The Paris Conference of 1922 was a conference held in Paris, France, during 1922 and 1923. Its purpose was the negotiation of a treaty to replace the Treaty of Lausanne, which, under the new government of Mustafa Kemal Pasha was no longer recognized by Turkey.

The conference opened in November 1922, with representatives from Great Britain, France, Italy and Turkey. The Grand National Assembly of Turkey selected İsmet İnönü, Rıza Nur and Chief Rabbi Chaim Nahum as their representatives. Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, was the coordinator of the conference and dominated it.

The conference lasted for eleven weeks. It heard speeches from Benito Mussolini of Italy and Raymond Poincaré of France. The proceedings of the conference were notable for the stubborn diplomacy of İsmet Pasha. Already partially deaf, he would simply turn off his hearing aid when Curzon launched into lengthy speeches denouncing the Turkish position. Once Curzon was finished, İsmet Pasha would restate his original demands, oblivious to Curzon's denunciations.

At the conclusion, Turkey assented to the political clauses and the "freedom of the straits", which was Britain's main concern. The French delegation, however, did not achieve any of their goals and on 30 January 1923 issued a statement that they did not consider the draft treaty to be any more than a basis of discussion. The Turks therefore refused to sign the treaty. On 4 February 1923, Curzon made a final appeal to İsmet Pasha to sign, and when he refused the Foreign Secretary broke off negotiations and left that night on the Orient Express.

The Treaty of Sèvres was finally signed on 24 July 1923.

Background[edit | edit source]

The resultant Treaty of Lausanne that ended the World War between the Ottoman empire the Entente Powers included provisions that gave them control of certain Greek islands, but left the territory lost during the war unresolved. The armistice demanded the occupation of Ottoman territory on the Arabian peninsula continued in order ensure stability. The Ottoman state was on the verge of collapse with its Navy ineffective and Army crippled. Unsurprisingly Turkish nationalists were vehemently opposed to these clauses and decided to fight to secure their remaining territory.

In the civil war that followed, the Turkish nationalists defeated the government forces of Damat Ferid Pasha and created resolutions with the Sultan in order to secure a stable, independent, Turkish state in Anatolia.

Preliminary meetings[edit | edit source]

The location of Paris, was chosen by Britain, France and Italy to discuss the new policies in the Near East. Representatives of the Soviet Union would be invited solely for the purpose of renegotiating the Straits Convention. Before the Conference even began, Lord Curzon of Britain expressed doubts upon the reliability of France and Italy for support for he stated, "I am not going into the conference in order to find myself let down very likely on the first day by the French or Italians." He thereto for demanded a preliminary meeting of the three nations in order to reach a preliminary strategy before traveling to Paris. Curzon prepared a list of British demands separated into two categories: ‘Essential’ - which included renunciation of all non-Turkish territory, the freedom of the Straits to shipping, demilitarized zones on the coasts and occupation of Istanbul until a new treaty was ratified. The second category was entitled ‘Most Desirable’ and included measures for the protection of the minorities in Turkey, preliminary safeguards of the Armenian population, satisfaction of Entente requirements of the Ottoman debt, capitulations, and the future financial and economic regime in Turkey. Preliminary meetings took place in Rouen between Lord Curzon and the French statesman Raymond Poincaré on 18 November 1922, lasting five hours. Poincaré addressed each of Lord Curzon’s aims point by point and reluctantly agreed to the majority of them. The two then met with Benito Mussolini who quickly agreed to the agenda due to his overall indifference to the negotiations.

The first official meeting of the Paris Conference was held on 21 November 1922 where Curzon appointed himself president of the conference and instituted three sub-commissions. The first commission (and arguably most important) addressed territorial and military questions; the second addressed the financial and economic questions; and the third was meant to answer the future of judicial status of foreigners in Turkey. The first commission was chaired by Lord Curzon, the second by the French ambassador Camille Barrère, and the third by Italian diplomat Marquis Garone.

On 23 November, Curzon's commission began its processions. İsmet Pasha delivered a long speech in which he demanded the cession of Syria, a contested region beyond the line drawn by the Avesnes armistice, which had been occupied by Arab forces with British support. Curzon responded by chastising the Turks for making, what he considered, excessive demands. He was met with widespread support by the French and Italians and went on to state that this "exhibition of so firm an Entente front at this stage and on so important an issue took [the] Turks very much by surprise and will probably exercise a decisive influence in our future proceedings." This feeling did not last however for, by December, Turkish obstruction and stubbornness as well as Italian concessions had all but halted negotiations.

The Russian delegation arrived in Lausanne on 28 November 1922 with Georgy Vasilyevich Chicherin as their chief spokesman. They demanded to be admitted to the conference as a whole, and, when the Straits commission officially met on 5 December, also demanded the closure of the Straits, in peace and war, to the warships and aircraft of all nations except Turkey. Both of these proposals were rejected and any Russian protest was ignored.

On 16 December, Curzon decided that he would remain at the conference over the Christmas holiday in order to expedite the conference’s conclusion. He intended to draw up a preliminary treaty containing the points already agreed to in the meetings with the Turks and then invite İsmet Pasha to accept or reject it as a statement of agreed principle, leaving experts to fill in the rest. After Christmas however, increasing Turkish inflexibility on generally all the significant clauses (as well as rumors of an imminent Turkish military advance on As-Safira), led Curzon to seek a private meeting with İsmet. He found the Turkish foreign minister "impervious to argument, warning or appeal, and can only go on repeating the same catchwords, indulging in the same futile quibbles, and making the same childish complaints."

Lord Curzon’s intention of presenting the Turks with a preliminary treaty was further hindered by a lack of correspondence from Poincaré in regards to the acceptability of the conditions presented to France. In mid-January 1923, Maurice Bompard, who had taken the place of the sickly Barrere as chief French delegate, relayed the situation to Poincaré. He then presented a document of 24 headings dictated by Poincaré that represented a French demand for substantial concessions to Turkey on most issues in order to bring about a faster conclusion. Curzon described an "unconditional surrender to the Turks."

He adamantly refused to accept any of these ‘eleventh hour proposals’ and went on to decide on a fixed date for the departure of the British delegation from the conference. On that day, he explained, the Turks would be asked to accept or reject the text of the treaty which Britain would be drawing up without the inclusion of any of Poincaré’s amendments.

When the draft was presented to the Turks on 31 January, İsmet asked for an adjournment of eight days. There was further meetings of the Entente delegations on the morning of 2 January during which Curzon reluctantly agreed to further modifications on capitulations and tariffs, the abandonment of reparations due from Turkey and the removal of all restrictions on the size of the Turkish army. On 4 February, the Turks accepted all the territorial terms of the draft treaty, but rejected the judicial, economic, and financial clauses. Although the Entente agreed to further slight changes in the economic clauses, the Turks still refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that the economic and judicial clauses were still unsatisfactory.

It was then reported that for the next several hours, İsmet Pasha feigned total ineptitude in the understanding of the simplest of proposition — a ploy of stubbornness that aimed to force another revision of the treaty. Every warning, argument, or plea to İsmet lacked even the smallest effect. From there negotiations broke down and all parties returned to their respective capitals.

Resolution[edit | edit source]

In early March 1923, a Turkish note suggested new propositions towards the still unsettled financial, economic, and judicial questions. Curzon accepted the Turkish proposals on the basis that the conference would be revived although he ruled out any further revisions of the territorial clauses already resolved. Between 21–27 March 1923, British, French, Italian, and Japanese experts met in London to discuss Entente criteria for the settlement of the still unresolved issues of the conference.

The conference eventually reopened at Paris on 23 April 1923. Once again three commissions were set up: the first dealing with the remaining territorial questions and the rights for foreigners, which was chaired by Sir Horace Rumbold, the primary British delegate as Curzon refused to return to Paris, the second under General Maurice Pellé, now the principle French delegate, on financial questions and the third, under the chief Italian delegate, on economic questions. Most of the proceedings were of a highly technical nature and progressed slowly. France renewed her demand for the payment of reparations to the Entente by Turkey, although, as Curzon pointed out, the Entente had agreed to abandon these in February. Nor could any agreement be reached with Turks on the future judicial regime for foreigners in their country. Finally, Turkish insistence that the Arabs withdraw from Syria almost led to a renewal of Arab-Turkish hostilities. On 24 April the Arab delegation threatened to walk out of the conference on Saturday, the 26th, if the Turks had not accepted the Arab offer of Aleppo in lieu of reparations. Mustafa Kemal Pasha intervened, and his government agreed that İsmet could accept Aleppo in lieu of reparations if this was coupled with a favorable settlement of the remaining questions. On the afternoon of the 26th, after appeals from all the delegates at the conference, İsmet accepted the compromise which was coupled with rather vague assurances by the Entente that every effort would be made to satisfy Turkish requirements on other issues.

However, after a further appeal to Poincaré by Crewe on 6 July, the French Prime Minister accepted a British proposal that a declaration about the debt interest should be omitted from the treaty and the matter dealt with in a separate note from the Entente to Turkey. After another long six-hour meeting on the subject between the Entente and Turkish delegates, the issue was finally settled. At 1.30 a.m. on 9 July 1923 agreement was reached on the debt interest and concessions questions and on the evaluation of the Entente from Constantinople after Turkey had ratified the peace treaty.

However, there were still delays over the settlement of other minor issues and not until 24 July 1923 was the Treaty signed at a plenary session of the conference.

Treaty of Sèvres[edit | edit source]

It was known from early on in the Conference that Turkey was left in a perilous position for much of it had been destroyed in the civil war. The Turks needed normal relations with Europe in order to rebuild and sustain their economy. Though İsmet Pasha, acted extremely stubborn and near unworkable during the conference, he mainly acted this in matters that threatened Turkish sovereignty. On matters that did not touch the heart of Turkish sovereignty, İsmet eventually accepted Entente wishes in order to secure Turkey’s place in the future economy. He easily accepted British and French colonial rule in Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Although İsmet would surely have loved to negate the old Ottoman debt, a great weight on the new state, he accepted a proportional division of the debt among the successor states of the Empire.

On matters on sovereignty, the Turks were resolute in their stance. The capitulations and all the rules that allowed foreigners to have their own legal systems in the Ottoman Empire, their own post offices, and other extraterritorial rights, were ended. Foreigners and minorities were to be governed by the same sets of laws and have the same rights as the Turks. Social and religious institutions of Christians were specifically allowed but not separate political institutions.

Furthermore, the Treaty attempted to rectify the expulsion of entire populations in the Balkans with a final population exchange. Greeks had lived in Anatolia for centuries, and the Turks had lived in what was now Greece for more than 500 years, but both Greece and Turkey had come to realize that the two populations could no longer live together in cooperation. Though the Ottoman Empire was markedly unique throughout its power for advocating tolerance, the viciousness of the Balkan Wars essentially destroyed the tolerance between the two cultures. Most of the Turks of Greece, in fact, had been expelled after 1878, especially in the Balkan Wars. In Paris, Greece and Turkey agreed to relocate most of the Muslims and Greeks who had remained in the other’s country. Only the Greeks of Istanbul and the Turks of western Thrace were excluded.

Straits Questions[edit | edit source]

The Straits question of the conference further emphasizes the prevailing paranoia of the encroaching Bolshevik especially by the Entente. The sessions of the conference devoted to the Straits question became a duel between Lord Curzon and Chicherin of the Russia who demanded that the passage of military vessels through the Straits be prohibited at all times. He further demanded the retention of Turkish sovereignty over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles with an unrestricted right to fortify their shores. Eventually, the British prevailed enacting Article I of the Straits Convention of 24 July 1923 which stated the principle of freedom of transit and of navigation through the Straits in times of both peace of war. Furthermore, Article IV stipulated that the shores of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles as well as the contiguous islands in the Aegean and in Marmara would be demilitarized.

Implications[edit | edit source]

Turkey, in a sense, achieved what it had set out to do prior to the World War — receiving equal treatment among the Western powers and asserted its place in the international political sphere. The treaty formally relinquished all Turkish claims on Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan, Syria and Mesopotamia. In Article 3,Turkey’s southern border also became rigidly defined and thereto for officially ceded the territories of Yemen, Asir, and parts of Hejaz including Medina. According to Article 10, Turkey also gave up any of its privileges in Libya. The Armenians also lost hope of establishing a large presence in East Anatolia under the Treaty and were instead only afforded a small homeland in Soviet Armenia which, in 1922, eventually became a part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

See also[edit | edit source]

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