Episode 62 – Lausanne Treaty – The trust deed for the new Republic of Türkiye

The Treaty of Lausanne (ToL) settled many conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies since the onset of WWI. It was signed after a seven-month conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 24, 1923, by representatives of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on one side and Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and others on the other.

The ToL recognized the boundaries of the modern state of Türkiye. The Allies dropped their demands of autonomy for a Turkish Kurdistan and Turkish cession of territory to Armenia and abandoned all capitulations and controls over Türkiye’s finances. Türkiye, in return, made no claim to its former Arab provinces and recognized British possession of Cyprus.

The Turkish straits between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea were declared open to all shipping. This section of the ToL was later updated with the Montreux Convention signed on July 20, 1936. Unspeakable atrocities committed by the Greek army and its local proxies immediately following May 15, 1919, Greek invasion of Izmir under British encouragement and support, ignited the Turkish War of Independence. Mustafa Kemal Pasha and some of his close group of comrades-in-arm left Istanbul on board the famous boat, Bandirma, the next day and landed in Samsun on May 19, 1919, the date considered the start of the Turkish Independence War.

Acceptance of the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Sèvres on August 10, 1920, by the representatives of the defeated Ottoman Empire, solidified the Turkish resolve to liberate the homeland from foreign invaders. The Turks left exhausted by the Balkan Wars and World War One, stunned the West by winning a series of bloody battles with the Greek invaders, pushing them to the sea at Izmir on September 9, 1922, thanks to the military brilliance and resolute leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. Local proxies, like some Ottoman Greeks and Ottoman-Armenians, who had joined the Greek invaders in committing war crimes and hate crimes against Turks and feared retaliations, left Western Anatolia with the fleeing Greek armies.

The Armistice of Mudanya was signed on October 11, 1922, providing for the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations. Prof. Sevtap DEMİRCİ of Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkiye, covered this subject in detail in her white paper titled “FROM SEVRES TO LAUSANNE: THE ARMENIAN QUESTION (1920 to 1923.) With the Sevres Treaty, the Allies gave the Armenian nationalists most of what Armenians demanded. Decisive Turkish Nationalist military victories against the Armenians in the East and the Greeks in the West made the Sevres treaty a stillborn document. This compelled the Allies to meet the triumphant Turks on equal terms at Lausanne, the text of which did not contain any reference at all to an Armenian state or national home.

Thus, the Lausanne Treaty put an end to the centuries-old Eastern Question as well as its integral part, the Armenian Question. The major discussants and inviting states were Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. The observing states were Greece, the Serb-Croat-Sloven State, Romania, and the U.S. When border issues were discussed, then Soviet Russia and Bulgaria were invited. And when trade and residency issues were on the table, then countries like Belgium and Portugal were brought in. Upon persistent demands by Armenians, whom the Turks would not allow at the table, the events of 1915 were discussed but no direct references to Armenians were permitted in the text. The ToL.

The issues related to the Armenians were dealt with indirectly. One issue concerning was Armenian territorial demands which the Allies brought up on several occasions but the Turkish representative refused to argue that the issue had been resolved in the prior treaties, namely, the Treaty of Alexandropol, Treaty of Moscow, and the Treaty of Kars (October 13, 1921.) Armenian population issues arising from the Temporary Resettlement of Armenians in 1915-16, such as ownership rights of properties, new state identities, reclaiming old Turkish passports, and more were covered indirectly and thoroughly in Articles 30, 31, 32, and 33. Article 13 banned Greece from establishing any naval base or military fortification on the formerly-Ottoman islands of the Aegean which article is being violated by Greece in the last few decades, causing grave concern to Türkiye. Article 59 recognized Greece’s war crimes and obligated Greece to pay reparations for atrocities committed between 1919 and 1922 in Western Anatolia.

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