Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee)1


Subject: Turkish Proposal that the U.S. Adhere to the British-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1939.2

Participants: Mr. Feridun C. Erkin—Ambassador of Turkey
Mr. George C. McGhee—Assistant Secretary, NEA
Mr. C. Robert MooreGTI

Problem: Turkish Ambassador proposes that US extend security commitment to Turkey through adherence to British-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1939.

Action Required: To consider the feasibility of this proposal

Action Assigned: GTI

Ambassador Erkin stated that he had asked for this appointment in order to present to the Department a new proposal for extending a U.S. security commitment to Turkey. He briefly touched on the background of his proposal as follows:

In late 1948 and early 1949 he had made known to the Department the Turkish Government’s desire to be included in the North Atlantic Pact which was then being formulated. However, Turkey was not included among the original participants in this Pact.3
Upon his return from Turkey in the summer of 1949 the Ambassador reached the conclusion that a broader regional grouping of Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, Spain and Italy with, of course, U.S. participation, was more logical than an extension of NATO, and he so informed his Government. However, he found that in Turkey the emphasis was on NATO and that the Foreign Minister preferred to concentrate on Turkey’s inclusion in NATO, an organization already in existence, than to press for the creation of a new regional grouping in which Turkey would be included. This culminated [Page 1111] in Turkey’s formal request for inclusion in NATO in August 1950, which was subsequently turned down.4
The Ambassador, recovering from his great disappointment at this development, thereupon began to give thought again to a security arrangement in a form which would be acceptable to the U.S. and in November 1950 proposed to his Government in Ankara a Mediterranean formula on a new basis which he felt eliminated many of the difficulties of the earlier NATO proposal. He had just received the agreement of his Government to make this proposal to us and understood also that President Bayar had raised the question during the visit to Ankara of Admiral Carney several weeks ago5 and that Foreign Minister Koprulu had likewise discussed it with Ambassador Wads worth. While the President and Foreign Minister understood the Ambassador’s basic idea, he was afraid they had not grasped the nuances.

The Ambassador then advanced his proposal—that the United States adhere to the British-French-Turkish Treaty of Mutual Assistance of 1939. He felt that this type of U.S. security commitment to Turkey had a number of advantages:

It would eliminate the protracted discussions which would be involved in extending full membership in NATO to Turkey or in setting up any new regional organization.
The arrangement would not be regional in the broad sense; therefore, no other country would feel entitled to ask for inclusion.
The scope and purpose of the arrangement would be limited; no new commitment would be involved except as regards the security of Turkey (and Greece).
While Greece would not be a party to the Treaty, Article 3 thereof would in effect guarantee the security of Greece. This Article provides that so long as guarantees given by France and the United Kingdom to Greece on April 13, 1939 remain in force, Turkey will lend them all aid and assistance in its power in the event they are engaged in hostilities in virtue of the said guarantees.
The framework would be created for a reciprocal agreement between Greece and Turkey.

The Ambassador recognized that the Treaty would have to be modified slightly—for example, protocol No. 2, which contains the reservation that Turkey is not called upon to take action which would involve armed conflict with the Soviet Union. This obviously had no meaning today. U.S. adherence to the Treaty could be accomplished by a protocol.

The Ambassador urged that earnest consideration be given to this proposal as soon as possible and he expressed the hope that I would be able to inform him, before my departure for Turkey in early February,6 [Page 1112] that, in principle, it was acceptable to us. He emphasized that recent developments necessitated extraordinary measures and that the Turkish proposal was not a selfish one but one which would contribute to European security.

I informed Ambassador Erkin that, as I was sure he knew, Turkey’s desire to be included in a security arrangement was very much in our minds. While his new proposal was a very interesting one I was afraid that many of the considerations which made it difficult for the North Atlantic Pact to be extended to Turkey would apply likewise to it. I felt that the United States had never shown a lack of interest in helping the Turks to develop their military strength and that a security commitment was, in effect, not of very practical importance. I informed him, however, that we would certainly give all appropriate consideration to his proposal. I questioned whether Greece would be well pleased with the Ambassador’s formula but he expressed confidence that it would be satisfied. This led to some discussion as to the present status of the UK and French guarantees to Greece. With respect to the UK guarantee the Ambassador felt quite certain that it was still in effect.

As the Ambassador was leaving I asked him if, since our conversation of several weeks ago, he had changed his views as to the possibility of Turkey’s entering into regional agreements in the absence of a U.S. commitment. The Ambassador very emphatically indicated that there was no change in his views and that he would strongly oppose Turkey’s participation in such agreements.

Somewhat later in the day Ambassador Erkin telephoned Mr. Moore and asked him to tell me, with respect to my question on regional agreements, that he wanted to amplify his statement somewhat. It was his strong belief that, if Turkey and the United States were linked together in a security arrangement of the kind proposed by him, it would be easier and more feasible for Turkey, through its increased prestige, to align the other countries in that area in support of our common objectives. Turkey, strengthened by this concrete evidence of U.S. support, would constitute a center of attraction to the other neighboring countries.

Mr. Esenbel, at the request of the Ambassador, subsequently telephoned Mr. Moore regarding the UK guarantee to Greece. The Ambassador’s view was that such a guarantee was in effect until repudiated and that there was no evidence that it had been repudiated. Mr. Esenbel himself had questioned one of his Greek colleagues on [Page 1113] this point, without revealing the reason for his interest, and was told that Ambassador Politis considered the guarantee still in effect inasmuch as it had not been repudiated.

George C. McGhee
  1. Drafted by Moore, GTI.
  2. Signed on October 19, 1939. League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cc, p. 167; also British Cmd. 6165, Treaty Series No. 4 (1940): Treaty of Mutual Assistance Between His Majesty in Respect of the United Kingdom, the President of the French Republic and the President of the Turkish Republic (With Special Agreement and Subsidiary Agreements), Angora, October 19, 1939.
  3. For documentation regarding U.S. relations with Turkey, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, pp. 1638 ff.; regarding U.S. participation in the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, see ibid., vol. iv, pp. 1 ff.
  4. For documentation regarding Turkey’s request in 1950 for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iii, pp. 1 ff. and 1108 ff., and ibid., vol. v, pp. 1224 ff.
  5. January 10–12, 1951.
  6. McGhee arrived in Istanbul on February 11, 1951, proceeded to Ankara for high-level discussions with Turkish officials there on February 12–13, and returned to Istanbul to conduct the Middle East Regional Conference, February 14–21. Regarding his trip, see the editorial note, p. 49.