767.68119/20: Telegram

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Harvey ) to the Secretary of State


460. Curzon has just accorded me a long interview, the substance of which is as follows:

He earnestly hoped that in the coming conference our Government would take as active a part as might be possible under our traditional policy of detachment from purely European affairs. He said he understood perfectly that we were under no obligation to take a hand in devising a new treaty to replace the one negotiated at Sevres,2 and that he would not think of pressing for such participation. But he felt that, with our important shipping interests, the [Page 882] United States could justly claim the right and might properly wish to take part in drawing up in common a plan for securing the free passage of the Straits. He had even judged from things said in Washington that the Department did indeed feel disposed to participate. If so he was convinced that the cooperation of the United States would make it much easier to arrive at a scheme for the proper security of the Straits to the advantage of all concerned. Invitations to the conference would be issued by the Allies jointly, and he had therefore no authorization to address an invitation to the United States. But he had no doubt that the inviting powers would at once adopt and act upon a proposal from him to request the participation of our Government. He was heartily prepared to offer the suggestion to them, but would hesitate to do so, of course, if the United States were not disposed to accept; that is, he would not wish to take the responsibility of having proposed advances which would be repulsed, to the injury of the whole enterprise. He requested me, therefore, to sound my Government, in close confidence and for his guidance, on whether they would be favorably or unfavorably inclined.

In order to be sure of his meaning, I asked if I should understand him to say that he wished to be informed whether the United States Government would be inclined to take part in arranging only for the free navigation of the Straits, but with a clear understanding that in other matters the American representatives would not join in the discussions in any way and would not assume any sort of obligation either named or implied. Lord Curzon replied that I had taken his meaning precisely. He added that it was still uncertain whether the question of the Straits would be referred to a special conference, but that certainly it would be discussed as a separate issue altogether. They had not yet fixed upon the time and place of meeting. He said there was no place in Turkey which would be unexceptionable, and that probably the choice would fall upon Lausanne or some other place in neutral territory. An early date would be most expedient, and he trusted that a day not later than November 15 would be named. But perhaps a month would elapse before the matter of the Straits could be brought up, as other questions would be discussed first.

The question of the protection of minorities was not mentioned between us. …

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  1. For text of treaty, see British and Foreign State Papers, 1920, vol. 113, p. 652.