The Ambassador in France (Caffery) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 19—4:40 p.m.]
1325. Ostrorog (who has just returned to Paris from a brief trip to the Levant where he went to explain the French position to the Lebanese) tells me that the Lebanese reply to the French note concerning the evacuation of Lebanon has not as yet been received. He said that the FonOff understands the desire of the Lebanese to have the evacuation of French troops completed at the earliest possible date but for practical reasons, including the acute shortage of shipping, it is impossible for the French to evacuate Lebanon as soon as the English do. Nonetheless, he said that Foreign Ministry hopes that arrangements can be made with the Lebanese which will permit the French to have completed their evacuation by end of next December. He added that the French still hope the British will leave a token force in Lebanon until French evacuation is completed.
When asked when the French intend to discuss with the Lebanese such questions as a consular convention, French business and educational institutions, etc., Ostrorog replied that the French naturally attached great importance to satisfactory agreements on these subjects but added that until satisfactory agreement had been reached on the evacuation of troops it would be a great error for the French to mix the two questions. “Should we bring up questions relating to such French interests in Lebanon during the military discussions on evacuation, the Lebanese would quite naturally interpret such a move as an attempt by us to blackmail them into granting wider concessions in return for the removal of French troops. This is the last thing the French wish to have happen”, and added that “at this time the most important thing is to conclude a satisfactory agreement on evacuation with no strings attached to it.”
Referring to possible future negotiations relating to French cultural, educational and business interests in the Levant States, Ostrorog said in confidence that the FonOff felt that before the French [Page 780]discuss such questions with the Levant States it would be wise for them to have informal and unofficial exchanges of views with Great Britain and the US with a view to ascertaining the views of ourselves and the British so that the French would not find themselves pursuing an independent course. He said that in such event the French Embassies in London and Washington would probably be empowered to have such informal conversations.47
Sent Dept 1325; repeated Beirut 8, London 211.
In commenting on the last two paragraphs of this telegram, the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Merriam) informed the Division of Commercial Policy in a memorandum of March 26: “… the French appear to be adopting a much more conciliatory and cooperative attitude in their approach to the matter of regularizing their relations with the Levant States through the eventual negotiation of conventions relating to cultural, educational and commercial interests. From the final paragraph it would appear that we may receive at any time from the French a suggestion that we concert with them and the British in negotiations relating to cultural, educational and business matters.
We doubt very much whether we Want to present a common front with the French and the British on these matters, but in view of this welcome evidence of a desire on the part of the French to cooperate with us and Great Britain, it occurs to us that we shall have to have an answer ready for the French and that it might be well for us to inform the French of the treaty which we propose to negotiate with Lebanon.” (890E.01/3–1946) For information on the proposed treaty, see footnote 71, p. 790.↩