767.68119/51a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Herrick)

345. Repeat immediately to London as Department’s 331 and to Rome as Department’s 160.

This Government is prepared to send observers to follow and report on the negotiations for a settlement in the Near East. To acquaint you with this Government’s position with relation to this settlement the following is sent for your confidential information and guidance:

As the United States is not at war with Turkey it will not be a signatory of the treaty of peace concluded to put an end to this war or a party to the conference for the purpose of negotiating such a treaty. It is appreciated, however, that it will be practically impossible for the Allies to conduct negotiations without dealing with matters in which this Government is interested.
To permit the Allies to conclude their negotiations without any attempt to present Department’s views or to obtain assurances for protection of American interests would leave this Government with a fait accompli so far as the relations between the Allies and the Turks were concerned. It would be difficult for us to obtain better terms than the Allies had arranged while we would probably not be in a position to share some of the advantages which the Allies might have obtained for such concessions as they might have felt called upon to make.
The following course of action has therefore been determined upon:
A memorandum giving a statement of the nature and scope of American interests in the Near East will be communicated to the British, French and Italian Governments and later to other Governments if this appears to be desirable. This would serve as a caveat and a basis upon which we could take the part of a candid friend with interests to be protected.
American observers will be present during the course of the negotiations, ready at any opportune or critical moment to interpose the necessary word for our protection. If it appeared that there was a common interest to be served as, for example, with respect to capitulations, protection of educational institutions, et cetera, we would be advised by our observers and in a position immediately to express our point of view.
We shall be prepared to avail ourselves of the first appropriate opportunity to make a treaty with Turkey to protect American interests. Whenever suitable assurances can be received from Turkey which would permit the negotiation of such a treaty full powers could be sent.

The interests which the Department would desire to protect can briefly be summarized as follows: [Page 887]


Capitulations.—The Department appreciates that the Turks will in all probability strongly oppose the retention of the capitulations and that the Allies may take divergent views, certain Powers perhaps consenting to barter particular rights under the capitulations for concessions without value for us. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to maintain the capitulations intact, as would be desirable. It is felt, however, that we should insist upon the retention of the capitulations which are essential to the protection of American citizens. As regards economic capitulations which refer to measures of taxation, customs dues, et cetera, certain concessions might be made provided satisfactory guarantees of another nature to protect American business enterprise could be obtained.
Protection of American Educational Philanthropic and Religious Institutions.—The list of institutions recognized by the Sublime Porte in 1907 should be brought up to date and Turkey should recognize them collectively and individually, grant rights to hold property in the corporate name of the institution, permit reopening of institutions closed since 1914, the establishment of new schools, the use of the English language, and the enjoyment of privileges of Ottoman institutions as regards taxation and customs exemption.
Protection of American Commercial Interests.—We should oppose the policy of spheres of influence, exemplified by Tripartite agreement signed at Sevres August 1920 and maintain the principle of the “Open Door” and equality of opportunity. Assurances should be secured that discriminatory taxation will not be levied and if capitulatory right of consent to any change in tariff be abandoned satisfactory guarantees for trade and commerce should be obtained.
Claims for Damages.—Any new arrangement we may make with Turkey should include provision for indemnities for requisitions, loss of life or property resulting from illegal action of Turkish authorities since 1914.
Protection of Minorities.—American sentiment demands that this Government exert its full influence to protect minorities. As a result, however, of deportations since 1915 it is believed that a relatively small number of Christians remain in Anatolia and it will be difficult to formulate any effective plan for insuring protection of the scattered remnants of the Christian population in Asia Minor. The most feasible solution of the problem might possibly be an exchange of Christian and Moslem minorities in Asia Minor and Greece. The question of the Christian minorities in Europe, particularly in Constantinople, is one of special interest to this Government and we shall exert appropriate influence for their protection.
The question of the homeland of the Armenians may be raised. It is possible that upon the return of more settled conditions in Russia, the Russian Caucasus may offer the best refuge for Armenians from Turkey.
Freedom of the Straits.—Of the two phases of this question relating to the time of peace and the time of war, the Department is not disposed to become involved in commitments concerning the [Page 888] latter, particularly when Turkey or the Great Powers of Europe may be the belligerents. It is of distinct interest to this Government, however, to obtain effective assurances that the Straits would be open in time of peace for both merchant ships and ships of war to proceed to Constantinople and through the Black Sea. This Sea is a highway of commerce and should not be under the exclusive control of Turkey and of Russia.
International Financial Control.—The Commission controlling the Ottoman Public Debt, some 60 per cent of which are held in France, 22 per cent in Germany, 14 per cent in England and Holland, composed before 1914 of French, British, Italian, German, Austrian and Turkish members, administers six important sources of Ottoman revenue and largely influences trade and commerce. If Turkey should apply to us for a loan, the possibility of its consolidation with existing foreign debt would place us in an advantageous position respecting the administration and liquidation of the latter. Both financial and commercial questions in general should receive careful consideration.
Archeological Research.—American institutions are particularly interested in securing adequate provision to permit archeological research and study in Turkish territory.
General Observations.—This Government may further desire to conclude with Turkey naturalization and parcel post conventions.

To summarize: While it is neither natural nor desirable that we should participate in the peace conference or become involved in the negotiations regarding policies and aims in which we have no share it is essential that the Department should be constantly in command of adequate information, keen for the protection of American interests, ready to throw the full weight of our influence to obtain assurances for the freedom of the Straits and the protection of minorities, candid as to our views and in a position at any suitable time to make the separate agreement which at some time must be made with the Turkish Government recognized by the Powers. No point of advantage should be forfeited, no just influence lost, no injurious commitments made. We should maintain the integrity of our position as an independent power which has not been concerned with the rivalries of other nations which have so often made the Near East the theater of war.

Department’s 344 will give you text of Aide Memoire to be handed to Minister for Foreign Affairs. In submitting this communication you may orally make guarded use of substance of information given above in paragraphs (A) and subheadings (1) and (2) only of (C) and points (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), second sentence only of (6), and (8). Note points (7) and (9) are not to be discussed and most careful use should be made of information in second sentence of point (6) regarding freedom of Straits in any oral conversations.