890D.01/2–2646: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Caffery)42

secret
us urgent

962. In connection with Anglo-French conversations now being carried on in Paris re withdrawal of foreign troops from Levant States and proposed quadrilateral conversations on same subject Dept assumes you are informed of details of discussions on this subject in Security Council meeting in London. You will recall that subject was first raised in Feb 14 meeting entire session of which was devoted to discussion of procedural aspects of Syrian-Lebanese case, principal point in debate being whether question was a “dispute” or a “situation”. While question was not decided, US was prepared to support Syrian-Lebanese contention that it was a dispute. Both sessions on Feb 15 were devoted to presentation of case by Lebanese and Syrian representatives and replies by French and British in which other members, especially Vyshinsky, participated. Stettinius made following important statement:

“In regard to the substance of the question that is before the Council I would like to make clear briefly the views of my Government.

“The general policy of the United States is to support and encourage the rapid withdrawal of foreign troops from the territory of any member of the United Nations occupied during the war if the Government of that member state desires their departure.

“This general position of my Government has been made plain on a number of occasions. In conformity with this general policy I wish to express the hope of the United States Government that the desires of the Syrian and Lebanese Governments that the foreign troops in their territory should depart at the earliest practicable moment shall be met by means of a mutually satisfactory agreement to that effect.”

During morning session of 16th Stettinius offered following resolution:

“The Security Council takes note of the statements made by the four parties and by the other members of the Council; expresses its [Page 776]confidence that the foreign troops in Syria and Lebanon will be withdrawn as soon as practicable and that negotiations to that end will be undertaken by the parties without delay, and requests the parties to inform the Security Council of the results of the negotiations.”43

During afternoon session Mexican and Egyptian resolutions were defeated,44 whereupon Vyshinsky proposed three amendments to US resolution, which also failed. Original US resolution then received seven votes. Failure of USSR to vote affirmatively however defeated motion. French and Brit representatives then stated that although not voting on US proposal (they had announced their intention of abstaining from voting without admitting that they were parties to a dispute) they approved it and intended to act as if it had been passed.

In light of foregoing Dept desires you to keep in close touch with French Foreign Ministry and British Embassy on current developments and to lose no opportunity to impress upon Bidault and other French officials importance which Dept attaches to early withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria and Lebanon.

Sent Paris, repeated London and Beirut for Damascus.

Byrnes

[The Security Council discussed the complaint against the presence of French and British troops in Syria and Lebanon at five successive meetings from February 14 to 16. The record of these meetings is published in United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, First Year, First Series, No. 1, pp. 272, 283, 296, 318, and 336. The United Nations has given its account of the deliberations in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946–47, p. 341. The Soviet vote against the United States resolution represented the first instance of the exercise of the veto in the history of the Security Council. Apparently, the Council took no formal action to remove the Syrian-Lebanese question from its agenda but it engaged in no further discussion on the matter after February 16. The “Report of the Security Council to the General Assembly Covering the Period from 17 January to 15 July 1946” noted, however, that the Council was “no longer seized” of the question (United Nations, Official Records of the General Assembly, First Session, First Part, Supplement No. 1, p. 56).]

  1. In a memorandum to Loy W. Henderson, Director of the Office of Neal Eastern and African Affairs, on March 1, Benjamin V. Cohen, the Counselor of the Department, stated:

    “I have signed for the Secretary the telegram to Paris regarding the Anglo-French conversations concerning Syria and Lebanon. While I have no doubt that the case presented to the Council involved a dispute, I have serious doubt whether it was established that Britain was a party to the dispute in view of the fact that the Syrians and Lebanese admitted that they did not wish British troops withdrawn before the French troops were withdrawn.

    “The Syrians and Lebanese, however, refused to admit expressly when questioned by Bevin that the British were not parties to the dispute, merely indicating that the record could speak for itself. This had a profoundly disturbing effect on Bevin and I have no doubt is the reason why the British no longer feel bound to defer their withdrawal until it can be simultaneous with the French withdrawal.” (890D.01/3–146)

  2. For full text of Mr. Stettinius’ statement, see United Nations, Official Records of the Security Council, First Year, First Series, No. 1, p. 300.
  3. A Netherlands resolution on the matter was withdrawn.