The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Turkey (Skinner)

No. 87

Sir: I enclose a copy of a recent press article regarding the alleged intention of the Turkish Government to endeavor to obtain a revision of the Convention relating to the Régime of the Straits, signed at Lausanne on July 24, 1923, so as to permit the construction of fortifications in the Dardanelles. Articles of a similar character have appeared in the press in recent weeks but the Department has been unable to ascertain whether they actually represent the viewpoint of the Turkish Government.

I shall be appreciative if you will make discreet inquiries with a view to determining whether the Turkish authorities have taken or propose to take any action looking toward a revision of the Straits Convention. Any other information you may be able to obtain on this general subject will be helpful to the Department in its consideration of the matter.

[Page 974]

In connection with this general question I invite your attention to the Department’s instruction No. 364 of July 28, 1931,90 requesting an expression of the Embassy’s views on the suggestions made by the Navy Department in a letter of July 13, 1931,90 a copy of which was enclosed. I should be glad to have an expression of your views as to the desirability of proposing to the Turkish Government at this time the negotiation of an agreement covering the rights of the United States in the navigation of the Straits. Such an agreement might appropriately provide substantially as follows:

“The commercial vessels and aircraft and war vessels and aircraft of the United States of America shall enjoy complete liberty of navigation and passage in the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, and the Bosphorus, on a basis of equality with similar vessels and aircraft of the most favored nation.”

For your further information I should add that it would appear to be desirable to conclude an agreement covering the rights of American vessels and aircraft in the Straits prior to the conclusion of a consular convention with Turkey, for upon the entrance into force of the latter instrument the United States would no longer be able to invoke the provisions of paragraph numbered three of the exchange of notes of February 17, 1927.91

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
William Phillips