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VIII. The Making of the Treaty of Sèvres of 10 August 1920

  • A. E. Montgomery (a1)

The Treaty of Sèvres was stillborn. It was signed on 10 August 1920, as a treaty of peace between the principal Allied Powers and Turkey, but was never ratified. During the succeeding two years, the triumphs of Mustapha Kemal were to render the projected peace terms obsolete and to necessitate the negotiation of an entirely new treaty. But the failure of the Treaty of Sevres cannot be attributed to Kemal alone. The seeds of disaster lay in the conflicting interests of the Allies themselves.

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1 Mustapha Kemal Pasha (Atatürk), a general of the Ottoman Imperial Army raised a rebellion in Asia Minor during 1919 and eventually overthrew the sultan and established the Turkish Republic in 1923.

2 The principal published workers on the Turkish Peace Settlement are: Frangulis, A. P., La Grèce et la Crise Mondiale (2 vols., Paris, 1926);Howard, H. N., The Partition of Turkey (Oklahoma, 1931);George, D. Lloyd, The Truth about the Peace Treaties (2 vols., London, 1939);Nicolson, H., Curzon: The Last Phase 1919–1925 (London, 1934);Toynbee, A. J., The Western Question in Greece and Turkey (London, 1922). The text of the Treaty of Sèvres is printed in Command Paper 964 (LI), 1920.

3 DBFP (Documents on British Foreign Policy, ser. 1), IV, 589, 685.

4 Article 9 of the Treaty of London, 26 Apr. 1915, states: ‘… if France, Great Britain or Russia occupy any territories during the course of the war, the Mediterranean region bordering on the province of Adalia … shall be reserved to Italy who shall be entitled to occupy it.’ Command Paper 671 (LI), 1920.

5 DBFP, IV, 3.

6 The Ottoman Debt Council was based upon the Decree of Mouharrem of 1881. This decree had regulated the relationship between the Turkish Government and the European financiers (who had raised a loan with a nominal capital of 5,297,676,500 francs) by establishing a European Council with responsibility for the administration of the Debt and for safeguarding the interests of the bond-holders. When this Debt Council had secured direct control of 50 per cent of the most important state revenues, which were placed under lien for the servicing of the Debt, it had become the most important economic institution in the Ottoman Empire. Since the French held 60 per cent of the bonds they exercised a predominant influence upon the Council. Archives de la Service l'Historique de l'Armée, Vincennes, xxv, fo. 16, 5 Mar. 1923.

7 Service l'Historique, 19/1755, Pichon to the ambassador in Washington, approx. 30 Oct. 1919.

8 DBFP, II, 55.

9 The Times, 11 Nov. 1919.

10 DBFP, IV, 631.

11 French figures for trade with Turkey, 1910: England 35%; Austria 21%; Germany 21%; Italy 12%; France 11%. Archives Nationales, Paris, F.12/9055, Mougin Report, 20 July 1919.

12 DBFP, IV, 631–4.

13 The Enos-Midia line had first been proposed as the Turco-Bulgarian frontier after the first Balkan War of 1912–13. Though it took no account of the military geography of Eastern Thrace, it had the merit of placing Constantinople beyond the range of modern artillery fire, and, moreover, it constituted the shortest line between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

14 Cab. (Cabinet Papers in P.R.O.) 23/20/1 (20), 6 Jan. 1920.

15 DBFP, IV, 658.

16 DBFP, IV, 658.

17 DBFP, IV, 665. Appendix D.

18 The Dodecanese is a chain of islands (of which the largest is Rhodes), inhabited by Greeks, and situated off the shore of Asia Minor. During the course of the Italo-Turkish war of 1911–12, Italy had occupied these islands, and by the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne of 16 Oct. 1912 had promised to evacuate them when the last Turkish troops left Tripoli. Italy hoped to retain the islands thus furthering her ambition to become a major mediterranean power. Although she possessed no legal title to the Dodecanese, she resisted British pressure to relinquish her prize, and through skilful prevarication, was still in possession when war broke out between the Entente and Turkey in 1914. See Richard Bosworth, ‘Great Britain and Italy's acquisition of the Dodecanese 1912/15’, The Historical Journal, XIII (1970).

19 DBFP, IV, 672, 676, 680.

20 L.G. (Lloyd George Papers, Beaverbrook Library) F.13/3/12/2/11, prime minister to Curzon, 10 Dec. 1919.

21 DBFP, VII, 6.

22 DBFP, vn, 6. The decision to leave the Turks in Constantinople was speedily leaked to the French press, who represented Britain's abandonment of her former negotiating position as a triumph for French diplomacy.

23 DBFP, VII, 14, 40.

24 DBFP, VII, 9.

25 DBFP, VII, 42.

26 DBFP, VII, 20, 42.

27 Archives F.30/1156, President, Ottoman Debt to Inspector-General of Finances Ottoman to M. Marsal (minister of finance), 4 Apr. 1920.

28 DBFP, VII, 70, 77.

29 The Capitulations were a complicated system of bilateral arrangements governing the relations of the Porte with the outside world. They restricted Turkish trading rights; her right to impose customs and harbour dues; and her right to export Turkish goods. They gave to foreign nationals a wide range of extra-territorial privileges, including immunity from taxation, and sequestration, and rights of consular jurisdiction. See P.R.O., Confidential Print, 424/254/3886. Memorandum by Institute for Historical Research, 1922.

30 DBFP, VII, 44.

31 DBFP, VII, 11

32 DBFP, VII, 12.

33 DBFP, VII, 15, 18.

34 See above, p. 776, note 4.

35 Cmd. 963 (LI), 1920. DBFP, VII, 19, 29.

36 DBFP, IV, ch. III.

37 Cab. 21/174, conference in Paris, 15 Jan. 1920. Frangulis, op. cit. II, 128.

38 DBFP, VII, 7.

39 DBFP, VII, 8.

40 The committee based its findings upon American figures regarded as the most impartial available: Moslems 325,000; Greeks 375,000; Armenians 18,000; Jews 40,000. Cab. 29/29/38, Smyrna Committee report, 21 Feb. 1920.

41 DBFP, VII, 14.

42 DBFP, VII, 57.

43 DBFP, VII, 4.

44 DBFP, VII, 34.

45 DBFP, VII, 71.

46 DBFP, VII, 46, 71.

47 DBFP, VIII, 7.

48 DBFP, IV, 681; VII, 46.

49 DBFP, XIII, 48.

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The Historical Journal
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