Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Jernegan)


At lunch at the Turkish Embassy today, Ambassador Erkin took me aside to ask whether we were ready to give him any reaction to the question he had recently posed to Assistant Secretary McGhee and Under Secretary Webb regarding the inter-relationships which might be created between the United States and Turkey as a result of the Anglo-French-Turkish treaty of alliance and the new defense arrangements between the United States and Britain and France under the North Atlantic Treaty.1 I replied that we had referred this matter for preliminary consideration by the Office of the Legal Adviser, but the initial reaction of that Office had been so inconclusive that I did not feel we were yet in a position to give the Ambassador even an informal expression of our views. Furthermore, his inquiry and other recent developments had inspired the Department to review the whole question of possible interlocking defense arrangements, with special attention to the area of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. I pointed out that in addition to the Anglo-French treaty with Turkey, there were also British treaties with Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, and possibly other similar treaties elsewhere. We had decided it was desirable to get the whole picture.

[Page 1683]

With reference to my last remark, the Ambassador hastened to point out that his inquiry had related only to the Turkish position and that he considered Turkey to be on a very different basis, in its relationship with the United States, from Iraq or other Arab states. I assured him that we did consider Turkey as a rather special case and that I did not mean to imply that we would approach Turkey in exactly the same way as we might approach our relations with Iraq. I added, however, that Greece was in virtually the same position as Turkey and I mentioned that Mr. Tsaldaris had recently raised again with me the question of the inclusion of Greece in some more formal treaty arrangement with the United States.2 Ambassador Erkin agreed that Greece was in substantially the same position as Turkey.

He asked me if we had spoken to the British or French in connection with the question he had raised. I said that we had not, since we wanted to consider the matter very carefully just among ourselves before posing any questions to other members of the Atlantic Pact. The Ambassador hurriedly agreed that this question should not be raised on an Atlantic Treaty basis, since, he said, such countries as Belgium and the Netherlands would certainly not wish to be involved in additional responsibilities outside of the western European region. He believed that any conversations on the subject should be confined to direct communication between the United States on the one hand and Britain and France on the other and should not be introduced into the machinery of the North Atlantic treaty. He went on to say that in reporting his conversations at the Department he had suggested to his Foreign Office that the Turkish Ambassadors in London and Paris should be informed so that they might be prepared for any discussions with the British and French Governments. He implied that the Turkish Government had not as yet discussed the question with the British or French but from his manner I was inclined to suspect that some sort of informal approach may have been made.

  1. During a courtesy call on Assistant Secretary of State McGhee on September 26, Ambassador Erkin commented on the fact that the British-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1939 had recently been reaffirmed to Turkey by the other two countries. He asked what the position of the United States would be under the North Atlantic Treaty in the event that Britain and France, by virtue of an attack on Turkey, were brought into war in the carrying out of their treaty obligations to Turkey. Assistant Secretary McGhee promised to get the views of others in the Department and inform the Ambassador. (Memorandum of conversation by McGhee, September 26, 1949: 840.20/9–2649) Ambassador Erkin raised the same question during a conversation with Acting Secretary of State James E. Webb on September 30. The Acting Secretary explained that the question would have to be given very careful consideration in the Department. (Memorandum of conversation by Webb, September 30, Secretary’s Memoranda, Lot 53 D 344)
  2. Regarding the views of Greek Foreign Minister Constantine Tsaldaris on the desirability of an eastern regional defense alignment embracing Greece, Turkey, and perhaps Yugoslavia and the comments thereon by the Secretary of State, see the latter’s memorandum of conversation, October 28, p. 447. See also telegram 2027, November 21, to Athens, repeated to Ankara and Belgrade, p. 460, reporting upon a conversation between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hare and Greek Ambassador Vassili Dendramis on the same subject.