government more reason to insist on its rights to command the forces in its territory [Page 1057]since the refusal of the French to relinquish their military authority in that territory has been based on the presence of British troops in it.

The transference of the French command of the present forces in Syria to the Syrian Government will not only restore to this Government its legitimate right. It will in addition lead to a simpler and better coordination of the armed forces in Syrian territory. The present intervention of French military authority between the Allied Middle East Command and an army which is predominantly Syrian is wholly unnecessary and does not in any way help the war effort in that territory.

Finally, it can only be said that the attempt of the French Government to secure the withdrawal of the British forces in Syria, at a time when the question of the transference of the forces under its command to the Syrian Government is the subject of negotiations between it and the latter Government, such an attempt can have no other effect than to delay and complicate these negotiations.

My Government is deeply conscious of the fact that the Government of the United States of America has always considered the Syrian situation with the utmost fairness, and that, convinced of Syria’s right to freedom and independence, it recognized this independence fully and unconditionally. For this reason, my Government feels confident that the American Government will appreciate the Syrian position in this question which is so vital to Syria and bound up with the principles of democracy and justice for which this war is being fought.

Please accept [etc.]

N. Koudsi