501.BC/2–746: Telegram

The United States Representative at the United Nations (Stettinius) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

1492. DelUN 248. Supplementing DelUN 233, February 5.26 Following is summary of conversation between Hamid Bey Frangié, [Page 762] Lebanese Foreign Minister, and Mr. George Wadsworth on February 4 regarding decision of Lebanese and Syrian delegations to submit Levant “dispute” to Security Council.

Hamid Bey recalled that early in December the two Governments had learned that Anglo-French agreement to withdraw British and French troops from Levant had been reached in principle. Agreement was signed in London on December 13 and text sent to two Levant Governments. Neither had been consulted and agreement was fundamentally unacceptable on many counts, notably as a seeming return to sphere-of-influence policy in Near East and in making final withdrawal of troops conditional upon adoption by SC (Security Council) of regional security measures.

Hamid Bey added that shortly after General Beynet27 returned from Paris to Beirut about December 20 he had informed President Khouri that Anglo-French agreement envisaged more extensive discussions with Levant Governments for general settlement of outstanding questions than was indicated by narrow reading of text.

Shortly after Lebanese delegation arrived London for GA (General Assembly) informal word was received from Ostrorog, Beynet’s chief assistant, suggesting desirability of establishing direct contact with French GA delegation. Such contact not then made. It was gathered in conversations with FO officials, especially Cadogan,28 and cables from Beirut that British-French military conversations in Beirut in December were without result. Syrian and Lebanese delegations concluded French only playing for time. Therefore, heads of the two delegations had stated their case in GA debate on PreCo, (Preparatory Commission) report on January 19.29

It was suggested about January 30 to Lebanese Delegate Joseph Salem by French Deputy Gorse who came especially from Paris that contact between French and Lebanese delegations would be profitable. Only result was brief corridor conversation between Hamid Bey and Bidault which was unsatisfactory to former since no indication was given that new French Government would fix even tentative date for withdrawal of troops.

Hamid Bey, therefore, suggested through Gorse that Ostrorog (then in Paris) come to London which he did on February 2. Their conversations that evening were unsatisfactory. Ostrorog urged delay in presenting Syrian-Lebanese petition to SC on ground confidence could be placed in new French Government’s intention but was unable to offer assurances on early action and only suggested [Page 763] that specific date for departure of French troops should be subject of Anglo-French-Syrian-Lebanese conversations taking place after GA meeting either in London or Paris or, if neutral ground desired, in Switzerland. At second meeting, February 2, same ground covered. Hamid Bey was firm no agreement to enter formal negotiations possible unless French prepared first to give written unconditional assurances that French troops would be actually withdrawn by specified early date. Ostrorog replied such date must be contingent upon such time as UNO had decided upon organization of collective security in this zone. This the language of December 13 Anglo-French agreement.

Between above two conversations Hamid Bey saw Cadogan but unable obtain assurances that FO prepared to press French to meet Levant views. Cadogan commented that Levant States were being “disobliging” in basing their complaint in part on December 13 Anglo-French accord.

At conferences night of February 3 and morning February 4 between members of Syrian and Lebanese delegations it was decided to present case by joint communication to SC. Such action appeared to them to be their only hope and was in accordance with their Governments’ instructions. Hamid Bey stated that not to do so would have left their Governments in extremely awkward position vis-à-vis their parliaments and peoples.30

Hamid Bey said that he realized he could not expect advance assurances that US would support Syrian-Lebanese case but felt he was not unjustified in believing that in fact such would be the case in view of consistent sympathetic support given Levant States in their efforts to obtain and consolidate full independence.

Wadsworth lunched February 4 with Syrian Minister. Bevin was guest of honor. To mention that Levant States had apparently decided to submit their case to SC, Bevin commented along following lines: He seemed to feel mistake was being made and if he were given 2 or 3 days could in view of change of French Government, find satisfactory basis for quadrilateral negotiations. He said he would he glad to send telegram “today” ordering British troops out of Levant. Generally indicated that he thought French were being treated pretty badly all around in matter. He mentioned France’s historic position dating back to the Crusades. Wadsworth ventured to reply that in view of many historians this was a distorted claim, notably because both strictly French Crusades had been signally defeated by Moslems and because Vatican-recognized right of France [Page 764] to protect Christians in East never recognized by Ottomans and never exercised except with respect to foreign pilgrims who had no Consul of their own nationality. Bevin’s reply was non-committal with implication that American position would be more realistic were United States prepared to share practical responsibilities in area.

  1. Not printed; it reported that the Chief Delegates of Syria and Lebanon at the United Nations (Farls el-Khouri and Hamid Frangié) had filed with the Secretary General a joint communication requesting that the Security Council adopt a decision recommending total and simultaneous evacuation of foreign troops from Syrian and Lebanese territories (501.BB/2–546). For text of the letter, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, First Year, First Series, Supplement No. 1, p. 82.
  2. Paul-Etienne Beynet, French Delegate General in Syria and Lebanon.
  3. Sir Alexander Cadogan, British Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and British Representative at the United Nations.
  4. For texts, see United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Plenary Meetings, pp. 247, 253.
  5. The French view of these developments was brought to the attention of Charles B. Bohlen, Adviser to the United States delegation at the London session of the United Nations, on February 6 by Count Ostrorog (IO files, USSC 46/13 Conv 7).