767.68119/373: Telegram

The Special Mission at Lausanne to the Secretary of State


198. Questions which are now engaging the conference became the subjects of a general discussion during a private interview yesterday with Ismet Pasha. He seemed in a firm and optimistic mood and not at all disposed to abandon any of the positions the Turks had taken or to concede anything in regard to matters still unsettled and in debate. When the question of the Mosul boundary came up again, it was clearly and emphatically explained to Ismet that [Page 952] the United States Government does not concern itself in the question of boundary, and that whatever may be done ultimately with the Mosul territory, the United States will adhere to its policy of the Open Door regarding oil concessions. Likewise, when Ismet brought up matters relating to the treaty of peace between Turkey and the Allies, he was told that although the United States Government desired to see an equitable settlement of all questions, yet it could not concern itself directly with questions of the peace and did not wish to be drawn into a discussion of them except as they might touch upon American interests.

Conversation revolved principally around the capitulations. It was especially pointed out to Ismet that if the capitulations are to be abolished it will be necessary to make some new arrangement in their stead, and every reason was advanced to persuade him that the capitulations cannot be abolished unless they are to be replaced by a new arrangement. (No reference was made to tax immunities and other economic privileges of the capitulations, as the subcommissions are making some headway in arranging these matters.) Ismet was reminded that the administration of justice in Turkey is not yet fully developed and perfected, and he was offered the following points for consideration: (1) present mistrust of Turkish judges, owing to their inadequate pay and improper selection; (2) delay in effecting indispensable reforms in civil, penal, and commercial codes, in reducing them to order, and in freeing them from the influence of religious laws; (3) the absence of laws effectively regulating the procedure and the receiving and weighing of evidence in Turkish tribunals; (4) the absence of laws protecting foreigners against arbitrary entry of domicile; (5) want of modern regulations and equipment in Turkish prisons. It was particularly pointed out to Ismet that it would take time to put into operation a system of courts and laws which would induce foreigners to establish themselves in Turkey and to make investments for Turkey’s development.

Foregoing statements passed unrefuted by Ismet. He denied, however, that either for the good of foreigners who wished to trade in Turkey, or for the good of Turkey itself, was it indispensable to reform the present system of administering justice. He argued that the apprehensions of foreign commercial interests were fantastical, and that even if foreign business men hesitated to begin at once their operations in Turkey, they would discover later on, within a few months, that their fears were unfounded and would resume their traffic without the capitulations. He believed in any case that by abrogating the capitulations and by declining to permit the establishment of even a provisional regime under which reorganizations and reforms could be worked out for a new system to replace the [Page 953] capitulations, the advantages to Turkey in a complete independence would outweigh any alternative advantages. The sole desire of the Turkish nation was to establish now and forever its right to complete liberty in its domestic affairs and to remain free of foreign intrusions.

The tone of the interview, which lasted some time, was entirely friendly throughout. Ismet appeared to be sure of himself in the course he has chosen and displayed confidence and good spirits. He has an air of certainty in being able to hold his ground against perpetuating the capitulations or establishing a provisional regime, and in spite of everything seems ready to face any consequence whatever. He informed us that the neutral states, whose representatives he had consulted, were ready to have the capitulations entirely abolished. (If possible, a list of these states will be forwarded to the Department later.) In conclusion Ismet said he trusted that hereafter no further consideration would be given to the capitulations or a provisional regime. He was told that we had already discarded the word “capitulations”, since it was plainly distasteful to him. It appeared now that the term “provisional regime” was also objectionable. We would, therefore, devise another phrase and take up again the consideration of means by which friendly relations could be restored between our two countries, and American enterprises could be resumed in Turkey during the transition from the system of capitulations to a new regime.

The interview was not very profitable. But we continue to hope that in the end we may guide the Turkish delegation into a course which will give satisfaction both to themselves and to the powers, especially where American interests are concerned.

During interview between Ismet and Curzon, which was arranged by this Mission, Ismet’s position was in general the same as reported above.

Am[erican] Mission
  1. Telegram in two sections.