Tuesday, July 7, 2015

ADSS 1.56 Borgongini Duca to Maglione: fears of war

ADSS 1.56 Francesco Borgongini Duca (1), Italy to Luigi Maglione, Sec State

Reference: Report 6941, (AES 3529/39)

Location and date: Rome, 03.06.1939

Summary statement:  Conversation with the Turkish Ambassador to Italy, fear that war could occur within 3 months

Language: Italian


During the last week in May I had many contacts with the principal Ambassadors of this Diplomatic Corps, especially with Sir Percy Loraine, British Ambassador, Francois-Poncet, French Ambassador and Huseyin Ragip Baydurm Turkish Ambassador. (2)

During a luncheon at the Turkish Embassy on 31 May the Ambassador, after having assured me that on the next day he would send the file regarding the registration of the Holy See’s properties in Istanbul to Ankara (about which I did not forget to recommend what your Eminence instructed me in the message of 22 May, Number 1608) (3), told me that, in his opinion, the situation was greatly improved, because through the various agreements between the democratic countries, the balance of power had been re-established between the two sides into which Europe was divided.  He, too, believed that the danger of war had been pushed back two or three months.  He also agreed with me that the Polish Corridor, where it is difficult to suggest a solution, which would satisfy both parties, is the greatest stumbling block.

Arab feelings, as expressed to me by the Iraq minister and Legation Secretary, are the following: Italy and Germany are in a state of absolute inferiority as Franco-British and Russian forces are drawing closer together.  I had the impression that Iraq was also leaning towards Great Britain.

More interesting appeared to be some confidential communications made to me by the new British Ambassador on 20 May, when I went to return his first visit.  He spoke at length about the Franco-Turkish Treaty on the Sanjak.) (4) The Ambassador is a specialist on this subject having been High Commissioner in Egypt and the Ambassador to Ankara until his appointment in Rome.)

He told me that he does not understand why Turkey accepted the Sanjak where the majority of the population is Christian and Arab and not Turkish, especially if one bears in mind that the Kemal Pasha’s revolution and the oath given by the Turkish Constituent Assembly had explicitly declared that the New Turkey, contrary to Ottoman Empire policy, wanted to rule only on Turkish territories. (5) But the Ambassador was aware of the great material advantage to Turkey to have the port of Alexandretta, which is the only one on the coast.  It is clear that Ismet is somewhat modifying Kemal Pasha’s policy and returning to the Islamic Ottoman policy with the evident intention of reaching Haleb. (6)

I asked the British Ambassador if the Christian people’s uneasiness for the Turk’s entry into Sanjak was not well founded; the Armenians, who live there in about thirty mountain villages and, as is well know, fought against the Turks in the great War, would be exposed to reprisals as was the case in Cilicia when France ceded it to Turkey who in turn promptly massacred all Armenians living there.

The Ambassador replied that after the separation between State and Caliphate proclaimed by Kemal Pasha the various religions live peacefully on Turkish soil and therefore he thought it very unlikely that the same incident would occur again; to which statement I took the liberty of raising my doubts especially after having heard the confidential report of Monsignor Peter Kedidjian, Vicar General of the Armenian Patriarchate, on the flight of eminent Armenians to Syria following the advance of the Turks in the territory and their first hostile acts against the Armenian clergy. (7)

I had occasion to speak to Francois-Poncet during the dinner given at Palazzo Farnese on 1 June, where the only Italians invited were Baron Aloisi and ex-Ambassador De Martino and their wives. (8)

I wanted to know if certain rumours regarding recent secret contacts between France and Italy were true; the supposition arising from the presence in Paris of Senator Volpi. (9)

He replied that there is no new development or at least not an important one; twice Foreign Minister Ciano, who had been courteous to him, had recently received him but it cannot be said that real and proper negotiations have taken place.  He added that the Italian Authorities show a stiff attitude towards him contrary to the practice of the German Authorities in Berlin. (10)

He also affirmed that the general situation has really improved and one can expect that there will not be any shocks until the end of the harvest.  Mussolini’s speech in Turin was a moderate one, but the words pronounced shortly after in front of the students of Turin could be defined as alarming. (11)

The new Brazilian Ambassador, Senor Pietro Leao Velloso, told me – during his first official call on me yesterday – that he had been received by Mussolini, who told him that he wants to supply the Italian people with coffee and wishes that the negotiations now taking place in Rio de Janeiro between the Italian Ambassador and the Brazilian Government should be concluded as quickly as possible, and as satisfactorily as the trade agreement with Argentina had been concluded. (12) Italy proposes to exchange Brazilian coffee with Italian manufactured goods.  The ambassador, although favourably inclined towards Italy, points out that Brazil too, is a poor country and needs gold and foreign currency more than manufactured goods, in order to meet its commitments with other nations; however, a solution will be found.

The Ambassador, proceeding to describe the international satiation, then said: “Gold production in the world is 1,200 millions; the among of gold which entered the United States during last year was – if I understood correctly – 1,800 millions, that is 35% more than the total production.”  Which proves that there are countries dying of starvation and countries dying of indigestion and, according to his opinion, the abnormal gold circulation can be compared with the abnormal blood circulation in the individual; hypertension is also deadly.

I send these items of news to your Eminence in the form in which they were collected by me, leaving the responsibility to their authors, and your Eminence will give them the value they deserve.

(1) Francesco Borgongini Duca (1884-1954), Nuncio to Italy 1929-53.
(1) Percy Lorraine (1880-1961), British Ambassador to Italy 1939-40; Andre Francois-Poncet (1887-1978), French Ambassador to Italy 1938-40; Huseyin Ragip Baydur (1890-1955) Turkish Ambassador to Italy 1934-43.
(2) Not published in ADSS.
(3) The Franco-Turkish Treaty or the Franco-Turkish Agreement of Ankara of 20.10.1921 ended the short war between French imperial troops in Syria and Turkish forces engaged in the war of independence that marked the end of the Ottoman Empire.  Under provisions made in the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 France was to be given control of Ottoman Syria and southern Anatolia.  France also agreed to support the Armenians against the Turks.  French troops along with Colonial soldiers and a French Armenian Legion fought in different parts of Turkey from May 1920 to October 1921.  Surprised at the strength of Turkish resistance, France eventually withdrew from areas claimed by the Turks, especially the region of Cilicia with its ancient Armenian Christian community.  Turkey agreed to respect the French occupation of Syria and France agreed to respect Turkish sovereignty.  The Alexandretta Sanjak, with its large Christian minority, was incorporated into the French Mandate but in 1936 a growing pro-Turkish group alongside a Syrian independence movement led to a league of Nations intervention granting the Sanjak autonomy within the Mandate but with links to both France and Turkey on matters of defence.  The Turkish government encouraged the migration of thousands of Turks into the Sanjak prior to the election of July 1938, effectively creating a Turkish majority.  On 02.09.1938 the newly elected assembly proclaimed the Sanjak as Hatay State and sought incorporation with Turkey. Hatay became a province of Turkey on 29.06.1939.  Thousands of Arabs and Armenians, fled to Syria.
(4) Kemal Attaturk (1881-1938), founder of the Republic of Turkey.  Attaturk argued, using the pseudo-scientific Sun Language Theory, popular in the 1930s, that Hatay had been a Turkish homeland for over 4,000 years.
(5) Mustafa İsmet İnönü (1884-1973), second President of Turkey, 1938-1950.  Much of the Province of Haleb, or Halep (Aleppo) was annexed to Turkey after the First World War and during the Turkish War of Independence.
(7) Pompeo Aloisi (1875-1949) former Italian Foreign Minister 1932-36; Giacomo De Martino (1868-1957), former Italian ambassador to Germany, Britain, Japan and the USA between 1919-32.
(8) Giuseppe Volpi (1877-1947), president of Confindustria (Fascist Confederation of Italian Industry) 1934-43.
(9) Francois-Poncet mentions this in him memoirs Souvenirs d’une Ambassade a Berlin, p 340.
(10) 10.05.1939.

(11) Pedro Leao Veloso (1887-1947), Brazilian Ambassador to Italy 1939-44.

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