Written by Edward Corse.
Neutral Turkey was geographically surrounded by the Second World War. The Germans occupied land to the north and west; Italy occupied parts of Greece; the British were to the south in places such as Cyprus, Egypt and Iraq; the French were in Syria; and Russia, Turkey’s traditional enemy, loomed in the east in the form of the Soviet Union.
To try to keep itself out of the war, Turkey signed a number of agreements: a Treaty of Friendship with Britain in April 1939 followed by a Tripartite Agreement with Britain and France in October 1939; then later a Treaty of Non-Aggression with Germany in June 1941. Working to balance the interests of the warring parties was the very essence of maintaining neutrality.
However, being neutral did not mean that the war had no impact. Both Britain and Germany had Ambassadors in Ankara – Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen and Franz von Papen, respectively – and the cities of Ankara and Istanbul were awash with their spies and propaganda.