A Brief History of U.S. – Syrian Relations

The Evolution of U.S. – Syrian Diplomatic Relations

On May 7, 1830, the United States signed a treaty of commerce and navigation with the Ottoman Empire. Article Two allowed the United States to appoint consuls “at commercial places in the dominions of the sublime porte.” Five years later, the first U.S. consuls were appointed to Syria, then an administrative entity in the Ottoman Empire that included present-day Lebanon. A. Durighello was appointed to Aleppo and Jasper Chasseud to Beirut.

In March 1847, a U.S. Consular Agency was established at Aleppo. Illel de Piccioto served there until March 1873. Frederic Poche, described in State Department records as born in Austria, was consular agent from 1873 until 1908. Frederic’s brother, Alfred, served twice as acting Consular Agent.

In January 1859, Doctor Michael Meshaka was appointed U.S. vice consul in Damascus. He served until April 22, 1870, and was succeeded by his son, Nasif, who served until February 10, 1914. On October 24, 1900, Nasif Meshaka reported that exports to the United States from Damascus and surrounding areas were valued at US$172,071.66. Principal exports were “oriental sundries” (copper, and brass work, textiles, and inlaid furniture), wool, rugs, “provisions” (raisins and dried apricots), and sausage casings. Ten years earlier, Syrian exports were valued at $6,935.45.

On May 11, 1908, the Consular Agency at Aleppo was upgraded to a Consulate. Consul Jesse B. Jackson served there (except during World War I) until 1923. After the United States entered World War I, Turkey severed diplomatic relations and U.S. consular posts in Syria were closed. In February 1919, the U.S. War Trade Board authorized the resumption of trade with the former Turkish Empire, and shortly thereafter, consulates were established in Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted a mandate over Syria and Lebanon to France. On September 15, 1941, Syria proclaimed its independence, with the approval of free French authorities. One year later, on October 9, 1942, George Wadsworth became the first U.S. diplomat accredited to Syria. He held the rank of diplomatic agent and consul general. He was also accredited to Lebanon and, in fact, resided in Beirut. In December of that year, an U.S. Legation and Consular Office was established in Damascus. On September 7, 1944, the United States recognized the independence of Syria and Lebanon. Wadsworth was appointed Minister to both countries on September 21.

On March 19, 1945, Nazem al-Koudsi presented his credentials as Syria’s first Minister to the United States. On April 25 of that year, Prime Minister Faris al-Khouri led the Syrian delegation to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, making him the first high-level Syrian official to visit the United States.

On February 4, 1945, the governments of Syria and Lebanon asked the U.N. Security Council to recommend the immediate withdrawal of British and French troops from their countries. U.S. Representative Edward R. Stettinius Jr. introduced a draft resolution to that effect on February 15. Despite a Soviet veto, the French and British representatives agreed to accept the U.S. draft resolution, and the withdrawal took place on April 17. On October 8, 1947, James Hugh Keeley Jr. was appointed as the first U.S. Minister accredited exclusively to Syria.

On August 27, 1952, the United States elevated its legation in Syria to embassy status. U.S. Minister James S. Moose Jr. was promoted to ambassador on September 11. Syrian Ambassador Farid Zeineddine presented his credentials in Washington on December 18.

Source: Office of the Historian, Department of State, Washington, D.C.