Created: 2/28/1947

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ebruaryNQ 33

the hatay question

[the Province of Malay, which was known as the Sanjak of Al-exendretta priore an area or5 square miles bordering the Gulf of Iskenderun. Ils southern borderart of lhe Turkish-Syrian frontier- Hatay includes the port of Iskenderun (Alex-andrcttaland the town of Antakya (Antloch). See attached Hap.]


Rumors have recently cone from Damascus that Syria might soon refer th*-legality of Turkey's sovereignty over the Hatay to "anwould presumably be the United Nations Security Council or International Court of Justice. Although the Syrian Prime Minister has denied the current rumors, the issueery live one. The Secretary General of the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has expressed the opinion that the rumors are Soviet-inspired, and has stated his hope that if Syria should appeal to the Security Council, the United States would oppose the demands upon the territoryember of the United Nations. He maintains that Turkey is willing to discuss with Syria concessions in the Hatay, but would never consider renouncingover the Turkish province.

1 Franco-Turkish Treaty ceded the Ottoman Turkishof Hatay to France, the mandatory power for Syria and Lebanon. The Treaty of) confirmed Turkey's renunciation ofover the territory. When6 France promised Syria andfull independence after three years, the Turks protested, claiming that the Hatay had been ceded to France as such, not to France aspower, and should also be given Independence. The issue was finally referred to the League of nations, which granted the province quasi-independence from Syria. Although the Turkish population in the Hatayinority, the Turks were able to establish an exclusively Turkish provincial government, andepublic was proclaimed. The following year the province was incorporated into the Turkishdespite the disapproval of the League of Nations. Syria has not recognized Turkish sovereignty over the area.

Besides the strong feeling of nationalism with which both Syria and Turkey view the matter, each country considers the province important to it for economic and strategic reasons. The fruit, olive, grain, tobacco, cotton, and silk crops of the well-watered interior are of considerable value. Furthermore, the Syrians feel that Iskenderun is the natural outlet for northern Syria, and tnat the country has no

Only limited coordination of this report with departmentalagencies has been attained. Substantial dissent, if any will be submittedater date.

other port of comparable usefulness. Tne Turks regard the Gulf of Iskenderun as essential to the defense of Southern Turkey, and believe that Syria Is neither strong enough nor reliable enough to maintainin this area. They also fear that acceptance of the Syrian claims mightangerous precedent and thus serve toSoviet claims against northeastern Turkey.

An amicable settlement of the potentially dangerous Hatay problem wouldreat contribution to the political stability of the Hear East. The likelihoodompromise appears remote,because Turkey refuses even to discuss tne question ofwhile existing nationalistic sentiment in Syria probably will not allow the Syrian Government to negotiate on any basis whichacknowledgment of Turkish rights. The Turks are willing tominor frontier rectifications and the concession of portIn Iskenderun harbor. If thc two countries could meetriendly atmosphere, it is possible that, by using these considerationsasis for discussion, they mightatisfactory solution. If, on the other hand, the Syrians do appeal, for example, to the Security Council, they can probably count not only on the support of Arab states, which naturally side with Syria in the dispute, but also on that of the USSR end its satellites. Under these conditions. Western support of Turkey will alienate the Arab stales, while support of Syria will weaken Turkish morale and resistance to the USSR. This dilemma would be averted if the raising of the Hatay issue could be postponed until the volatile feelings of the young nationalistic Syrian state havealmer atmosphere for bilateral discussion.

Further discussion of the Hatay question is contained in the Enclosure hereto.

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Current Situation.

Recent rumors originating in Damascus and indicating that the Syrian Government Right soon refer the Hatayheof Turkey's sovereignty over thio area) to "an international body" (presumably either the UN Security Council or International Court of Justice) hove been denied by thc Syrian Prime Minister. The denial, however, was worded inay as to keep the issue alive. The Prime Minister maintained that "the Syrian Government is very vigilant to protect and defend the country's vital

The Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Turkish press have shown considerable concern about these rumors. Editorialists,their belief that the rumors are inspired by the USSR, call upon the Syrians to "come to their senses and to stop oppressing thc Turks in Northernlthough ihey adduce no real evidence that any such oppression exists. The Secretary General of the Turkishfor Foreign Affairs, K. C. Erkln, before the rumors were denied, expressed to US Ambassador Wilson In Ankara the hope that, if Syria were indeed to apply to the Security Council, the US would oppose such demands upon the territoryember of the United Nations. He olso expressed the view that the Turkish-Syrian frontier had been laid down by treaty and that, if such frontiers were to be subject to review by thc Security Council, no existing borders could be regarded as secure. It was also Erkin's belief that the USSR waa promoting these demands, which, if carried out, would cause very high feeling among the Turks and prompt them to make counter-demands, such as the return of the former Ottoman Turkish city of Aleppo and other regions. Meanwhile, he said trial the present status of the Hatay constitutedhreat to peaceituation likely to endanger peace. Erkinthai Turkey was quite prepared to discuss with Syria suchas on offer of facilities in the port of Iskenderun, minorrectifications, and the registration of property titles, but would never agree to consider renouncing sovereignty over tne "Turkishof Halay".

Recent Historical Background.

Turkish-French Treaty of In the Treaty with France drawn up at Ankara onhe Turkish nationalists (who later founded the Republic) renounced sovereignty over the Ottoman Turkish territory of Iskenderun (Hatay) to France, the mandatory power for Syria and Lebanon. In return, the French agreed to withdraw their troops from Southern Turkey, which they had occupied following Turkey's defeat in World War I. Thus considerable Turkish forces were released to Join in combat against invading Greek armies. While the French were given certain economic concessionary privileges in Turkey, some

ary revisions "are agreed upon which were favorable to the Turks because they included inong stretch of the East-West railroad line to Iraq via Syria. The French also promised that Turks in the Hatay were to be given privileged treatment.

The French Mandate. Franco wasandate over Syria and Lebanon in accordance with the Allied Agreement of San Rerao0 and later by consent of the League of. The terms of the mandate as finally drawn up under League of Nations auspices(Articlehat "the mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no part of the territory of Syria and the Lebanon is ceded or leased or in any way placed under the controloreign power."

Treaty of In the Treaty ofhich definitively established Turkey's postwarrationalist Turkish Government agreed to renounce "all rights and whatsoever over or respecting the territories outside thelaid down in the present

Turkish-Syrian Convention of Thisconfirmed the Turkish-French Treaty of Ankara

French-Syrian Treaty Upon announcement of this treaty, according to which France promised Syria and Lebanon full independencethree years, the Turks at once protested, particularly since the treaty transferred to independent Syria all international commitmentsby France as mandatory power, on behalf of that State. The Turkish attitude was that Turkey had given lhe Hatay to France, as such, not to France as mandatory power for Syria. The Turks maintained that bythe irundate. Franceituation which was not contem-

VItrealie8French, in giv-

ing oyrla and Lebanon their independence, should also-and separatelv--rree the Hatay. After considerable controversy, both France and Turkey agreed to refer the Issue to thc League of Nations. Onommittee appointed by the Leaguetatute and Fundamental Low_ Tor the HaUy which both parties accepted7 The Hatay wan granted independence, in internal ratters, while monetary control and customs administration were to be directed Jointly by the Hatay and Syria, the latter state being.responsible for the direction of foreign An Assembly was to be formed, composed ofembersthe various communities in the Hatay, inh the number oi registered voters. The Turks began at once doing their utmost to ensure forajority in the Assembly.

Though Quasi-Independence to Turkish Sovereignty. While the

cSrS lil^ was,beln*anrfirikes oc-

tftyl"ed under marllal law<" mainlainin-'Bcemed to be con-

niving in the establishment of full Turkish control; they weremore interested Inriendly Turkey in the Eastern


rteditecrajiean during this criticaln world afralrs, than in battling for the rights of Syria, over which France had already agreed to withdraw control. The first Assembly met in8 and, although Turks ln the Hatay were outnumbered by other groups(see ethnic statisticsesult of Turkey'sand French connivance an exclusively Turkish Government was elected, and the Republic of Hatay was proclaimed. The Republic lasted lessear, however, for9 France renounced Ha Interests altogether ln the Hatay and onuly (without sanction of the League of Nations and, indeed, despite the clearly expressed disapproval of the League) It was incorporated into the Turkish Republic andit nowTurkish Province.

Altitudehe Lgagug of Katjona.. Not did Um League of Nations, through Its Persnnent Mandates Commission, protest against 1Mb settleoeent, but so also did the Syrians. Partly because of delays In the transmission of documents, however, no positive action was taken, and upon the outbreak of World War II, the whole issue was laid aside. Since Syria has won its independence, no Syrian Government has recognized Turkey's sovereignty over the Hatay and the Syrlcn pressattacks'such sovereignty. Indeed, If any government of Syria were to announce its acceptance of Turkish sovereignty over the area, it would immediately be forced out of office. The Turks, on the other hand, who feel Just as strongly that they are in the right, delayed for years their recognition of Syrian and Lebanese independence. When6 Turkey did finally recognize the independence of. both States, the issue of sovereignty over the Hatay was carefully.

Ethnic and Economic Aspects.

Ethnic. While exact population figures are not obtainable, the following (FrenchJ estimate6 is the most accurate available:






Ethnic Origin Mixed Arab

Sunni Moslem,Moslem


Circassians, Kurds, Jews, Turcomans, etc.

Since annexation of the Hatay by the Turkish Republic,numbers of Arabs and Armenians have emigrated, chiefly to Syria. It is these emigrants who constitute the chief source ofin Syria against continued Turkish sovereignty. An additional source or agitation for removal of Turkish control of the Hatay is the vociferous nationalistic element of the Syrian population. Some Turk-

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lsh nationals have moved Into the Province, chiefly into urban areas, for there has been no large-scale program of rural re-settlement. Thus, though no reliable statistics are available, it is now likely that aof the population ln Turkish. Turks in the Hatay may be regarded as loyal citizens of the Republic and, due lo the equality of treatment accorded Circassians and Turcomans ln Turkey, it is probable that many among these two groups would prefer to remain in the Republic and would probably elect to do so if given an opportunity to express their wish by plebiscite. The Arabs and Armenians, however, undoubtedly wouldSyrian rule, and the Kurdish minority would probably also prefer separation from the stringent control and supervision to which all Kurds are subjected in Turkey, where they form by far the largest minority group in the Republic.

Economic. The port of Iskenderun Is of considerable importance to bothSyria and South Centralastward and northeastward of Adonal are Its natural hinterland. It is, however, of particular value to Northern Syria, and the economic development of the Aleppo area must always be seriously retarded, as long as it is deprived of this natural outlet. The port's usefulness to Aleppo, Syria'scity, has been diminished not only by the artificial boundary line which separates Aleppo and the port, but also because the Aleppo market center is not connected with Iskenderun by rail excepteryroute via Toprakkale (seeell north of the Turkish border. It is quite evident that constructionirect rail link between Aleppo and Iskenderun, provided Syria enjoyed rights to use of the harbor, would be or great benefit lo Syria ln general and to the Aleppo district ln particular.

The strategic importance of Iskenderun to Turkey became most obvious during World War II when, with British aid, the Turksailroad pier capable of serving ocean-going vessels in the harbor. Since Axis occupation of Greece and some of the Aegean islandsclosed the Turkish Straits to Allied shipping, Lend-Lease shipments to Turkey were discharged at the ports of Kersln and Iskenderun. The Turks see in Iskenderun not only great logistic value but strategicimportance as well, in that Itotential route ofinto South Central Turkey. The British have also shown theirin the area by assisting the Turks during World War II ln theor good roads in this vicinity. The fruit, olive, grain,and cotton-growing and silk-cultivating country of the Hatay'c well-watered Interior is of considerable econoatic Importance, although not vitally so to either Turkey or Syria. Claims as to potentially valuable chromite and petroleum deposits have not been substantiated. There are reports, however, that serious consideration is being given in Ankararojected program of drilling for oil ln the Adanaroject which might well include the sinking of well6 near the Syrian border and In the Hatay itself.

Attitude of Syria and Turkey.

Convinced that they have strong juridical rights to the,Hatay, the Syrians will not lightly abandon their claims. They feel that,and geographically, Iskenderun Is the natural outlet forSyria and the Aleppo hinterland. They also point out that Syria has no other port of comparable usefulness and that its loss, therefore, is of far greater consequence to Syria than to Turkey, whichair harbor at Mersin, not far to the we6t. The Syrians feel also that they were cheated out of the Hatay while they were powerless to voice an effective protest, let alone enforce their rights,ime when the Turkish populationinority. Above all, they feel that they have an unanswerable argument in that France relinquished the territory to Turkey in direct violation of the mandate and against the vigorousof the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission.

The Turks, on the other hand, have attempted to show that there has alwaysajority or Turks in the arealaim which available statistics, however unreliable, do not support) and that therearger Turkish majority there now. The late Turkish President, Ataturk, asserted again and again that Turkey would never be reconciled to abandoning territoryajority of the population are Turks; it wouldold Turkish Government indeed that would dare to tamper withsacredeft to the Turks by their "eternal chief". The Turks insist that the territory was given to France1estern power, not as mandatory, and that the Syrians never had and do not now have any rights to it whatsoever.

The Turkish Army General Staff regards the Gulf of Iskenderun and its vicinity as essential for the defense or Southern Turkey, since it is logistlcally useful and strategically valuable, partiallythe plains south of the Taurus Mountains. The Turks feel that independent Syria is neither strong enough nor reliable enough tosecurity in this area, while France lat any rateascapable of doing so. Turkey, on the other hand, is an important factor for peace and stability in the Near and Middle East. Furthermore, the Turks believe that satisfaction of Syrian claims to the Hatay, apart from damaging Turkish national pride end morale, might wellisastrous precedent and thus offer the Soviets an opportunity totheir claims on behalf of the Georgian and Armenian SovietRepublics for annexation of large and strategically valuable areas in northeastern Turkey.

Probable Future DeveloLnents.

The Turks appear willing to grant important concessions, but both sides are sure to find compromise extremely difficult because of the point-blank Turkish refusal even to discuss the question of Meanwhile, Turkish attempts to strengthen relations with Arab States to the south are prejudiced, since such States naturally take a

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sympathetic view of the Syrian case. The Syrians will tend to rely upon members of the Arab League to support any pica they may decide to make. The Syrian Government has shown no indication that it will enlist Soviet support ln this matter, although (if the case were to be placed before the UN Security Council) the USSR and its satellites may be counted upon to support Syria against Turkey. Meanwhile, the Soviets will doubtless see to it that the issue is keptdifficult task while the Syrian press and public maintain their present indignant attitude. Every Syrian cabinet will take the customary position that it is in favor of "reversion" of the Hatay's sovereignty to Syria, though none has yet attempted officially to advance an energetic claim. If,the Syrian Government does decide to appeal to the Securityor to submit its case to the International Court of Justice, the Turkish attitude will undoubtedly harden still further. The Turks are more than willing to grant Syria almost any concession or privilege in the Hatay, provided there is no infringement of what they regard as Turkey's territorial integrity.

, Unofficially, the Turkish Ministry for Foreign Affairs liasthat it is prepared to negotiate with Syria not only in regard to minor frontier rectifications but also for tho concession of portin Iskenderun harbor. oncession is capable of expansion to" include special customs and transit privileges, use of bondedwaiving of harbor dues, and the like, inay as toso far as possible the obstacles inherent ln commercial useoreign port. ood metalled road already connects Aleppo andand this can subsequently be supplemented by constructionew railroad line orpur between the port and theine (see MapJ. This will become feasible and desirable if the twocome to terms.

A possible basis of compromise might be provided If Turkey would offer Syria all territory in the Hatay on the left bank of the Asi (ancient Orontes) River. This territory includes the town of Antakya (Antiochl, the seatreek Orthodox Patriarch, the great majority of whose adherents are in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine: the Patriarch himself actually lives in Damascus.

In view of present Syrian public opinion on the subject of sovereignty, it will bo very difficultyrian Government to enter into negotiations with Turkey on any basis which would, even byindicate acknowledgment of Turkish rights. There must firstiminution in local attempts to stir up nationalistic sentiments and abstention on the part of Soviet or other foreign agents from efforts to keep the issue alive, or at least such insidious activities must be effectively countered. Given timealmer atmosphere in which to discuss the problem, representatives of the two nations can meet and perhaps find some formula acceptable to both which will permit removal of this potentially dangerous issue from the international scene. ettlement would greatly contribute toward Syrian prosperity and to the political stability of the Middle East.

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Original document.

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