WASHINGTON (Jun. 19)
Three New York Congressmen introduced legislation today barring $58 million in economic assistance to Syria. In addition, one of them telegraphed President Ford to urge him to bring up the subject of Syrian Jewry when he meets the Syrian Foreign Minister Abdul Halim Khaddam tomorrow at the White House. A telegram also went to the Syrian Embassy addressed to Khaddam on the subject.
The State Department would not say today whether Secretary of State Kissinger would raise the matter of Syrian Jewry with Khaddam in their talks here beginning tomorrow, Replying to a question by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a Department spokesman said bilateral matters would be taken up.
Reps. Stephen J, Solarz, Jonathan B, Bingham and Benjamin S. Rosenthal, all New York City Democrats, urged Congress to block the economic aid for Syria by invoking the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 that stipulates that the President may not expend funds from the $100 million Special Requirements Fund for the Middle East if Congress adopts a concurrent resolution disapproving such action within 30 days after notice from the President of his intention.
NOTE SYRIAN JEWS CANNOT EMIGRATE
They cited language in the law which expresses the sense of the Congress that funds should not be provided “to any nation which denies its citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate.” The Congressmen pointed out that Syrian Jews are forbidden to leave Syria, even to join relatives far from that country, in direct contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Syria is a signatory. The U.S. Agency for International Development has notified Congress that it wished to provide Syria with $48 million for the Damascus water supply system and $10 million for agricultural loans. Earlier in the year, President Ford notified Congress he was providing Syria with $25 million in agricultural assistance.
No action was taken to disapprove of that request as the Congressmen did not want to affect Kissinger’s efforts for an interim agreement at that time. However, 82 Representatives, in a letter to Kissinger, urged that action be undertaken to “prevail upon the Syrian government to give those Syrian Jews who wish to leave their country the right to do so,” No meaningful progress, however, has been made on emigration rights for Syrian Jews and the foreign aid legislation left no room for compromise, the Congressmen said. Their legislation has been referred to the House International Relations Committee.
Meanwhile, Rosenthal in a telegram to the President, urged him to convey to Khaddam “the deep concern and interest of the American people and the Congress over the plight of Syrian Jews and our desire that Syrian authorities allow those individuals who wish to emigrate to do so freely and express their desire to do so without fear for their lives and property.” To Khaddam, Rosenthal wired that allowing Jews to emigrate “would be recognized as a positive move towards peace in the Middle East and encourage more responsive U.S.-Syrian relations.”