Memorandum of Informal United States-United Kingdom Discussions, in Connection With the Visit to London of The Honorable George C. McGhee, April 2–3, 1951 1


Topic for Discussion: Arab Refugees

Participants: Foreign Office
R. J. Bowker, Assistant Under-Secretary of State
Trefor Evans, Middle East Secretariat
Sir Henry Knight, British Representative on the UNRWA
George C. McGhee, Department of State
James K. Penfield, American Embassy, London
John Frick Root, American Embassy, London

Mr. Evans presented a paper (attached herewith) setting forth the problem of the Arab refugees as the British see it. To them there seemed to be, as explained in the paper, three alternatives and they [Page 613] were interested in learning Mr. McGhee’s views on the problem. Mr. McGhee said he thought the first of the possibilities suggested was by far the best and he believed that it could be accomplished. He noted that it was the US intention to provide $30 million for Arab refugees as part of its Foreign Aid Program for next year. Mr. Evans said that the UK contribution might vary from $8 to $10 million depending on the contributions from other sources. Mr. McGhee said that he did not at all favor the proposal that Israel should be given a loan with which to provide compensation for the refugees. He thought it was far more desirable to contribute directly to the resettlement of the refugees and perhaps to obtain from them as they were settled a sort of “quit claim” for the compensation to which they had felt entitled. In most cases they would be obtaining in resettlement more than they had left behind. As for the problem of immediate finance raised by Mr. Evans, Mr. McGhee said that Congressional authorization of the proposed contribution for next year would probably make it possible for us to advance some of the funds as early as July 1st.

Mr. McGhee said that it was extremely disappointing that we were no further ahead in resolving the refugee problem than two years ago and that it seemed to him more should have been accomplished by now in making headway with projects which would provide for the resettlement of refugees. He said the inability of UNRWA to get ahead with the real job at hand had been very discouraging and raised the question of whether any UN organization was competent to do the job. In answer to a question from Mr. McGhee, Sir Henry Knight said that administrative expenses of the agency amounted to about 12% and salaries to another 3%.

Mr. McGhee said that he wondered whether it might not be advisable to give to our Point Four officers sent to the area to supervise U.S. bilateral grant aid the additional responsibility of insuring the proper use of our contribution to the refugee program. Mr. McGhee and Sir Henry Knight agreed on the desirability of pressing for the decentralization of the refugee program and enlisting the cooperation of the individual Arab countries, whose initiative in the matter should be stimulated. Mr. McGhee and Sir Henry recognized that the Arab countries were looking for a guarantee of continued outside interest and financial assistance in the resettlement programs and thought that, while our governments could not commit themselves to a guarantee of funds, it would be possible for the UN on the one hand through the director of the UNRWA, and on the other hand for the British and American representatives on UNRWA on behalf of their respective governments, to give assurances, particularly to Syria where the main resettlement should be carried out, of a desire and intention to see the resettlement problem carried to its completion.

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Mr. McGhee thought that it should be possible to carry out an appreciable number of resettlement projects in Jordan, but both Sir Henry and Mr. Evans were much more sceptical and believed that the physical resources there severely limited the development which could be undertaken.

With regard to the actual expenditure of funds, Mr. Evans noted that the Jordan Government had so far been able to spend only a part of the £1 million loan from the U.K. It was recognized that putting money for development into actual use was a fairly slow process.

  1. Drafted by Root. This memorandum and its attachment, not printed, were transmitted to the Department of State as enclosures to despatch 4832 from London, April 10. For information concerning Mr. McGhee’s visit to London and his other conversations there with British officials, see footnote 1, p. 104.