Conference Files: Lot 59 D 95: “Paris Bipartite and Tripartite Talks”

Memorandum of Conversation, by the First Secretary of Embassy in the United Kingdom (Palmer)

Participants: The Secretary
M. Charles Helou, Lebanese Foreign Secretary
M. Charles Malik, Lebanese Delegation
Mr. Joseph Palmer, United States Delegation1

At his request, the Lebanese Foreign Secretary saw the Secretary this afternoon. He began by saying that he wanted the United States to be assured that Lebanon’s international position is fundamentally oriented towards the United States and the West. He was aware that lately there have been some points of friction between the US and Lebanon, but he wished to assure the Secretary that these were entirely unintentional, minor in nature, and that they would be removed in the future.

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The Foreign Minister went on to say that even prior to the publication of the MEC proposals, the Lebanese Government had made it clear that it does not want the Lebanon’s strategic position oriented in any other direction than towards the West. While recognizing the importance of strategic considerations, however, he wished to emphasize that the Lebanon was able to render a more positive service to the West in the moral and cultural fields. He hoped that the West would recognize these contributions of the Lebanon and would place as much importance on them as on the strategic concept. He went on to say that he hoped that the United States looks with favor on stability in the Near East, including the Lebanon, and is prepared to exert its influence towards this end since it is only with U.S. support that the Lebanon can play its role morally, culturally, and strategically. In particular, the Lebanon would like to see a more pointed and specific assurance regarding the U.S. desire to see its independence continued; he hoped very much that we appreciated the importance of maintaining the status quo in the Near East. Any fundamental territorial changes would be detrimental to the Lebanon and to the Near East as a whole. It is a matter of utmost importance to the West that the status quo be preserved, since, to the extent that it is changed, the position of Lebanon will be correspondingly altered with a consequent lessening of its ability to play its role in interpreting the eastern world to the western world and vice versa.

The Secretary stated that he wished to make it clear that we do not regard Lebanon merely as a strategic point on the map. He understood completely what the Foreign Minister meant and wished to assure him that we appreciated and valued Lebanon’s role as a cultural and moral force with a great past, present and future. We are extremely anxious to cooperate with the Lebanon. He knew that our two countries have had differences at times; sometimes this is our fault, and we have perhaps occasionally bungled in our approach to problems. But fundamentally our intentions are the best, and we are most anxious to maintain close, friendly and cooperative relations with the Lebanon. We will continue to do our best to work closely with it in all fields.

With respect to the question of Lebanon’s independence, the Secretary said the United States believes that stability in the Near East can best be achieved by opposing alterations in the status quo by force. We have made this clear publicly, and we still stand by it. To permit the alteration of the status quo in the Near East by force would only produce friction and instability. We have therefore made it clear that in our view, changes in the status quo could only be established by the free will of the people concerned and not by force. We have had a recent experience in Korea with an attempt to amalgamate two political entities by force, and, in these circumstances, the United Nations has taken a firm stand, and the United States has borne the largest share of [Page 1015]the burden. He did not want to go into too many details regarding the action the U.S. would take in a given situation involving a threat to Lebanese sovereignty. He had always made it a practice since he had become Secretary of State, to say “less” rather than “more”, since he did not want any misunderstandings in the event that we were called upon to deliver. He felt safe in saying, however, that any attempt to suppress the Lebanon by force would be regarded by the United States as a very serious matter.

The Lebanese Foreign Minister expressed satisfaction at this statement and said that there were three points which he wished to add to his previous remarks. He merely wished to leave these points in the Secretary’s mind and would not ask for any comment. (1) He was glad to hear what the Secretary had to say about amalgamations by force, but he also felt that it is necessary to make distinctions in the case of free amalgamations. Some free amalgamations might be freer than others and others might be ipso facto undesirable in themselves. (2) He wished to reiterate his point that the continued existence of the Lebanon constitutes an advantage to the West. (3) He wished to refer to the Lebanon’s fear that the continued unrestricted flow of immigrants into Israel might create an explosive situation which would force Israel to burst its borders. In such an event, the Lebanon would be squarely in the path of Israeli expansion.

The Secretary said that he quite understood these points. He agreed that it was necessary to make a distinction in the case of free amalgamations, which, of course, must be looked at in the broader framework of international stability. He wished furthermore to make it clear that we attach great importance to the conception of the Lebanon as a bridge between the East and West, constituting part of both worlds and understanding both worlds.

The Secretary then said he would like to speak more specifically on the defense question. He reviewed the genesis of the MEC proposals, emphasizing that we never considered them to be a solution to the Anglo-Egyptian problem, but that we did envisage them as constituting an avenue which would lead to a solution of that problem. He expressed concern that Egypt seemed bent, as a point of national pride, on persuading the other Arab states to reject the proposals as it had done. He regarded this as contrary to Egypt’s own interests. So long as the proposals remain open, they constitute a multilateral approach to the whole area defense problem through which Egypt could, in the course of time, possibly find a solution to its current problems with the U.K. But, if Egypt and the other Arab states closed the door, he foresaw no other possible way out for Egypt.

The Foreign Minister replied that insofar as lies within his country’s power, it will always exert its influence in the direction of [Page 1016]amity and concord. It would continue to concert and consult with its sister Arab states. The Lebanon has not yet committed itself regarding the MEC proposals but will do its utmost to promote their careful consideration.

  1. Palmer was an adviser on the U.S. Delegation to the Sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly at Paris.