811.20 Defense (M) Turkey/422: Telegram

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

534. My 525, March 20,19 Department’s 240, March 18. I called on Minister of Foreign Affairs20 this morning and frankly expressed to him our desire that no further exports of strategic materials be made by Turkey to Axis, as well as the readiness to purchase such materials ourselves. I pointed out that we were carrying on economic warfare against Axis and expressed hope that Turkish Government in its desire for an Allied victory and to shorten the duration of the war would cooperate with us to the extent compatible with its vital interests. Numan said he quite understood our position and then outlined Turkish position as he had 2 days ago to British Minister21 (my 525 March 20). He remarked that he was embarrassed at present time as Germans desired to ship certain products which warehouses at Istanbul were unable to receive as they were already glutted and that in consequence his position at the outset of his negotiations with [Page 1122] Clodius would be awkward. He then said that notwithstanding this fact we might rely upon him to take advantage of every opportunity to impede deliveries of strategic materials to Axis—as he had in case of chrome. I urged upon him importance of not stipulating specific quantities of strategic materials in any new agreement with Germans on grounds that inability of Germans to make specified deliveries would tie up strategic materials which we needed and were prepared to purchase. Numan replied that although he anticipated extreme pressure from Clodius he intended to flatly refuse to permit any strategic materials to leave Turkey until German deliveries had first crossed Turkish frontier and that he had no intention of agreeing to reserve additional Turkish strategic materials for Axis as he recognized that Germans would in all probability be unable to make their deliveries.

He said he understood Clodius was arriving with a “grandiose scheme” which he intended to reject as “chimerical”. He remarked that while it would probably be necessary for him to enter into some kind of an agreement with Clodius in order to permit the Germans to save face and not sustain a “political defeat”, he intended to keep his hands as free as possible and that we might rely upon him to take into consideration all of the factors which Sterndale Bennett and I had urged upon him. I then suggested that one of the principal purposes of Clodius’ visit might be an attempt to retrieve German political prestige in Turkey with the object of making political capital by means of propaganda out of any agreement that might be arrived at and urged him to consider this possibility carefully. Numan said that this “probability” had occurred to him and that he would bear it in mind throughout the negotiations.

My talk with Numan has confirmed the impression expressed in the last paragraph of my 525, March 20 that in any agreement he will seek to confine the same to making the necessary adjustments resulting from the non-fulfillment of the existing agreement, that he will endeavor to avoid the stipulation of any additional quantities of strategic materials, but that should he find himself compelled to agree to additional quantities he will in practice frustrate deliveries to the best of his ability.

Now that we and the British have made our position clear to Numan it seems to me inadvisable to press him for a more specific declaration of his intentions particularly as I anticipate he will keep us informed of the progress of his negotiations with Clodius which should afford us an opportunity to express our views as the negotiations proceed.

I have now indicated the foregoing to the British Minister.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Numan Menemencioglu.
  3. John Cecil Sterndale Bennett.