The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Bingham ) to the Secretary of State

No. 824

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 454 of June 29, 1934, enclosing a copy of a press article dated June 17 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. The Embassy was directed to endeavor to ascertain what, if any, action, formal or informal, the Turkish authorities may have taken vis-à-vis the British Government looking toward a revision of the Straits Convention, as well as any information it might be able to obtain regarding the attitude of the British Government in this matter.

The Department will recall that on June 11 Sir John Simon5 made a statement6 in the House of Commons in response to a question on this subject. A copy of that statement was transmitted to the Department under date of June 19, and doubtless crossed the instruction under reference. A further copy from Hansard is enclosed herewith for convenient reference.

A member of the Embassy staff took the matter up with the appropriate official of the Foreign Office, who, as it happens, drafted Sir John Simon’s above-mentioned statement. He said that aside from the steps7 taken over a year ago by the Turkish Delegate before the General Commission of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, he was not aware that the Turkish Government had taken any action of a formal character with respect to this question, but since that time the Turks had on various occasions alluded to the subject in conversations with British officials, as indicated in the statement in Parliament. When Sir John Simon was in Geneva the end of May he mentioned [Page 980] the question to the Turkish Foreign Minister, who assured him that in the present circumstances the Turkish Government did not desire to pursue the matter.

After reading the press clipping of June 17 enclosed in the Department’s instruction under reference, the Foreign Office official said that the Turkish Foreign Minister remained in Geneva some time after his conversation with Sir John Simon, and that in any event the article was evidently based on information obtained in Turkey prior to that conversation, as since that time the Foreign Office and the Turkish Government have considered the matter dropped. He said that the line taken with the Turkish Government was that Turkey had earned an excellent reputation for abiding by her treaties, and it would be most unfortunate should she take any action which would alter this. The plea of the Turks that they had as much right as Germany to a revision of the treaties was countered with the argument that there was no analogy since in the case of Germany the Treaty was imposed, while in the case of Turkey the treaties and conventions were negotiated by the Allies in conference with Turkey.

The official said that the Turkish arguments before the General Commission of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva in 1933 were based on the MacDonald Plan to eliminate heavy mobile artillery,8 the Turks insisting that in such a case they would be left at a great disadvantage in protecting the Straits, but since the MacDonald Plan had failed this point was purely academic.

As to the attitude of the British Government in the matter, the official said he was glad the Turkish Foreign Minister had agreed to drop the question and that the Foreign Office felt that the less said about it the better.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Ray Atherton

Counselor of Embassy
  1. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Great Britain, Parliamentary Debates, Commons, Vol. 290, p. 1324.
  3. See Minutes of the General Commission, vol. ii, pp. 364–367.
  4. Conference Documents, vol. ii, pp. 479–480; for correspondence, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.