484A.008/5–2050: Circular telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic and Consular Offices 1

Verbatim Text. For ur advance info, there follows text proposed declaration re Near East arms and stability as agreed US–UK.2 French agreement expected shortly. Dept expects issue about May 25. Will inform. Meanwhile you should treat as highly confid matter and not discuss with local authorities.

“The Governments of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, having had occasion during the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in London to review certain questions affecting the peace and stability of the Arab states and of Israel, and particularly that of the supply of arms and war material to these states, have resolved to make the following statements:

  • “1. The three governments recognize that the Arab states and Israel all need to maintain a certain level of armed forces for the purposes of assuring their internal security and their legitimate self-defense and to permit them to play their part in the defense of the area as a whole. All applications for arms or war material for these countries will be considered in the light of these principles. In this connection the three governments wish to recall and reaffirm the terms of the statements made by their representatives on the Security Council on 4th August, 1949, in which they declared their opposition to the development of an arms race between the Arab states and Israel.
  • “2. The three governments declare that assurances have been received from all the states in questiton, to which they permit arms to be supplied from their countries, that the purchasing state does not intend to undertake any act of aggression against any other state. Similar assurances will be requested from any other state in the area to which they permit arms to be supplied in the future.
  • “3. The three governments take this opportunity of declaring their deep interest in and their desire to promote the establishment and maintenance of peace and stability in the area and their unalterable opposition to the use of force or threat of force between any of the states in that area. The three governments, should they find that any of these states was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.”3

  1. Sent to Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, and Jidda (quotation section only).
  2. In telegram Secto 263 from London of May 15, Secretary Acheson reported that further US–UK discussions had taken place on the “proposed NE; arms and security statement” and that this statement “has now been approved in general by Prime Minister”. Secretary Acheson dispatched the text of the statement in telegram Secto 264 from London of May 15, and in telegram Secto 274 of the following day he recommended that as it had now been approved “in general by Bevin and Attlee subject to legal and military review, I believe we should now clear in substance with President in order to have firm understanding with British and possibly broach to French before breaking up here” (396.1 LO/5–1550, /5–1650). In a memorandum for the President dated May 17, Acting Secretary Webb enclosed a copy of the declaration “as drafted in London by US and UK representatives” which “is now sufficiently firm to be presented to you for clearance in substance”. The President approved the draft declaration that day (484A.118/5–1750). The only change in the Statement as incorporated in the source text from that sent to the Department from London on May 15 in telegram Secto 264 was the addition in paragraph 2 of the sentence “Similar assurances will be requested from any other state in the area to which they permit arms to be supplied in the future.”
  3. In telegram Secto 303 from London, May 18, Acheson reported that at the close of the special tripartite meeting preceding the North Atlantic Treaty Cornell meeting that day, he had approached French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and had “referred to criticism to which both British and ourselves had been subjected in connection with arms shipments to Arab States and Israel” adding that in studying the matter it had “occurred to us that French, in view of their interests in area and their being suppliers of arms, might wish to join with us in issuance of declaration.” Schuman replied that the suggestion “was new and caught him unprepared, but he would be glad to consider sympathetically.” M. Schuman added that French deliveries of arms to the Near East had always been conducted openly (396.1 LO/5–1850).

    In telegram 2412 from Paris of May 21, Ambassador Bruce informed the Acting Secretary of State that “Schuman’s agreement to joining US and UK in NE arms and security declaration obtained after receiving strong support Levant Section Foreign Office, including Boisanger, French representative PCC [Palestine Conciliation Commission].” Bruce added “that Syrian and Lebanese Ministers Paris would be summoned May 22 and requested obtain assurances their governments” to support the declaration. “French do not intend approaching other NE groups now” (780.56/5–2150). In an unnumbered circular telegram sent to all diplomatic missions in the Near East and to London and Paris on May 22, Acting Secretary Webb reported that (the text of the proposed arms and security declaration had been agreed upon by the United States, United Kingdom, and France and would be issued in Paris, London, and Washington at 1500 hours Greenwich mean time, Thursday, May 25. The final text of this declaration, which is identical with that printed in the source text, is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1950, p. 886. See also documentation on the Tripartite Declaration in vol. iii, pp. 828 ff.

    The reaction of Israel and the Arab States to the Tripartite Declaration ranged from enthusiastic (Egypt, Syria, Israel) to noncommittal (Lebanon) to sceptical (Iraq). Documentation on the response of the Near Eastern states to the Declaration is in Department of State files 480.00, 684A.85, 784A.02, 784A.56, and 780.00.