Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary General of the Arab League (Azzam)1

The following is a condensation of a memorandum prepared by Abdel Rahman Azzam Pasha following his conference with the Secretary of State on June 17, 1947:

In an hour’s interview with the Secretary, at which Mr. Loy Henderson was present, Azzam Pasha outlined the constitution of the League of Arab States, explaining the functions of the Council, which represents the seven independent Arab States and the Secretariat, which is the link between the Council and different organizations. Treaties, agreements and recommendations are forwarded for approval to the Council by the Secretariat.

The League works with the various government organizations of the member states in maintaining peace and increasing social and cultural progress. Because the Arab League was started at the end of World War II, a large part of its activities has been devoted to politics.

The League, by uniting all the Arab people, tends to stabilize the Middle East and Mediterranean area. Azzam Pasha believes that it is to the best interest of the Western democracies that the organization of the Arabs succeed to the point of avoiding war. Otherwise, a burden would fall on the democracies, particularly the United States.

General Marshall expressed interest in this explanation of the Arab League situation and asked Azzam Pasha to tell him about the individual problems of Palestine, Egypt, Tripoli and North Africa.

In discussing the North African problem, Azzam said that a strong France is necessary for the peace which the Arab League is working for. He stated, however, that France maintains a reactionary colonial administration, employing methods sometimes bordering on serfdom, in a section of the Arab world. The Arabs are torn between their friendship for France and their loyalty to the principles of freedom for their people in North Africa.

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Turning to Morocco, Azzam Pasha said that Morocco had maintained its independence for more than a thousand years until it became a French colony thirty years ago. The Sultan of Morocco is now trying to regain for his country some of their rights, and, as a result is being persecuted. Azzam Pasha appealed to General Marshall for justice for the Sultan.

The Secretary asked about conditions in Tunisia and Algeria. Azzam replied that although the Arabs in Algeria are represented in the French National Assembly, the Arabs have none of the rights of citizenship. During a demonstration for freedom in Setif in the Province of Constantine in May 1945, some thirty thousand Arabs were killed.

Tunisia is a protectorate, whose ruler, Moncef Bey, was unjustly dethroned. It is poverty stricken and all demonstrations for freedom have been ruthlessly crushed. Azzam has advised the people that nothing can be gained by violence.

The Arab League is opposed to Communism, but since what little encouragement it has thus far received has been given by the French Communists, there has been a split in the Nationalist parties on this issue.

In speaking of the Libyan problem, Azzam Pasha said that the Arabs fought Italian imperialism and Fascism. The Secretary asked what solution Azzam would propose in settling the future of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, to which he replied, “Unity and independence”.

Azzam told the Secretary that the United States should not confuse the humanitarian appeal of displaced European Jews with the political aspirations of the Zionists. The Arab League is prepared to cooperate to the fullest in finding a solution to the refugee problem, but it is unalterably opposed to militant political Zionism.

A satisfactory agreement, he said, should be reached between Egypt and Great Britain for the settlement of their outstanding problems. These two countries are largely dependent on each other for security.

Azzam Pasha thanked General Marshall for his interest and patience, and the Secretary told him that the talk had been useful and instructive.

  1. Described as accurate by Loy W. Henderson, Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs; memorandum condensed by David LeBreton of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.