890D.01/2–2346: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State


2243. From Wadsworth. 1. Lebanese Foreign Minister Frangié reviewed for me yesterday his discussions with French and British here following Security Council’s consideration of Levant “dispute” substantially as follows:

On February 18 he received Ostrorog who reiterated Bidault’s undertaking to negotiate on basis American resolution and suggested early negotiations in Paris. He replied he was wholly prepared to negotiate but that it might add to difficulty of inducing Syrians to do so were French to insist on Paris as venue. Could not negotiations be held in London, he asked, if only to expedite matters and because all parties were present?

On February 19 he and chief Syrian delegate Khouri met with Bevin who stated he wished to clear up case promptly through quadrilateral negotiation, that this was also Bidault’s wish and that as for British “they would talk only regarding military questions”. Bevin added that Syrians and Lebanese would do well not to object to Paris as venue. He replied substantially as to Ostrorog. Khouri, however, while recognizing that all parties were bound to negotiate, said he could not agree without further instructions from Damascus.

On February 20 in discussion with Massigli, he was told that French wished discussions to include other questions related to withdrawal of troops. He replied that, once agreement on withdrawal was concluded, he perceived no objection to discussion of other matters; were this agreed he would immediately ask Beirut to authorize his negotiating in Paris. Massigli undertook to consult Paris.

[Page 770]

On February 21, Massigli telephoned that Paris had replied it was willing to negotiate with respect to military questions only.

Same day he received telegram from Beirut informing him of similar proposal made there by Beynet and saying that, while Syrian Government had not consented to his going to Paris to talk in name of both states, he might go himself in personal capacity. He replied that present opportunity should not be missed and recommended official acceptance of French invitation irrespective of Syrian action, British having meanwhile told him they were prepared to open military discussions with French promptly.

On February 22 he received another telegram from Beirut authorizing Paris visit to make official contact provided Syrian delegation also go. He proposed to reply that Syrian delegation has no authorization to go but that he, nevertheless, wishes to do so “to conduct negotiations regarding withdrawal of troops exclusively”, adding “if and when agreement is reached on major lines, it can be accepted and signed by the four countries”.39

2. In subsequent conversation, February 22, with Khouri he confirmed to me the foregoing outline of recent developments and said he was prepared either to enter into quadrilateral negotiations here or to see Frangié carry out his plan of conducting French-Lebanese negotiations in Paris.

He stressed that at conversation of February 19 with Bevin, latter had undertaken to discuss only question of withdrawal of troops and to ascertain from French what if any other questions they wished to include. He had as yet received no such list, but was encouraged by Massigli’s reply to Frangié.

On balance he preferred Frangié’s plan both because it was still difficult for Syrians to negotiate with French other than through Syrian Minister in Paris and because, now that British and French had apparently agreed to withdraw completely from Syria at early date, major question remaining at issue was withdrawal from Lebanon, details of which Lebanese could best discuss alone with French.

(Note: In connection with reported Anglo-French agreement as to early complete withdrawal from Syria, Embassy is reporting confirmatory [Page 771] statement made February 22 by head of British Foreign Office, Eastern Department.)

Khouri concluded substantially as follows: “The Lebanese plan is a good one. It should please our Government which does not want to negotiate about our country. Bevin has said our country must be evacuated entirely as a first step in withdrawal from the two countries. I prefer to postpone our participation in negotiation until that is done.”

He too had received telegram that morning from his Government; he would give me its four principal points and his reply to each:

First, it asked his view as to whether negotiations should be undertaken. In reply he reiterated his opinion that Syria was bound to do so by article 33 of the United Nations Charter.

Second, it asked his view as to Paris as venue. He replied that French are most insistent thereon and Bevin advises it but that he had put off answering pending receipt of promised note from Bevin regarding subjects of negotiations.

Third, it insisted that there be no negotiations anywhere with any French who had been responsible for use of force against Syria last May. He replied that this could be avoided by negotiating elsewhere than in Levant, adding that Ostrorog had assured him it was not French intention to have Beynet participate.

Lastly, it asked that should Lebanese delegation remain to negotiate in London, he also remain to participate. He reiterated that he was awaiting Bevin’s reply but believed it unwise to risk losing substance, i.e. withdrawal of troops, by hesitating over details of place or form.

In conclusion, Khouri said he hoped Department might share his views, first as to advisability of Lebanese negotiating now alone with French in Paris, it being understood that Anglo-French military discussions will be begun at same time, and, second, that it would be wiser for Syrians to defer their participation in negotiations pending complete military withdrawal from Syria. If so, he suggested that Department might instruct our Chargé d’Affaires in Beirut and Damascus to indicate to Prime Ministers (both Acting Ministers of Foreign Affairs) that it believed the suggested action would be in keeping with spirit of American resolution to Security Council.40

3. I have air passage to Cairo February 27.

Sent to Department as 2243; repeated to Beirut as 13, to Paris as 147. [Wadsworth.]

  1. The Chargé in Lebanon, in telegram 103, February 23, transmitted to the Department the text of a communiqué issued by the Lebanese Government on February 23, which stated:

    “Following the declarations made by the British Foreign Secretary Mr. Ernest Bevin and the French Foreign Minister Mr. Georges Bidault to the effect that they considered their countries bound by Mr. Stettinius’ proposal before the Security Council to open negotiations for the withdrawal of foreign troops regrouped in Lebanon, the French Government has suggested to the Lebanese and Syrian Governments that the negotiations be held in Paris without delay.

    “The Lebanese Government in agreement with the Syrian Government has decided to accept the invitation.

    “Accordingly the Lebanese Government has instructed its delegation in London to proceed to Paris and to open negotiations for a speedy withdrawal of foreign troops in accordance with the declaration referred to above.” (890E.01/2–2446)

  2. By telegram 1803, February 26, 7 p.m., to London (repeated to Damascus and Beirut), the Secretary of State informed Mr. Wadsworth: “While views expressed by Faris al-Khoury regarding negotiations with French and British as set forth in your 2243, Feb 23, from London seem sound, questions raised by him in penultimate paragraph thereof are mainly of procedural nature concerning which Dept does not feel it necessary or wise to advise Syrian and Lebanese Govts. Dept does of course hope that Syrians will be as cooperative as possible in arranging details of negotiations in order not to jeopardize their successful outcome.” (890D.01/2–2343).