TURKEY IN BRITISH POLICY TOWARDS SYRIA AND LEBANON IN 1940 – 1941
After collapse of metropolitan France in June 1940, the French in the Syria and Lebanon swore allegiance to the Vichy Government. This situation was hard to accept by the British. According to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the occupation of these territories by enemy forces could have had most serious strategic consequences since it would cut of land communications with Turkey and would immediately threaten the whole of British interests in the Middle East. Due to that threat, London was forced to rethink its policy towards French Levant. One of the discussed measures was a proposition to involve Turkey in solving this problem. Turkey was bound with Britain with reciprocal security pact since October 1939. Moreover, the situation in Syria and Lebanon was also a threat for Turkish security. It was thought that these arguments would act in favor of Turkish involvement. Although in London everyone counted on active attitude of Turkey, there was no agreement as to its nature. While Churchill, Eden and the Chiefs of Staff were willing to agree on Turkish occupation of Syria and Lebanon, the Foreign Office was definitely against this solution. The first option eventually won. The first serious talks about Turkish involvement in Levant question took place in Ankara in January 1941, during the Anglo-Turkish military conversations. It was agreed then that if Turkey had entered the war, Turkish and British armies would have occupied Syria and Lebanon. The deteriorating military situation on the Eastern Mediterranean forced the United Kingdom to intervene in the French Levant in June 1941. Th e British government encouraged Turks to take part in that operation (“Exporter”). However, Turkish government rejected that offer. Turkey was still out of war and did not want to worsen her relations with the Third Reich.