867.602 Ot 81/264: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the High Commissioner at Constantinople ( Bristol )


76. Your 111 of April 16. Forward as soon as possible either translation or French text of ratified project. Telegraph a summary of principal changes in text enclosed in your despatch no. 731, March 27.61

The Department is in entire accord with your view that the greatest reticence and circumspection should be shown in the situation and that there should be no action until the facts are completely known and considered. We have maintained this attitude in correspondence and in the usual informal press conferences. We have consistently stressed the following points:

The Department has not received adequate information as yet.
The concession is not to the Government of the United States but to an American company.
The Government’s interest is to insure fair play, equal opportunity, and the Open Door.
Hitherto the negotiations have been conducted directly between representatives of the Chester interests and local authorities.
It does not appear that the concession is monopolistic.
When American rights are believed to be valid, our Government gives them proper support.
The Department examines the pertinent issues as to fact and law if the validity of an American right is challenged or if some conflict of rights is alleged.
There are always means of establishing the rights that are entitled to be maintained in case a serious and bona fide controversy arises. This, however, does not mean that resort to arbitration would be justified by claims which might be trumped up simply to embarrass a concessionaire and which do not have satisfactory evidence to support them.

No premature offers of settlement or of arbitration have been made. You will remember, however, that the letter which Ambassador [Page 1207] Child addressed to Lord Curzon on February 4, 1923,62 with special reference to certain provisions of the draft treaty between the Allies and Turkey suggested that conflicting claims should be arbitrated. This letter was motivated not only by claims of the nationals of other countries but also by asserted American claims. At the time the Department approved of this statement, and it still approves of it. We are aware, however, that it may cut both ways.

You will be interested to learn in this connection that in private conversation General Goethals has indicated to the Department, and we understand also to the French Ambassador, that he wishes to make friends rather than enemies as regards this concession and is ready to interest British and French capital in the project under American control.

The granting of the Chester concession may be understood to mark the triumph in Turkey of the Open-Door policy, as against such policies as inspired the tripartite agreement and the Bagdad railroad concession. The best way to maintain American prestige in this situation is to be just and consistent. Our constant support of valid American rights makes it necessary that we give fair consideration when other valid rights are asserted. This will strengthen our position and at the same time allay the apprehension of the many in the United States who fear that we will become entangled.

Of course we shall not permit ourselves to be drawn into controversies of a purely political or territorial nature. For example, this Government is not participating in the question of the southern boundary of Turkey.

The Department has not had an opportunity as yet to examine thoroughly the legal phases of the issues involved, but it is not in a position to support the claim, should it be made, that Chester obtained valid legal rights under negotiations prior to the present concession. For the Department to do so in the absence of facts differentiating the legal status of Chester’s pre-war claim from that of the alleged rights of the Turkish Petroleum Company would be inconsistent with our attitude in contesting that company’s claims.

The Department is presenting these considerations confidentially for your information and guidance. It is desired that you maintain the greatest reserve with both Allies and Turks until the situation has developed further. You should refuse to take criticisms too seriously and take the position that many of the points at issue will solve themselves when all the facts are known. Obtain all data possible on French claims and keep the Department informed in the meantime.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram no. 244, Feb. 7, from the Special Mission at Lausanne, p. 968.