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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 21, 1956

KING HUSSEIN’S VISIT TO DAMASCUS (ITS RESULTS)

This document was made possible with support from the Youmna and Tony Asseily

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    Jordanian leaders visit Damascus, yielding stronger ties that Jordan hopes will be useful in a future clash with the Israelis.
    "King Hussein’s Visit to Damascus (Its Results)," April 21, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 11, File 43/11, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176081
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43/11

Amman, April 21, 1956

King Hussein's visit to Damascus (its results)

On 9/4/1956, King Hussein, his Prime Minister, Chief of the Royal Court and entourage paid an official visit to Damascus after all the necessary preparations ad been put in place and an agreement reached on the issues to be discussed. As is well known, the visit lasted three days during which the Syrian Government, and official and non official institutions went out of their way to hold receptions and welcome the King with pomp and circumstance. All the previously agreed upon issues were discussed and the King returned to Amman enchanted with the visit and its outcome. A communiqué was issued in both capitals regarding the issues that were discussed and agreed upon by the two sides.

Upon the King's return, I went to see Mr Samir al-Rifai, the Prime Minister, who spoke to me at length about the importance of this visit and the hopes that Jordan’s King and people pin on its results. This is what he said word for word: Jordan has always felt, and still does, especially in the few days since Glubb's departure, that it is necessary to cooperate with its Arab neighbours to the fullest and widest extent possible on condition that this cooperation doesn't threaten its survival or the current situation. Contacts were undertaken in this regard with four other governments, namely those of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. We found, however, that it was difficult for the time being for any cooperation with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to stand on firm ground, or on reasonable and practical bases, for various reasons, chief among which is the dispute between the Egyptian-Saudi axis and Iraq. We also found, after considerable study and deep reflection, that the danger that the Israeli threat poses to Jordan threatens above all else Syria due to our common borders and almost identical interests. Added to that, are the old and new relationships between the two countries and the people’s feelings, especially those of our Palestinian brethren, towards Syria and the hopes they pin on its army. This is why I suggested the idea to the King, he liked it, and preliminary contacts were initiated. This was soon followed by the visit itself which went very well; the negotiations will no doubt achieve the objectives that both parties seek...

We found that high-level officials and the relevant authorities in Syria were ready to reach an understanding with us and conclude agreements; I can summarise the subjects which were discussed and agreed upon in principle, and without restrictions or hesitation, as follows:

Coordinating military cooperation between the two countries, giving the Jordanian Army all possible material and ideological assistance, forming a joint committee to oversee this coordination and working towards unifying plans, exchanging information, and establishing a unified command as is the case between Syria and Egypt.

Removing all customs barriers and forging a unified economic entity so that the two countries would feel as one. Syria will reap more substantial benefits from this development than Jordan, because Syria would find better markets for its agricultural and other industries and products in Jordan than in any other country.

Unifying school curricula, coordinating cultural cooperation, and reviewing school textbooks in order to unify them, and allow Jordanian students to transfer to Syrian schools with ease requiring only a Jordanian diploma, and vice versa.

Crossing the borders between the two countries without passports, with travellers only needing their identity cards, as is currently the case between Syria and Lebanon.

Reviewing the two countries' diplomatic representations abroad and working towards unifying them; this would reduce the very high costs borne by the two countries in this regard.

Discussing the issue of unifying laws and coordinating legal cooperation. Many such agreements were concluded in the past between the two governments but we will now seek to agree on common legislation.

Mr al-Rifai added: ' Since these issues need to be studied and then formulated by technical committees and specialists, we agreed to form specialised committees to attend to them as soon as possible. We have, however, given priority to military matters and have actually started the relevant negotiations.

I asked Mrr al-Rifai about the British attitude regarding these negotiations and if they were liable to oppose any union between the two countries in the future. He replied that the British were naturally not at ease with this rapprochement and feared its consequences because it is in their interest to keep Jordan weak and in difficulty so that it would always need their help. At the same time, they are not m a position to actively oppose a union with Syria by undertaking overt moves to impede its implementation. Jordan is an independent and sovereign country and has the absolute right and complete freedom to conclude agreements with whomever it chooses, as long as it does not contravene the spirit and terms of the Treaty.

I understood from the Jordanian Prime Minister that President Shukri al-Kouatly will visit Jordan after 'Eid al-Fitr, and that his visit will soon be followed by practical steps to implement the union idea and review the relevant conditions ...

I asked him about the dates of the King's visits to Arab capitals and he said that they will take place after al-Kouatly's visit to Amman.

I met the day before yesterday, Wednesday, 18 April with Mr Ahmad Fouad al-Qadmani, Syria’s Minister Plenipotentiary in Amman, and he gave me a few statements about the King's trip that do not contradict what Samir al-Rifai had previously told me. He shared with me some documents and reports regarding the matter and told me that he is in the process of preparing a new draft law for the two sides to agree on, regarding the elimination of passports between the two countries. He also mentioned that Mr Shukri al-Kouatly was totally committed to making the union plan a reality, no matter the cost, and that he became very enthusiastic about the issue after realising that King Hussein and his Government were fully prepared to cooperate. This put his mind at ease as far as the future was concerned...

The Saudi Minister confirmed what the Jordanian Prime Minister had said about British displeasure at the rapprochement, unlike the Americans who showed sympathy and encouragement.

As for the Jordanian Army, I contacted its senior leaders and they confirmed to me their interest in this subject; they said that they were closely monitoring various stages of the union’s implementation, and that they fully endorsed them; this should be seen in light of the fact that some of these leaders were against a union with Iraq no matter the cost.

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