767.68119/548: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Switzerland (Grew)


28. 1. On April 13 the Department sent a telegram to the Embassy at Paris91 authorizing Belin, as secretary general of the special mission, to address a letter to Massigli, secretary general of the conference, requesting to be informed of the date on which the conference would resume its labors and stating that the sessions would be attended by a delegation from the United States Government. On April 17 the Embassy at Paris reported to the Department91 that Belin had been officially informed by Massigli that the conference would reconvene on April 23, and was asked to notify his Government accordingly. You are desired, therefore, in accordance with Department’s instructions of April 7, to proceed to Lausanne to be present at the reopening of the Conference on Near Eastern Affairs.

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2. It is expected that the status and functions of the American delegation will remain the same as before adjournment, on the assumption that the conference was only suspended.

3. The instructions of November 17 to the American delegation,92 which were later supplemented as occasion required, contain an express statement of the policy of this Government in sending a delegation to the conference.

4. Owing to an apparent misinterpretation of the term “observer”, the conditions and objects of our representation at the conference seem to have been misunderstood, more often in the United States perhaps than elsewhere. It should not be a matter of doubt that the American delegates are commissioned to voice the opinions and wishes of this Government, and that they have had at all times the fullest authority to represent the United States at the conference. It has been necessary, however, to determine upon the exact share we should take in the deliberation of a conference, which had as its chief business to arrange with Turkey the terms of peace. It did not seem fitting that the United States should enter the conference with the same status as the belligerents, since this country was not at war with Turkey. But the American representatives have always taken, and it is expected that they will hereafter take, an official and appropriate part in the deliberations whenever issues are raised in which this Government is as much concerned as are the other powers.

4. [sic] Before taking up your duties at the conference you should refer again to the instructions of November 17 and other telegraphic advices from the Department. It is possible that some of the questions noted in the Department’s aide-mémoire of October 22 [30?],93 as of special interest to the United States, will not come up for discussion in the conference since they have been disposed of by separate negotiation. Protection of minorities and regulation of the Straits are two of the issues thus settled.

5. If you should be asked to state whether this Government would accept an invitation to accede to the draft convention on the Straits, you should refrain from giving any pledges and should consult the Department.

6. Although the protection of minorities has been partially provided for, nevertheless the Department will have occasion to instruct you further upon some aspects of the subject, and particularly upon the problem of refugees. You should consult note of March 31 from [Page 983] Department to Embassies of the inviting powers.94 Replies from the Italians and the French have not yet been received.

7. The Department is not convinced that anything is to be gained by bringing before the conference the subject of the privilege to excavate ancient sites in Turkey, which was touched upon under the 7th head of Department’s aide-mémoire of October 30.

8. The Department believes that there will be no reason to discuss in the conference the question of American claims against Turkey for property losses suffered through unlawful acts during the war, as it should be possible to adjust these claims by direct settlement with Turkey during the course of our negotiation for a treaty. The Department leaves to your discretion the discussion of this question with the Turks and will communicate to you such further instructions as may be required.

9. Points 4 to 7 of the aide-mémoire having been thus disposed of, there remain to be considered the first three points, dealing with judicial safeguards, with the protection of philanthropic and commercial enterprises, and with devising a system to replace the capitulations.

10. The draft treaty of Lausanne and the conventions accompanying it contain provisions relating to these points. In considering clauses 71 to 117 of the treaty and the economic settlements found there, you are referred to the Department’s communication to the British Embassy,95 copies of which were forwarded to Lausanne and Paris on April 6. The attention of this Government has also been drawn to that portion of the reply to the Turkish counterproposals which states that in the hope of hastening a settlement of the economic issues the Allies have encouraged those of their nationals having interests in Turkey to deal directly with the competent officials at Angora in an effort to give practical effect to the principles embodied in the draft treaty.

Unless they seek to profit by circumstances in such a manner as to have themselves admitted to a favored position or to win special advantages under color of defending vested interests, there should be no objection to the action of the Allied Powers in attempting to bring about direct settlements between their own nationals and the Turks upon matters of contract or title recognized in fact before the war. The sanctity of established rights will presumably be defended by the Allied nationals in dealing with the Turkish Government, and the Government of the United States will also support that principle when acting on behalf of its own citizens. You are authorized to make use of the substance of the Department’s communication to the [Page 984] British Embassy if you should be called upon at any time to comment upon the economic and financial provisions of the treaty. In case you feel yourself not sufficiently informed on points which arise you should telegraph for additional instructions. The Department will be interested to receive any information which may come to you regarding the course of the negotiations between representatives of the Allied concessionaires and the Angora authorities. You should also inform the Department whether in view of these private negotiations the conference will abstain from discussing the economic clauses. In the course of the direct negotiations it is possible an attempt will be made to obtain recognition of rights not fully validated before the war or of claims under contracts which had never passed beyond the preliminary stage of negotiation. The memorandum to the British Embassy and also the Department’s telegram 79 of January 896 contain brief expositions of this Government’s attitude on this point.

11. The United States Government naturally takes a deep interest in the two formal agreements which accompany the treaty and which deal with the status of foreigners and the judicial safeguards in Turkey, and with the commercial regime. The position of foreigners in Turkey will be largely determined by these agreements after the capitulations are abolished. The rights of the United States have rested upon the capitulations. If, therefore, these rights are to be withdrawn, this Government seeks some other basis for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Turkey and is disposed, accordingly, to join in discussing the convention and to take its proper share in deliberating upon arrangements for safeguarding important foreign interests in Turkish territory. This Government is particularly interested in preserving for the benefit of American philanthropic enterprises in Turkey such stipulations as are contained in article 15.

The Department regards the two draft conventions as on the whole acceptable, and unless they should be altered to our prejudice during the present negotiations the Department is prepared to conclude identic agreements with the Turks in anticipation of a separate general treaty, or to adhere to the Allied treaty, if that course should seem preferable. Authorization to sign will be sent you by cable in either case.

It is the desire of the Department, as you will readily understand, not to be left in a position which might prove hurtful to our interests, as, for instance, if this Government should remain passive while the other powers assented to the abolition of the capitulations and protected themselves by special agreements, and should itself take no [Page 985] measures to define its own relations with Turkey or to accommodate itself to the altered circumstances growing out of the action of the other powers. Your principal concern should be to avoid these embarrassing consequences by participating with the Allies in their deliberations on the two conventions and on the form of the Turkish declaration regulating the administration of justice in Turkey. Should unforeseen circumstances prevent you from taking this course, and should you be obliged to deal independently with the Turks, you will receive additional instructions from the Department. Even if we should sign the conventions in common with the other powers, there will still be some questions not covered by the conventions which we would probably have to settle by a separate treaty with the Turks.

The Department has considered the suggestion contained in the Turkish counterproposals, that there should be inserted in the conventions a provision, suitably phrased, so that any privileges enjoyed by foreigners in Turkey are to be conceded also to Turkish nationals residing in foreign territory. The Department is prepared to study carefully this proposal, and is of opinion that it will be possible for the United States to concede reciprocal privileges to Turkey.

Owing to the diversity of state legislation, however, it may be difficult for the United States to grant national treatment to Turks in this country. On this aspect of the problem you should consult the legal experts on your staff.

12. Inasmuch as in their recent rejoinder the Turks have not specifically rejected the principle of employing foreign judges as advisers, the Department considers that it will be possible to discover grounds for a settlement. The Department would prefer, if possible, not to close the way to the appointment of an American adviser in Turkey. Americans would become ineligible, of course, if the choice should be restricted to judges from those countries which were not involved in the late world conflict. If the Allies consent to such a restriction, however, the Department does not desire you to press its views in the matter.

13. The course of events has not required any important alteration in the position of this Government, as expressed in the statement of Ambassador Child to the conference on January 31, and in later statements by the American delegation. You should not fail to use your best endeavors, as far as is proper, to facilitate the conclusion of peace, and it is the hope of the Department that you may find opportunities to that end. As concerns a treaty between the United States and Turkey, the policy of the Department will be guided by the information received from you, and it is not possible to supply [Page 986] you with more precise instructions until the Department is further enlightened upon the organization and agenda of the conference.

14. When the conference opens it may be needful for you to summarize briefly the position of the United States, and you are authorized to refer discreetly to the views of the Department, as outlined in this telegram, insofar as they are not confidential.

15. You will receive as you may require more specific instructions on particular questions. Since the primary purpose of the conference is to conclude peace and to discover a satisfactory substitute for the capitulatory regime, it is improbable that the Chester concession97 will be discussed. But if you think that some statement should be made to prevent future misunderstanding, you may make a guarded use of information already sent you in separate telegrams from the Department.

16. Telegraph the Department at once if any part of the foregoing is not entirely clear or if you will require more detailed advices.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed. The instructions transmitted the complete texts or substance of previous documents, including the aide-mémoire of Oct. 30, 1922, contained in telegram no. 344, Oct. 27, 1922, to the Ambassador in France, p. 884; telegram no. 345, Oct. 27, to the Ambassador in France, p. 886; identic notes from the British, French, and Italian Embassies of Oct. 27, p. 889; and telegram no. 175, Nov. 15, to the Ambassador in Italy, p. 898.
  4. See telegram no. 344, Oct. 27, 1922, to the Ambassador in France, p. 884.
  5. Ante, p. 329.
  6. Ante, p. 972.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Post, pp. 1198 ff.