No. 705
The British Minister (Balfour) to the Director of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)


My Dear Henderson, In answer to your enquiry to-day, I send you the following telegraphic record which we received from London of what took place at a plenary session at Yalta on the 10th February.1 [Page 1049] You will see that in the earlier part of the record there are one or two points which arrived here corrupt. The general tenour of Stalin’s remarks is, however, clear enough.

Yours ever

John Balfour

Text of a Message Sent by Foreign Office to Ankara Dated 27th February

At plenary session February 10th Stalin raised the question of the Japanese and the Montreux Convention. He claimed it was now out of date, referring to the fact that Japan plays a more prominent part under it than the U. S. S. R. and that it was closely connected with the League of Nations which was no longer a reality. Turkey could close the Straits not only in the event of war but if she considered the situation to be threatened. The Convention had been signed when Soviet relations with Great Britain were not perfect but this was now changed. Stalin was sure that there would be no objections on [garble] whatever. He did not wish to prejudge any future [garble] but he thought the Soviet interests should be taken into account without infringing the legitimate interests of Turkey. He suggested revision of the Montreux Convention should be discussed at the first meeting of the Foreign Secretaries who should then report to their governments, and this was agreed.

The Prime Minister said that when Stalin had raised the subject in Moscow in October last he had said that we viewed with sympathy the proposal to revise the Convention. We had asked the Soviet Government to give us a note of their proposals but they had not hitherto done so. He thought Stalin’s proposed course of action was wise and we agreed that present position, under which one exit from the Black Sea could be closed, was not satisfactory. We had promised the Turkish Government to keep them informed if any such project was under consideration and I had therefore informed the Turkish Ambassador in London in very general terms of what had passed in Moscow. The Prime Minister thought however that consideration should be given to the desirability of accompanying any proposal for changes in the regime of the Straits to meet Russian needs and wishes by appropriate assurances to Turkey regarding maintenance of her independence and integrity. Stalin said that he had nothing to hide and readily agreed that such assurances should be given.

  1. For the United States record of the proceedings of this meeting, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 897.