Notes on Yenice Conference


January 26, 1943

I am recovering from a considerable and long-lasting illness. I have just started to go out. And today right when I was about to go out, I was told that the Prime Minister wanted to meet with me. I understood right away that this was about an important issue. I went straight to the Prime Ministry. Saraçoğlu told me about the news that the British ambassador reported to him and showed me the transcript he left. Mr. Churchill wants to meet with me, if not, at least with the Prime Minister. He offers to give Cyprus. He now wants to supply Turkey with the last technology arms which they produced at a large scale. He would also like to discuss public security and defense system. He also says that we will talk about the overall condition in a friendly manner. He proposes that their Chief of Staff to meet with Marshall Çakmak. He underlines the important fact that he is appointed both by his President and the American President. He insists on the confidentiality of the consultation. That was the news.

Meanwhile, the American ambassador requested an appointment from Saraçoğlu. We discussed with the Prime Minister that it would be wrong to avoid such an important meeting and then I returned to Çankaya. 

What the American ambassador said served as a summary. But he really urges that I should accept to meet with Churchill. The American ambassador said that Roosevelt gave him the order to deliver the message himself to me and also he wanted me to accept him.

We had dinner together with Saraçoğlu. After we analyzed the situation in detail repeating the issues that are supposed to be discussed, we decided to inform them immediately that we accept the meeting. It is not possible for me to leave the country. I’d be very glad if Churchill comes to any city of the country. If he cannot, then the Prime Minister will go to Cyprus with Marshall. In this way, we will answer them. 

Our answer pleased the British and American ambassadors. I saw that appreciation on him when I accepted the American ambassador at 5 pm. During his speech what the ambassador said about Stalin was interesting: “At the end of the war, will he care about the honor and respectability of the world or will he say that these virtues are of no importance to him? That is where the uncertainty lies.”

From the attitudes of the ambassadors and the nature of the talking with the Foreign Affairs, we sensed in general this meaning: Anglo-Saxons are now considering seriously the situation of the Russians whose victory is almost certain. They wish Turkey to be their strong ally to support them during that period. We will understand certain things in this meeting. If what they said about supplying us with arms is serious then we think that this could give us nothing but strength and prosperity. And if there are secret thoughts which we cannot agree to, then again we will learn them through this meeting. These are our concerns at the moment.

Tonight I gathered Ministers and the President of the Assembly at the house. Prime Minister detailed the invitation and our answer. Everyone thought that it was right for us to accept the meeting. Many negative and positive issues were handled over the intentions and the possibilities. The possibilities have generally three positive and negative intentions: they could want Turkey to go to war whether telling or not telling about the strategic importance of Turkey for them. Or, they wish the relations between us and Germany to be tensed with this aim. Or, they simply want Turkey to be equipped as they stated. These were the three possibilities. The Prime Minister told me that he discussed broadly with the Marshall and that they agreed on every issue.

January 27, 1943

The declaration that was published as a result of the conference between United Kingdom and United States is today’s news. They want unconditioned surrender from their enemies and state that they are considering the measures about aggravating the war.

January 28, 1943

The Prime Minister informed us. He says that Churchill gave the answer. He will come to Adana to make an official and secret meeting. Some generals will be accompanying him. And he will stay at least 24 hours. He notifies strongly that he is very pleased with my favorable answer. The preparations and the details of the meeting which will be held on the 30th of January have started.

Hilmi Uran, Memduh Şevet Esendal and Rana Tarhan who are among the people whom we are discussing the case with believe that counterpart will make us go to war by pressuring us. They probably think that this meeting will be an opportunity. The President of the Assembly considers both sides like me.

January 30, 1943

Today in the afternoon they will land on Adana airport at 2 pm. We are waiting. There was not enough information from the meeting of British ambassador with the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs who we brought together with us from Ankara. But the point which should be considered as important is that British ambassador told the Prime Minister about what he thinks, though said that he has no information for Churchill could bring any issue forward, but he does not think that he would propose Turkey to go to war because Churchill said earlier that this kind of a demand could not be appropriate for the issues he mentioned in his offer.

About 2pm Churchill landed on Adana airport. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed and accompanied him to the train, then ate lunch together. At 4.30 pm in my private train which is around Yenice I accepted the guests. In the quite narrow saloon we introduced ourselves and that went quite well and lasted for a while. Then we were left alone: me, Saraçoğlu, Menemencioğlu; Churchill, Cadogan, Knatchbull-Hugessen. Churchill began saying “We completely understand the strategy that Turkey has been pursuing.” And I showed my gratitude for that. Afterwards, Churchill said that he is here only to talk about equipping Turkey and that when Turkey considers itself as powerful; it will make the decision itself. About the situation some common ideas were shared. Then we went to the big saloon where the generals were gathered.

We had the general meeting there. I opened the session and gave floor to Churchill. He again said, as in his first speech, that they comprehend the political strategy that Turkey has been following so far. Then, he read a long diplomatic note prepared earlier by translating it into French. In the note, everything about arming our military is listed in detail. It is stated that the measures about the equipment that is sent, that is shipped but has not arrived yet and that has not shipped yet, our new demands about transportation vehicles, reinforcing the infrastructure of our roads and practicing new arms will be discussed. There is not too much about the politics in the note. However, at the beginning of it, it is remarked that Germans may pass through Anatolia next summer in order to get petrol and because Germans armed Bulgarians, allies wish Turkey to be armed. Also, in the note it is mentioned that in case of an anarchy in Balkans Turkey should be prepared to fight back. It was decided earlier that we leave generals again to talk about the military issues. I answered Churchill’s speech. From what I understood, I said that that we will be talking about Turkey’s immediate armament, that Turkey will continue pursuing bipartisan policy and that Turkey wishes to decide itself to act if anything against its interest happens or a conflict arises in its neighborhood. Churchill approved my understanding. We left the room letting generals go on talking about the general meeting. And we went back to the small saloon.

In the second part of the meeting we discussed the war between Russia and Germany. Churchill talked both about the conflicts and internal state of Germany and Italy and that of their allies. He said that they do not know how long the war will last. He mentioned numbers like eighteen months or so. He always tries to stick to the points that he made up before. He misinterprets and hardly understands other issues.

At one stage, he suddenly remembered that there was a message from the King and he asked for it to his friends. Then he stood up and by looking serious and solemn, he said that it was an honor for him to deliver the message to me on behalf of the King. Standing, I took the paper and read it with glasses. I told him excitedly how I was pleased with the very friendly and kind message of the King and that I will be answering the message, then sat down.

In the course of the conversation, I said that the outcome of the war in the Russian-German front is not yet clear, that the plans of Germans to stop by Stalingrad in the winter and rest failed and that they now decided to withdraw to a new battle line in order to gather but adding that I do not know how the battle in the new front would end. I also said that this outcome may be a severe blow or a settling process after decision made. In this issue, Churchill cut in excitedly and aspiringly. He started spinning out that there was no chance of an accord between Russians and Germans. Saraçoğlu interfered saying that there was no implication of an accord and in return Churchill’s men said few things on the matter to him. Also, while it was mentioned that the Russian- German front may stabilize, Churchill said that maybe a definite outcome could be obtained from it. The thought about how they should stay loyal and not to show the Germans any suspicions, seemed to have got a foothold in his mind. At one stage he said that when Molotov was in London he wanted the Baltic States and even though the states belonged to Russia before, he did not accept the offer and stayed under the Atlantic Pact provisions. But he right away wanted what he spoke to be definitely confidential.

I said that we did not have a desire to drive a wedge between Russians and their allies, that we were completely aware of the necessities of the war and that it would not be possible to speak freely today if we did not trust each other concerning these principles. Churchill seemed calm and content. After that, I told him about the aspect of our relationship with Russians. They stood on our side with our pact with the British, but after they made an agreement with Germans they said that they had no business with Turkey who had allied to the British and later when France failed in 1940 they tried to draw near us again but as soon as the Germans called Molotov to Berlin one more time they pulled away and they offered alliance to Bulgarians against Turkey and if Bulgaria accepted it they would agree to tripartite pact against the British and go to war. “The reason why the Germans and Russians are in war is that they could not agree on how to share the Eastern Europe. Russians wanted the Eastern Europe including the Balkans and proposed to the Germans to take the oceans from the Britain and USA. That is the reason of the conflict. I would like to say another point in this case: now you are allied to Russians (Churchill had to say “the alliance for winning the war”). After the war Russians has all the reason to keep a decent and humanly relationship with you and the whole world. We utterly wish that. And we have high hopes. But after all of our experiences, we must consider every possibility and be prudent. Churchill said with a calm and obvious eagerness: “Prudent, of course.”

At one point he again said that Roosevelt will be very pleased with our dialog and offered me to write a message to him. I gave affirmative answer.

One of the matters we discussed was this: I said “You offer us weapons and say that you will give as many as we want. But what is the price? How is it going to be paid? You do not say anything regarding these matters. What is the reason for this trust?

Churchill was surprised. He was trying to find an answer. Cadogan and ambassador helped him. And I helped him in this manner: “I see a new phase in our trust to each other. For us, it is essential to have a trustful relationship with Britain during the war and after that. Now with this behavior you are showing us your trust. I wish to know the reason.”
Churchill’s confusion dispersed. But nevertheless he tried to explain it speaking broadly. “We want Turkey to be powerful. We believe that Turkey would never turn these arms against us. Turkey is blocking the ways, therefore we desire you to continue doing that powerfully.” I let it go. Even though these were not the proofs I wished to hear, they were enough for the moment.

“Do you wish to destroy Germany,” I asked.

Churchill said feverishly that Germany will definitely be destroyed and their weapons will fully be taken and so they will never be able to harm ever again. I think he did not understand what I was trying to ask. As a matter of fact, the day after he indicated in written as well that German nation will not be harmed. He confused the destruction of German nation and defeat of today’s Germany.

They do not consider a peace treaty. They will establish a long-lasting armistice period. They will effectuate de facto foundation and inauguration of the institutions and new states in Europe. These are the matters in broad sense.

Three different reasons were indicated today concerning the armament of Turkey. Firstly, the Germans are arming the Bulgarians and so they do not want Turkey to be weak. Secondly, Turkey should stand powerful so that it can be ready in case of an outburst of anarchy in Bulgaria or in the Balkans. Thirdly, because the Germans failed in Russia and Africa, they might try to act in the center. For this reason, Turkey should again stay powerful.

I ended my words saying “We shall talk about the European Organization tomorrow.” At first he tried to give a quick and hurried answer but then let go.

It was late. We went to dinner. We were in a very happy and lightsome dialog. Marshall met with the generals. The impressions were positive. We sense an unbelievably good meaning like they want to arm us without demanding us to go to war.

The dinner was indeed cheerful. Churchill was speaking and joking. He and his real enjoyable jokes with the Prime Minister and friends enlivened the assembly. Hitler called Churchill a drunk and his generals a fool. But Hitler will eventually understand that it was him who was drunk and fool to believe he could win the war. At one stage, he said laughing in comfort that he wondered how Hitler would feel and do when he learns about our meeting. He indeed cheered the dinner table until late hours. He said that he will be our guest tomorrow as well and leave on Monday (February 1). We left to meet at 11 o’clock the next day. 

January 31, 1943

We are very calm and in a positive attitude. Menemencioğlu prepared my message to show it to Roosevelt as well as the copy of the statement just in case. He went up to the British both to talk about the message and to contact them in the morning. When he came later he said that they liked the message and that they considered leaving this afternoon. It seemed natural to us for them to leave since all the issues were almost handled in the conference. Toward 11.30, Churchill came with his two friends as yesterday and we held our fourth meeting. He was holding some paper in his hand. He began saying that there will be three stages of our conducts from now on. The first one, he was saying, was going to be armament of Turkey and the impartial period. The second one was going to be the period of construction of impartialness by liberal means. For this period, he mentioned going to Romania for petrol with planes and benefit from the Straits. The third period will be the time to act with the British. At this stage, they argued with Saraçoğlu. Our Prime Minister claimed that what he was saying would automatically lead us to war. Churchill said to leave aside benefiting from the Straits issue for now meaning that it was something to discuss later on. He talked about their planes flying over Switzerland and how they protested. This part of the discussion which made us think that they indeed might have a secret intentions ended easefully and from what has been said we sensed that until we decide independently the first period will continue. 

After that, Churchill showed me the telegram which he wrote to Stalin in November 24, 1942. In the telegram, it says that agreeing with the US President, it is now time for Turkey to aside with them in the war and for this Turkey needs an assurance, therefore; a big army made of their ninth and tenth armies are to be summoned soon in Syria. Stalin in his short answer in November 28 says that he agreed on the arrangements for Turkey to go to war with them and that this matter was indeed important to him. I gave these telegrams in English to my friends. Süreyya Anderman started translating them. Churchill was not pleased that they were taken, especially the one from Stalin and said that it did not belong to him. What we are discussing today was not leaving a good impression on me. Churchill said openheartedly that he showed me everything he had. But I said: “You made plans behind our back. What sort of meaning does this have?” He did not understand very well. They told him again. He was still claiming that there was nothing wrong with this and that he really showed me everything. I did not want to drag out the issue, so I continued reading the other long document.

In the first articles of this document it is indicated that after the absolute surrender of Germany and Italy, the two Anglo-Saxon states may turn their forces against Japan and in this case Russia may join them even though there is not any conventional agreement. In addition to that, although the goal is to take away the arms of these “guilty”states, they had no intentions of destroying and prevent them living a respectful and honorable life. In the articles it is also stated that since the defeated states will not be able to pay the war damage compensation based on the previous experiences, the victorious states will take the responsibility to reestablish the wrack Europe, especially Russia and surely this will last for many years. 

Also, how Turkey would be dragged to the war was mentioned. According to this, Turkey may go to war either by the Germany’s intercession or Turkey’s intervention in order to avoid a possible chaos arisen in the Balkans. Another possibility of Turkey going to war was that its aims may correspond to the ones in Atlantic Charter. But in the following lines, it was indicated explicitly that it is desired that Turkey should avoid going to war dragging itself to misery. With this, they showed that they wished a preparation process and right time. (In one of our discussions, Churchill said that “If you said that you want to go to war this moment, I would throw myself at your feet and try to talk you out of it and say that it is not the right time.)
In another article, the right time for Germans to be considered harmless and the possibility of an anarchy outbreak in the Balkans was mentioned in a way that it showed that they deemed Turkey to go to war in the very last stage.

It was also said that Turkey should stay among the victorious states establishing the peace for its safety.

In one part of the article, it was said that even though it could not be known for sure if the victorious states would live in harmony or they may argue, still it was most likely that the harmony would be preserved. In another part, it was mentioned that Russia will be weary after the war and England and US will help Russia, hence the friendship will continue its existence. The European organization was said to be made of the big states, groups of small states and Asia Minor states.

These details in the document attracted our attention immediately and relieved us. The document had a good influence over us and Churchill was pleased with this. He wanted to name the document and for this he gave the heading Pensées Matinales. I said to Churchill: “The target is practically these details. And if you act accordingly, then you will achieve everything.”

After, Churchill, his friends and mine started remarking about the official statement. By discussing extensively the two projects, a very detailed and compelling statement was created. During the discussion of the articles in the statement, Churchill declaimed complaining at one stage: “Yesterday the President said: “What is the reason for all these things that you are giving us?” now the House of Commons will ask me the same question, what am I going to answer? If there are few indefinite expressions in the statement, I will show them. So please do not take them from me.” They came to the agreement with our Prime Minister that when presenting the statement to the House of Commons, Churchill will say that they neither wanted nor gave a commitment. Our Prime Minister will do the same. An important point noted in the statement is that England regards our policy with sympathy and understanding. With this, we notarized the fact to Churchill that despite the alliance treaty we were right not to go to war and right about sometimes bitter-sweet and sometimes very weary and depressed conflicts that we have been through in order to get by. And this was the same Churchill who insisted on Italy to go war and on us to go to war during the Italy- Greece war as well as during the advance of Germans in the Balkans and he never quit having these doubts.

He wanted a common meeting in order the official statement to be accepted by a document to which his soldiers agreed. We did this when we had lunch. The lunch was served while taking the English committee to Adana Square. Everybody at table seemed content. Churchill said that it was easy to talk and agree with us. He really seemed pleased. He proposed an official and showy toast. He talked about Turkey with good intentions. He said that they were at first the opponent of deceased Atatürk but now his admirer. He wished the best for us. I responded him by proposing a toast myself. I honored him saying he embodied the idealism, patriotism and energy. I wished wellness to the King of England, English state and our guest courageous English soldiers. Then we said farewell.