883.10/2–2450: Telegram

The Minister in Syria ( Keeley ) to the Secretary of State 1


94. Jidda Embtel 54, January 30 to Department,2 King Ibn Sand’s wise council seems to be bearing fruit. Minister of National Economy, Maarhf Al-Dawalibi, called upon me yesterday and spent more than two hours reviewing Syrian-US relations, as briefly summarized below, preliminary to asking my assistance in opening way for Syrian-US cooperation in economic sphere.

Referring to his recent trade talks with Ibn Saud and Egypt, Dawalibi said he believed it advisable to seek agreements on basis common interests wherever found exist. It is only part wisdom, however, to recognize obstacles. As between Syria and US there is thorny Palestine problem. He recognized that in supporting Zionists in Palestine, US has been moved by idealism and universal sympathy for suffering Jewish DP’s. He could understand our idealism in this respect for the Arabs themselves were not lacking in similar idealism. Long before emergence of political Zionism and its militant application against Arabs in Palestine, Arabs moved by humanitarianism to give asylum to the Jews of the Spanish inquisition. Unfortunately, succoring few hundred-thousand displaced Jews by their resettlement in Palestine had served displace and create equally or greater distress for million Arabs who had not only been denied right self-determination of their own homeland but had been dispossessed of their property by conqueror in violation international law. Syrian public opinion holds US partly responsible for plight refugees and believes that if true to its oft-expressed ideals, US should take lead in enforcing UN decisions, particularly, as Arab states were stopped by US–UN action in defending inalienable rights of Palestine Arabs. As long as Arab refugees are denied these rights and continue suffer tragic consequences of Israeli conquest of their homeland and Israeli ambitions remain uncurbed, Minister said Syrian opinion will remain exacerbated and any Syrian statesman who seeks cooperation with US in political or economic sphere will be plagued by criticism and opposition because of US connection with Palestine tragedy.

Contending that in light foregoing Syrian Government would find it difficult cooperate with US, especially in realizing any projects [Page 1206] envisaging refugee resettlement instead of repatriation, lie hopes be able work with US in economic sphere. He feels that if both countries understand difficulties each faces in present circumstances prejudicial influence of Palestine situation might be minimized sufficiently permit economic collaboration.

I welcomed his approach which I noted was in marked contrast to indifference and even hostility that Syria had heretofore shown toward our disposition to be helpful (Legtel 85, February 22 and 92, February 243). Commending as statesmanlike his decision henceforth to judge American economic aid possibilities on their merits, I assured him Legation would be glad extend him all available information and appropriate assistance. We, thereupon, briefly discussed possibilities of stimulating trade, and procedure in applying Point Four and seeking Export-Import Bank and IBRD loans.

In parting Minister said that economic approach between countries having basis of common interest offers more hope of agreement than of approach made in political sphere where one immediately runs into thorns. If Syria and US could fruitfully cooperate in economic domain, solution of their political problems might be facilitated. I agreed.

  1. Repeated to Jidda, Ankara, Jerusalem, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, and Arab capitals.
  2. Not printed; it described how Ibn Saud told al-Dawalibi that Syria should follow a new policy in its relations with the United States. “He has advised Syrian Minister that Syria should take every step secretly without any announcement and that it should send, after mutual agreement with USG, Syrian representatives to US to come to an understanding on their common policy. Intention of His Majesty is that if an agreement can be reached it may be announced but if not no one will know about failure.” (883.10/1–3050)
  3. Neither printed.