890g.6363 T 84/30

The British Ambassador ( Geddes ) to the Secretary of State

No. 99

My Dear Mr. Secretary: My attention has been called to an article which appeared on Page 12 of the International Petroleum Reporter of the 25th January 1922 and which reads as follows:—

British Government Has Turkish Co. Stock

Washington, Jan. 23, 1922.

“It will interest those who have given attention to the petroleum controversy between the United States and Great Britain, to know that the British one-quarter share in the Turkish Petroleum Co., [Page 334] which claims prior rights to valuable concessions in Mesopotamia, is held by the Board of Trade of the British Government. The Board’s investment is £40,000 in a total paid in capital of £160,000.

The first payment on the Government holding, which amounted to 50 per cent, or £20,000, was made in January, 1919, and the balance in subsequent payments the last of which was made in July, 1921.

British authorities have insisted their Government has no financial interest in the oil industry except in the Anglo-Persian Co.

The above is taken from an official British document, and is considered particularly significant in view of the fact that practically the entire dispute over Mesopotamia and her oil resources hinges around the Turkish concessions.”

The suggestion in this article is that, apart from the shares which they own in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (the circumstances of the acquisition and holding of which are already familiar to you), His Majesty’s Government have an additional direct interest in the Turkish Petroleum Company to the extent of 25 per cent, of the stock of that concern, and that this alleged fact has influenced His Majesty’s Government in giving support to the claim of the Turkish Petroleum Company to certain oil concessions in Mesopotamia.

In ordinary circumstances, I should not have considered it necessary to take any notice of such insinuations nor do I believe for a moment that the Government of the United States would attach any importance to them, but irresponsible statements of this character have given rise during the last few years to so many mischievous misapprehensions in the public mind in this country respecting the policy and actions of His Majesty’s Government that it may be well to acquaint you with the true facts. I am authorized, therefore, by His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to inform you that in the year 1914, the stock of the Turkish Petroleum Company was distributed as follows:—

1. The d’Arcy Exploration Co. (a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company) 50%
2. The Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co. (a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell Co.) 25%
3. The Deutsche Bank (German) 25%
Total 100%

During the war, the twenty five per cent interest in the Turkish Petroleum Company held by the Deutsche Bank passed into the hands of the British Public Trustee as Custodian of Enemy Property in the same manner and for the same purposes as all other enemy property situated in the United Kingdom passed into the hands of that official or as enemy property situated in the United States passed into the hands of the American Alien Property Custodian. This twenty-five [Page 335] per cent, interest now stands in the name of Sir H. Lamb,58 the nominee of His Majesty’s Government in much the same way and for the same purposes as enemy property in this country was and is vested in various Trust Companies formed by the Alien Property Custodian. It is to be transferred to French interests under the provisions of the San Remo Oil Agreement59 with which you are familiar and there has never been any intention on the part of His Majesty’s Government of holding it permanently.

Apart from that former German holding which, as I have said is to be handed over to the French, His Majesty’s Government have no holding in the Turkish Petroleum Company nor in any other Petroleum Company whatever with the sole exception of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.

Believe me [etc.]

A. C. Geddes
  1. In a note from the British Embassy dated March 28, the name is corrected to “Mr. Launcelot Smith.” (File no. 890g.6363 T 84/32.)
  2. Foreign Relations, 1920, vol. ii, p. 655.