The United States Representative at the United Nations (Stettinius) to the Secretary of State
[Received 12:24 p.m.]
1839. This is DelUN 324. I appreciate helpful directions regarding Levant “dispute” sent me in UNdel 191.37
Informal conversations are continuing between French, British, Syrian and Lebanese representatives here in hope that mutually agreeable formula for “negotiations” may be found prior to presentation of case to SC. Our general impression is:
That French, who particularly wish negotiations to take place in Paris, are making every effort to reach common accord short of agreeing that negotiations have as major objective the fixing of a time limit for withdrawal of their troops;[Page 767]
That if this latter is clearly recognized Syrians may agree to some formula for negotiations providing that matter remain of continuing concern to SC;
That Lebanese have come to view negotiations under aegis of SC as such important forward step that they would accept less precise formula to assure them; and
That British, now snowing growing concern lest Russians make further propaganda capital out of SC public discussion of dispute, are anxious that Syrians and Lebanese agree to French formula that negotiations may be undertaken on understanding suggested by French that neither French nor British Government interprets their December 13 accord as implying an intention to maintain troops in Levant in event that SC not take decisions regarding collective security in that zone.
Indication of this British apprehension is following remark said by Faris el-Khouri to have been made to him by Bevin last evening: “I am not at all pleased with the way your conversations are going. I want the matter settled. You should agree with the French peacefully. I don’t want the Soviets to make it a new means for attacking us. I am tired of that sort of thing. My Ministers met for 3 hours today; they are insisting that I withdraw our troops.”
Today, according to the French, there was a further and disquieting development. The French tell us that the day before yesterday night they had agreed with the Lebanese on a statement to be made by Bidault which would be acceptable as a basis for negotiation and thus permit the Council to dispose of the case. The French statement contained the interpretation of the December 13th accord set forth above, and indicated that “the problem is conditioned by certain difficulties of a technical nature”. The Lebanese delegation found this acceptable but said they would have to clear it with the Syrians. This morning the Lebanese informed the French that to their great regret the Syrians could not accept this and consequently felt themselves impelled to make a vigorous presentation of their complaints against French action in Syria and would contend that the Council should take jurisdiction of the matter. The French told the Lebanese to inform the Syrians that obviously in that case Bidault would have to make a defense in case. The situation is therefore that while the Lebanese and the French and British had agreed on a basis of negotiation which would be acceptable the Syrians will not accept it, and in the circumstances, while regretting this decision, the Lebanese feel they must stand by the Syrians.
We understand that Bevin is seeing chief Syrian delegate Khouri today.