Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Turkish Ambassador called to see me this morning at his request. The Ambassador said that he was calling by instruction [Page 824] of his Government to make clear in an official way to this Government the position of Turkey in view of the misinterpretation which had been given in the American press to the recent pact concluded between Turkey and Bulgaria.

The Ambassador delivered to me the public statement made by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs as conveyed to the Department by Ambassador MacMurray.19 He further stated that, as I knew, the negotiations between Bulgaria and Turkey for a non-aggression pact had been going on for some three or four months and that the sole objective on the part of the Turkish Government in concluding the pact was to secure the assurance that in the event Turkey was obliged to defend herself against German aggression, the fifteen Bulgarian divisions would not be used against Turkey. The Ambassador seemed to feel that the pact recently concluded provided satisfactory assurances in this sense.

I asked the Ambassador for his interpretation of certain portions of the Turkish Foreign Minister’s public statement, notably that portion which declared that Turkey could not view with indifference activities of other powers within Turkey’s “zone of interest”. I asked whether I was to understand that this meant that in the event Germany undertook aggressive action against Greece, Turkey would render assistance to Greece both because of this statement and because of Turkey’s existing engagements to Greece, which the same statement said remained unimpaired.

The Ambassador replied that it should be regarded as clear that both Bulgaria and Greece were within the Turkish “zone of interest”. He said, however, that what action Turkey would take in the event that Germany occupied Bulgaria or entered the war against Greece would depend necessarily upon practical considerations. He said that Turkey above all did not wish to make the same mistake as that made by France and undertake to fight on strategic lines which had not been prepared in advance. The Ambassador said that for defensive operations, Turkey believed that their existing lines of defense, as well as the natural Turkish terrain, were admirably fitted for successful operations but that the movement of Turkish forces outside of these lines of defense was another matter. Whether the Ambassador was completely informed or not, I gained very definitely the impression that his own personal belief was that the material assistance which Turkey might give Greece in the event that Germany moved against Greece would be of very little significance.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. For statement sent by Ambassador MacMurray, see telegram No. 40, supra.