396. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Turkish-U.S. Relations


  • President Johnson
  • Under Secretary Averell Harriman
  • Assistant Secretary of State Phillips Talbot
  • Prime Minister Ismet Inonu of Turkey1
  • Foreign Minister Feridun Erkin of Turkey
  • Ambassador Menemencioglu of Turkey

In a conversation marked by warmth of mutual confidence and respect, the principal exchanges were, in paraphrase, as follows:

President Johnson: It is a great tribute to you as well as to the late President that you have come on this sad occasion. There is no one of the 92 representatives here I more appreciate having come than you, not only because of my great regard for your leadership, loyalty and convictions, but also because of our great affection for the Turkish people. We face many difficult problems, which seem to be constantly arising, but I am happy that we are resolving them together.

Prime Minister Inonu: This great tragedy that has befallen the American nation has caused deep grief to the entire Turkish people. The sentiment dominant in Turkey now is to share your grief and to feel that if there are any duties we can carry we should be ready at this moment.

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President Johnson: I am grateful. That sentiment would be typical of the Turks and we know this to be your feeling.

Prime Minister Inonu: I am aware that the entire world is represented here this moment and how busy you are. It is with great gratitude that I am received by you and I will tell the Turkish people of your kindness.

President Johnson: I could not let you go back home without seeing you because I need the inspiration I always get from the Turks. One of the most stimulating experiences of my life was the reception given to me in Turkey. My feeling for Turkey has been of long duration. I was one of the first Congressmen, as a young man, to go into the well of the House to speak in support of the Truman Doctrine.

Prime Minister Inonu: The fact that you have such contacts with the Turks is a source of consolation and confidence to us. Your visit is still warmly remembered.

President Johnson: I was quite concerned when we started talking about the removal of the Jupiters last year for fear the Turks would worry, but I became convinced that the new arrangements would give you more modern protection and thus would be good for the people for whom I have such high respect. We realize that a great deal must still be done by your people but I want you to know that our commitments are complete and will be respected.

Prime Minister Inonu: In our foreign policy Turkey has a series of commitments but for us the basis and cornerstone of them all is our close alliance with the United States. It is true we have had internal discussions and divergences in recent years. This can happen in any country. What is important and unshakable in our national life is what I have just mentioned to you. Whatever Government there may be in Turkey, its basis will be close association with the United States.

President Johnson: I am confident the same is true of the United States. This Administration ends in January 1965. But whatever administration there may be, our friendship and alliance with you would be American foreign policy.

Prime Minister Inonu: The second point I wish to express is that so far as our internal situation goes the one most important matter is the economic situation. The question of economic betterment is a vital problem for us. I beg of you to pay attention to this concern of ours.

President Johnson: I certainly will, and you may be sure that we will do what we can, within the limits of what Congress permits. You know that we have the same problems in our country as you have in yours. Foreign aid has been going on for 17 years, taxes are high—as high as 90% for some, the people are tired, and we have our difficulties. But we also know that no one is participating in our common efforts more [Page 765] strongly than the Turks, and we are glad. You have come to see me in good company, with one of my dearest friends, Averell Harriman. If there is any detail of these problems that you wish to bring to our attention, mention them to Governor Harriman and we will try to do something about them. I hope you may come again to see us.

Prime Minister Inonu: Thank you. That will be a fine day.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL Tur–US. Confidential. Drafted by Talbot and approved by the White House on December 2.
  2. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were in Washington to attend the November 25 funeral of President Kennedy who had been assassinated in Dallas on November 22.