860j.01/90: Telegram

The Commission to Negotiate Peace to the Secretary of State

4312. Department’s 3193, September 20, 10 p.m., 3060, September 8, 7 p.m., 3021, September 3 [2], 3 p.m.22

The French offer mentioned in my 3960, August 20 [30], 11 a.m., to land troops at Alexandretta and Mersina meant that an expeditionary force of about 12,000 men of all arms would be moved into Cilicia and would occupy the points in southern Armenia such as Marash, Malatia, and Urf a now occupied by British troops. In pursuance of this plan the British and French agreed on the 15th instant, that the British garrisons in Syria west of the Sykes–Picot line in Cilicia and southern Armenia will be replaced by a French force; that the garrisons at Damascus, Horns, Hama, and Aleppo will be replaced by an Arab force; and that after the withdrawal of the British forces neither the British Government nor the British commander-in-chief shall have any responsibility within the zones from which the army has retired.

This carries out the arrangements contemplated by the Sykes–Picot agreement of 1916,23 under which the Syrian littoral with Cilicia and southern Armenia was to be occupied and administered [by the] French. This plan will merely protect the relatively few Armenians now occupying southern Armenia. It is a practical impossibility for a French force to reach Russian [Armenia from] Malatia which is about 300 miles from Erivan, and furthermore the French force intending to occupy the posts evacuated by the British in Cilicia and southern Armenia will be no more than sufficient for that purpose. The above plan will be [sic] therefore do nothing to prevent the invasion or the massacring of Armenians in Russian Armenia.

Joint military action by our troops with the French, as mentioned in your 3193, September 20th, does not seem feasible because Clemenceau has already declined to consider the sending of any French troops to Russian Armenia via Batum where the British withdrawal is proceeding and will be completed in about 10 days. The sending [of] ammunition, supplies, and volunteer recruits to the Armenian republic as proposed by Senator Williams can be assured only if the railway from Batum to Erivan be held by an [Page 841] American military force. In that event, the Armenian army, re-enforced and equipped, probably would be able to successfully withstand the Turks and Tartars. Polk.

American Mission
  1. No. 3060 not printed.
  2. See memorandum by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the question of Asia Minor, Feb. 21/Mar. 6, 1917, Foreign Relations, 1917, Supplement 2, vol. i, p. 502.