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

No. 334

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction No. 87, dated June 29, 1934, in regard to 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 24th, 1923. The Department by now has received [Page 981] my No. 279 of June 17 [12], 1934, indicating that the Turkish Government has no present intention of raising the issue officially. It has been brought to my attention in this connection that even if authority were obtained for the construction of permanent fortifications in the Dardanelles the enormous cost of such defensive works probably would prevent their realization without long delay. In the meantime, the activity of the Turkish Government in improving the highway to Gallipoli, and one which leads to Chanak, and the reorganization of the military forces in the Straits Area, show that the Government is keenly interested in all that relates to the Straits and is preparing itself by every means within its power to defend them in case of attack. I shall acquaint the Department from time to time with any definite facts that I am able to obtain on this subject.

I now advert to the Department’s instruction No. 364 of July 28, 1931,9 as to the desirability of proposing to the Turkish Government the negotiation of an agreement covering the rights of the United States in the navigation of the Straits. There is no doubt that at present we enjoy complete liberty of navigation and passage in the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosphorus, and are practically guaranteed this liberty by the Straits Convention, notwithstanding that we are not among the signatory powers. Should we now conclude a special agreement of our own, we would gain nothing which we do not already enjoy. Nevertheless, I concur in what I take to be the opinion of the Department that, on a long view, it is desirable that we obtain protection on our own behalf, and I do not perceive how it would be possible for the Turkish Government to refuse to give its assent to proposals in this sense. Thus far, as the holiday season is now on, I have had no opportunity of discussing the matter informally with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and perhaps it would be well, before I did so, if I were instructed by the Department that it definitely desires to conclude such an agreement as is suggested in its instruction No. 87.

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
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