196. Telegram From the Embassy in Syria to the Department of State 1

860. I saw Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Ghazzi, who returned from Cairo ESS meeting March 13, morning March 14, gave him substance first and final paragraphs Deptel 6602 adding that Israel has undisputed rights in Jordan waters, and then offered points 1 through 3 of Deptel 7053 adding Johnston prepared return area if visit desired.

Ghazzi first remarked he understood Johnston was going to Tel Aviv, to which I replied that so far as I knew he had no definite plans yet to visit the area. Ghazzi then said Lebanese Chamber of Deputies had by unanimous resolution condemned JVP. I agreed such resolution had been passed but noted small number of Deputies had been present, that Lebanese had talked differently on other occasions and that Lebanese are flexible enough to change. Ghazzi replied he supposed “flexible” was right word.

Ghazzi then asked, with reference point 3 my remarks, why Lebanon would have to ratify JVP. In discussion that followed he advanced notion that Lebanon had no interest in Jordan waters since Jordan River begins at Lake Huleh. I pointed out that discussions of past three years had been based on general understanding that Lebanon has interest in Jordan River and Jordan basin and that this was first time to my knowledge any one had suggested Lebanon not involved. Ghazzi shifted ground at this point, said you are talking about water when this is really a political problem with JVP a scheme designed to lead Arabs into political agreement with Israel. On that account, he said, JVP is politically unacceptable. He asked, [Page 363] however, for aide-mémoire to study and said he would give me answer later.4

Ghazzi was uncommunicative about ESS talks Cairo. He did say that meeting of Arab League Council originally scheduled for March 19 had been postponed to March 29 at his request since he had been away for so long it was impossible for him to leave by the 19th. He stated JVP had been inscribed on agenda at request of Jordan but, in response to question, said Lebanon had not requested inscription (as I was informed March 13 by British Ambassador).

I saw British and French Ambassadors March 13 and communicated to them substance Deptel 705. British Ambassador said he was awaiting instructions but had indications Foreign Office, if Department approved, might be taking new look at JVP involving admission it is political scheme and promoting it as such. French Ambassador said he had no instructions.

Comment: Ghazzi’s purpose in raising question of Lebanese interest in JVP was, I believe, to confuse issue. From his remarks and general attitude I doubt he has any present intention of approving JVP. His request for an aide-mémoire for purposes of study and promise of later reply constitute familiar maneuver to which there has been in past no followup. New element, however, is Ghazzi’s rigid attitude re political unacceptability JVP. It may be more than coincidence that he displayed this attitude immediately following his return from meeting with Nasser and Saud.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85322/3–1556. Secret. Received at 9:13 a.m. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Ankara, Baghdad, Jidda, and Jerusalem.
  2. Document 145.
  3. Printed as telegram 2182, Document 183.
  4. Moose transmitted the text of the aide-mémoire subsequently given to Ghazzi to the Department in despatch 308, March 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85322/3–2056)