The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Turkey ( Shaw )

No. 219

Sir: Reference is made to the Embassy’s despatch No. 695 of July 3, 1935 regarding Turkey’s attitude towards the Straits Convention.

A copy of this despatch was transmitted to the Navy Department with the suggestion that any observation which that Department might care to make on the question would be welcomed.

This Department is now in receipt of a communication dated August 17, 1935, from the Navy Department setting forth its views on the subject. A copy of this communication is enclosed.

It will be noted that in its reply the Navy Department reaffirms its opinion that the freedom of navigation of the Straits by American vessels and aircraft can be safeguarded most satisfactorily by a separate formal agreement with Turkey. However, it would appear from the Embassy’s recent reports on the subject that the Turkish Government would be unwilling to conclude such an agreement unless the United States consented to assume certain responsibilities for the defense of the Straits, a condition which is obviously unacceptable.

Under these circumstances, and also in view of the fact that the situation with reference to the Straits is susceptible of sudden change in the event that the Turks carry out their avowed intention of doing away with the demilitarized zones, the Department feels that this matter might be left in abeyance until such time as a more favorable opportunity for negotiation presents itself.

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It would be helpful if the Embassy would continue to follow closely developments in this matter, in which connection the Department would welcome any suggestions which the Embassy may be in a position to make at any time.

An acknowledgment of this instruction is requested.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
R. Walton Moore

The Assistant Secretary of the Navy ( Roosevelt ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: Acknowledgement is made of State Department letter of 26 July, file NE 767.68119/878,20 together with its inclosure, copy of a dispatch dated 3 July from the Embassy at Istanbul.21 The State Department letter requests any comments or observations which the Navy Department may care to make on the question of freedom of navigation of the Dardanelles Straits by American commercial vessels and aircraft and war vessels and aircraft.

Careful consideration has been given this question by the Navy Department. This has included a study of the present position by the General Board, whose reports on the same subject in 1931 were transmitted to the State Department as representing the views of the Navy Department at that time.

It is understood that the present situation differs from that considered in 1931 only in the suggested possibility that Turkey may determine upon a changed attitude toward the Straits Convention signed at Lausanne on 24 July 1934 [1923], may resume military occupation of the demilitarized zones provided for by the Convention, and may re-arm the Straits for their defense.

In the opinion of the Navy Department the freedom of navigation of the Straits by American vessels and aircraft can be safeguarded satisfactorily by separate formal agreement with Turkey, whether the Straits remain in a demilitarized status or under armed control by Turkey. This department therefore wishes to re-affirm its views as communicated to the State Department by its letter of 13 July 1931.20 These views may be summarized by the following extracts from the reports of the General Board which accompanied the letter referred to:

“that in any future treaty between Turkey and the United States, a provision similar to Article I of the Straits Convention or [Page 1042] Article X of the Lausanne Treaty (between the United States and Turkey)23 without any reference to the Straits Convention and providing for ‘most favored nation’ treatment, would be satisfactory”.
“that provision be made by some formal agreement, treaty or exchange of notes, for the right of vessels and aircraft, public and private, of the United States of America to navigate 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 foreign nation; that the United States should not by any act or undertaking assist to perpetuate the Straits Commission; that if such a Commission is continued the United States should not have a representative on this Commission; and, that we should insist upon our right to deal directly with the Turkish government regarding the rules for navigation of the Straits”.


H. L. Roosevelt
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 1034.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Signed August 6, 1923, Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. ii, p. 1153.