711.672 Straits/38

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

No. 411

Sir: I have the honor to refer to instructions from the Department on the matter of the navigation of the Straits and suggesting the possible desirability of proposing to the Turkish government the negotiation of an agreement on the subject. Without in any way indicating that we desired such a treaty, I brought up the topic in a purely informal conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, [Page 985] Dr. Tevfik Rüştü Bey, a day or two ago. We were discussing differences between the administration of the Panama and Suez Canals and the Straits, whereupon he said of his own accord that Turkey would be delighted to negotiate a separate Straits Convention with the United States, provided the United States would assume the same responsibilities for the defense of the Straits as the Powers signatory of the Straits Convention. I remarked that that would hardly work in the case of the United States because Article 18 of the Straits Convention left it to the Council of the League of Nations to decide how and when attacks or other acts of war or threats of war involving the freedom of navigation of the Straits should be met. Then I pointed out that under the Panama Canal Treaty,14 and this was true also of the Suez Canal,15 freedom of navigation was assured to all nations observing the rules on terms of entire equality and without any obligation to engage in the defense of either passage. We dropped the subject after dealing with it in this casual way.

Whether the Department cares to proceed further in this matter, with the above hints in mind, I do not know. As I stated on July 20th last in my No. 334, a special agreement of our own with Turkey would give us nothing which we do not already possess.

For the purpose of convenient reference I enclose herewith the text of Article 18 of the Convention relating to the Régime of the Straits, and also the pertinent portions of Article 3 of the Panama Canal Treaty.16

Respectfully yours,

Robert P. Skinner
  1. Treaty of November 18, 1901, between the United States and Great Britain, to facilitate the construction of a ship canal; William M. Malloy (ed.), Treaties, Conventions, etc., Between the United States of America and Other Powers, 1776–1909 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. i, p. 782.
  2. Convention of Constantinople, October 29, 1888, between Great Britain, Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and Turkey, respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxxix, p. 18.
  3. Enclosures not printed.