The Consul at Geneva (Gilbert) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 24.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction dated June 29, 193496 enclosing a copy of an article appearing in the New York Times of June 17, 1934, respecting the alleged intention of the Turkish Government to endeavor to obtain a revision of the Convention relating to the régime of the Straits and instructing me to obtain information regarding any developments which may have taken place in Geneva concerning this matter. This question does not appear to have come directly before the League of Nations in any manner. It has, however, been raised in the General Disarmament Conference97 and I submit the following developments which, according to my information, took place in the Conference in this connection.
On March 16, 1933 the United Kingdom Delegation to the Disarmament Conference presented a Draft Convention,98 Article 96 of which reads as follows:
“The present Convention, together with the further Conventions to be concluded in accordance with Article 95 and Article 32, will replace, as between the respective Parties to the Treaties of Versailles,99 St. Germain,1 Trianon2 and Neuilly,3 those provisions of Part V (Military, Naval and Air Clauses) of each of the Treaties of Versailles, St. Germain and Trianon, and of Part IV (Military, Naval and Air Clauses) of the Treaty of Neuilly, which at present limit the arms and armed forces of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively.”
On March 24, 1933, during the general discussion on the Draft Convention, Cemal Hüsnü Bey, representative of Turkey, commented [Page 977] in part as follows concerning Article 96 of the Draft (Minutes of the General Commission,3a Volume II, page 366):
“While the military, air and naval clauses inserted in certain treaties were being replaced, for reasons which he would not criticize or analyze here, by the general provisions of the Disarmament Convention, it was to be observed that similar clauses found in the Treaty of Lausanne had not been mentioned. The Treaty of Lausanne contained military provisions relating to the Straits and certain parts of the European continental territory of Turkey, and those provisions must naturally undergo the same fate.… That which Cemal Hüsnü Bey requested should be suppressed was precisely intended to ensure that freedom of the Straits and Turkey’s obligation to keep them open. Articles 3 to 9 of the Straits Convention, annexed to the Treaty of Lausanne, constituted a hindrance to that liberty and to the exercise of the obligation assumed by Turkey; those articles had now fallen into disuse, not only in anticipation of an effective disarmament Convention, but because they had lost all real and practical meaning.”
In the meeting of the General Commission on March 27, 1933, Sir John Simon, summing up the general discussion concerning the British Draft Convention, answered the comments of the Turkish Delegation with regard to Article 96 of the Draft Convention as follows (Minutes of the General Commission, Volume II, page 400):
“The Turkish delegate had also noted that, while the draft Convention was destined to replace certain clauses in the peace treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon and Neuilly, there was no indication that it would replace clauses in the Treaty of Lausanne. That comment proceeded from a misapprehension as to the application of the final article (Article 96) of the United Kingdom draft Convention. The clauses of the peace treaties in question were defined in Article 96 as “those provisions . . . which at present limit the arms and armed forces of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively”. But, as the Turkish delegation was aware, the Treaty of Lausanne contained no clauses of a corresponding character. The arms and armed forces of Turkey were not restricted by treaty, and since Article 96 of the draft effected a substitution only in respect of the limit of arms and armed forces, no corresponding provision was needed in the case of Turkey.”
In the meeting of the General Commission of June 1, 1933, the Turkish Delegation presented an amendment to Article 96 of the United Kingdom draft Convention which reads as follows (Minutes of the General Commission, Volume II, page 585):
“The present Convention, together with the further Conventions to be concluded in accordance with Article 95 and Article 32, will replace, as between the respective parties to the Treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon, Neuilly and Lausanne, those provisions of Part V [Page 978] (military, naval and air clauses) of each of the Treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, and Trianon, and of Part IV (military, naval and air clauses) of the Treaty of Neuilly, which at present limit the arms and armed forces of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria respectively, and also the Convention in regard to the frontier of Thrace, in the Treaty of Lausanne”
Commenting on the amendment presented by the Turkish Delegation, Cemal Hüsnü Bey spoke as follows (Minutes of the General Commission, Volume II, page 585):
“The second amendment handed in by the Turkish delegation related to Article 96. It had been glad to find that this article provided for equality of rights, of which it was a strong supporter. Unfortunately, the treaties mentioned were not the only treaties that contained military clauses. Such clauses were also to be found in the Treaty of Lausanne. The question of the guarantee as to the Straits had been held over for the second reading, but there was another question, that of the military clauses relating to the frontiers of Thrace. The Turkish delegation considered that, if the General Commission decided to eliminate the military clauses in the various peace treaties, it should treat the military clauses in the Lausanne Treaty in the same way. That was only just.”
It will be observed from the last speech above quoted of the Turkish representative that the question of the revision of the pertinent articles of the Treaty of Lausanne relating to the fortification of the Straits is being “held over” until the second reading of the draft Convention.
The question was again raised during the meetings of the Disarmament Conference which have recently closed in the sense that it was the subject of unofficial conversations which took place respecting the more general European political situation which were in progress at that time. The nature of this matter is presented in Confidential Letter No. 32 issued by the European Information Center, Paris, dated June 21, 1934, page 251,4 and I can only confirm that the presentation in that document is also substantially my own understanding of it.
Respecting the status of the British draft convention to which I have referred above, I feel that the authorities of the Department dealing with the Disarmament Conference are fully cognizant with that detail and that thus I need not discuss it further.[Page 979]
As I have already stated, the question has not apparently in any manner come directly before the League. I am so informed by competent officials of the Political Section of the League Secretariat who also tell me that while aware of the unofficial discussions to which I have referred, which recently took place in Geneva, they are under the impression that the Turkish Government has no present intention of pressing this question.
- See footnote 87, p. 973.↩
- For correspondence concerning the General Disarmament Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.↩
- League of Nations, Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Geneva: Conference Documents, vol. ii, p. 476.↩
- Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1910–1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923), vol. iii, p. 3329.↩
- Ibid., p. 3149.↩
- Ibid., p. 3539.↩
- British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxii, p. 781.↩
- Reference is to League of Nations, Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Geneva: Records of the Conference, Series B, Minutes of the General Commission.↩
- Not printed. The passage referred to reads: “In this connection, it is currently repeated in London that the Soviets met with a signal defeat behind the scenes at the recent Geneva meeting with regard to the fortification of the Straits. They attempted to use the Turks to force the English into the corner of having to choose between the militarization of the Straits and the closing of them in time of war and English participation in a Mediterranean Locarno. The British, to meet this attack, explained the situation to Tewfik Rushdi Bey at Geneva and brought pressure at Ankara with the result that the Turks decided not to press this issue and left the Soviets high and dry.” (111.20C/207)↩