The Special Mission at Lausanne to the Secretary of State
[Received April 28—2:39 a.m.]
263. Below is the substance of a long interview which I had with Ismet Pasha last night by appointment.
(1) Ismet exhibited a good deal of anxiety over the question of reparations, and was apprehensive lest the Allied Powers should bring the subject up again in discussing the financial provisions of the treaty, although article 792 of the economic section had been dropped. He said he would be obliged to quit Lausanne if the issue should be revived, as he can concede nothing and had returned to Lausanne under the firm impression that there would be no further discussion of the point. It was plain that he wished me to make his position known to the European delegates.
(2) He inquired urgently whether I had not yet received positive instructions regarding a treaty between the United States and Turkey, [Page 990] for which he wishes to begin negotiating at once. I replied that, as I had stated at our earlier interview (my 249 of April 22), the Government of the United States awaited with expectancy the opportune moment for making a treaty with Turkey, but that I could not yet suggest a time for beginning negotiations as that was contingent upon a number of other matters.
(3) I intimated to Ismet that whenever we should begin to discuss with him the terms of a treaty, we should have the very difficult problem of the capitulations to consider. I reminded him that our Government had not at any time admitted the validity of a one-sided abolition of the capitulatory regime. A revision of ancient treaties, whenever practicable, had been acknowledged in principle in our treaty of 1874 with Turkey.3 Revision was still viewed sympathetically by our Government, but it would entail of necessity some appropriate arrangement, however temporary, as a substitute for the capitulatory regime. I dwelt on this point for some time, and emphasized particularly the protection of our philanthropic enterprises, the judicial guarantees, an improved administration of prisons, the obligation to cultivate the trust and good opinion of American commercial interests, and so forth. I indicated plainly that these were all matters of the gravest concern to us, and I told Ismet that in the conference we should, if called upon, support our position. In referring to the administration of justice in Turkey, Ismet stated that the Montagna formula had been assented to on both sides, and that it constituted a final and acceptable arrangement in the matter of the administration of justice. Ismet enquired whether we expected to depart from the friendly attitude taken by the American delegation before the conference adjourned, to which I replied that the Government of the United States had not altered its views in any respect since Ismet’s earlier interviews with Child, but that not all difficulties could be met by the Montagna formula. Ismet referred to Turkish national sentiment and said that the National Assembly would not compromise in the matter of Turkey’s right of unlimited control in its own affairs, and that the Assembly had expressly instructed him to be particularly vigilant in defending that right. I said that the United States looked with the greatest good will upon Turkey’s nationalist hopes, that the interests of the two countries were not divergent, and that Turkey could count upon the justice of our intentions; but that American as well as Turkish sentiment must be respected and that if we were to resume our usual good relations with Turkey we required due pledges for the safety of our interests.
(4) I asked Ismet whether he believed that under the Montagna formula Turkey would be precluded from appointing any judicial advisers besides those specifically provided for. He said that although an American adviser would be acceptable and would no doubt confine himself to judicial duties, yet if Turkey should agree to appoint one, the Allies, and Russia as well, would claim general powers for their own advisers who would then certainly intervene in political affairs. Turkey would not permit meddling.[Page 991]
(5) Ismet inquired whether I had discussed the Chester concession with Pellé, the French delegate. I replied that I had talked casually to Pellé on general topics, but that until the Department had thoroughly examined the definitive text of the concession I could not express any positive opinions. I could say, however, that we would certainly adhere to our habitual policy of claiming equal commercial privileges for our nationals and of defending their lawful interests. In reply Ismet said that, while he did not anticipate that the French would bring the matter before the conference, he would refuse in any case to engage in a discussion of what is solely the concern of his Government and the concessionaires, and that he trusted we would adopt the same course. He stated that the French claims regarding the Samsun-Sivas line had no foundation in law, and that there was no warrant for the newspaper announcement that the Turkish Government had in mind new grants to the French to make good their loss of the Samsun-Sivas concession.
Reverting to my statements on the capitulations Ismet said he trusted that at the conference we would not refuse to relax our views as I had represented them. He said that the Chester concession would be looked upon with a cold eye at Angora if they should learn of the American attitude toward the capitulations. I replied that we need not borrow trouble, that in view of the earnest good will which united us we should have no difficulty in arriving at a settlement agreeable to both sides, and that I should count myself fortunate if I could also be of service in reconciling Turkey and the Allies. The conversation was entirely friendly, and Ismet closed it with some compliments upon our President.
The American delegation is of opinion that our attitude at the conference should be:
- That our representations should be few and concise, since we have already defined our attitude on all principal questions and since we do not wish to detract from the weight of the statements we may be moved to make later for the good of all concerned. Elaborate arguments under present circumstances would serve only to arouse the hostility of the Turks and generally would not promote peace. We think that whenever questions are raised which touch the interests of the United States it would be unnecessary to go beyond a reference to Child’s earlier statements while reserving the right to be heard later.
- That we can be of greatest service through private interviews such as we are already having with the delegations of both sides.
- That it will probably be useful during our informal talks to create the impression that we will not yield on the capitulations, as I did last night with Ismet; and to convince the Turks that they can not use the Chester concession for bargaining with us.
- That the Chester concession will not be unfavorably affected by adopting this course, although it will not prevent Ismet from trying to use the concession as a means of barter.