Negotiating Peace: The Treaty of Lausanne and Birth of Modern Türkiye

The upcoming July 24, 2023, marks the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, widely regarded as one of the most successful treaties signed to foster peace among nations following the First World War. This significant treaty not only holds historical importance in the establishment of modern Türkiye but also serves as a testament to the crucial role of diplomacy. In light of the challenges faced by the international community today, which often elicit criticism for their inability to address global issues, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the Treaty of Lausanne. By studying this treaty, we can gain insights into the potential of diplomatic attempts to mitigate conflicts ans wars. Undoubtedly, the Treaty of Lausanne stands as an indisputable example of how diplomacy and negotiation can forge a path towards long-term peace among nations.

The Lausanne Treaty gets its name from Lausanne – the Swiss city where negotiations among parties were held. Following the end of the Turkish War of Independence, England, France, and Italy teamed up as Allies seeking peace talks with Istanbul and Ankara beginning October 27th, 1922 through the Armistice of Mudanya. The Grand Vizier Ahmed Tevfik Pasha sent a telegram requesting collaboration from both cities so as to prevent further harm to their nation. He suggested that an additional representative be elected for Ankara instead of relying on just one who existed previously but this proposal faced criticism during a meeting with leaders at Grand National Assembly due to possible exploitation by Allies amidst ongoing discussions over territorial boundaries resulting post-WWI.

Having succeeded in the Mudanya negotiations, İsmet Pasha was chosen to lead the peace talks. This decision led to Yusuf Kemal’s resignation from his role as Deputy of Foreign Affairs and İsmet İnönü taking over. The government delegation comprised İsmet İnönü as a chief delegate, Rıza Nur as a second delegate, and Hasan Saka (former Deputy of Economics) also serving as a delegate. Alongside this team were various advisors including Members of Parliament such as Celâl Bayar, Zekai Apaydın, Lemi Saltık, and Zülfü Tiğrel; while Münir Ertegün and Yusuf Hikmet Bayur from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also offered their expertise on certain topics. Furthermore, experts like Tevfik Bıyıklıoğlu, Tahir Taner, Şükrü Kaya, and Fuat Ağralı also supported the team. The government’s proposed list has passed through official channels and successfully secured an endorsement from the respected authority of the Grand National Assembly.

The opening ceremony for the Lausanne Conference occurred at Casino de Montbenon on November 20th, 1922 instead of November 13th, 1922 as initially planned. Although temporarily interrupted during negotiations, it proceeded in two separate sessions – with Session One concluding by February 4th, 1923 and Session Two which started on April 23 after a break of more than two and a half months, ended on July 24, 1923. The participating teams numbered nine including Türkiye’s representatives. Apart from Türkiye, eight states were included as negotiators for the conference. Furthermore, it was projected that certain states would take part in deliberations pertaining to the Straits and commerce-related issues.

The Lausanne Project,The Agence Rol Collection, İsmet İnönü Pasha and Ahmet Ferit Tek.

Multiple nations attended this conference with different levels of involvement. The initiating countries; were England, France, Italy, and Japan alongside Türkiye, Greece, Romania, and Yugoslavia, and invited experts from Soviet Russia, Bulgaria, Belgium, and Portugal along with an observer, The United States. With the aim of pursuing peace negotiations with Türkiye, England assumed a prominent role among the Allies and sent a substantial delegation led by Foreign Minister Lord Curzon to Lausanne. In the opening session, Curzon had the privilege of speaking immediately after the Swiss president. However, İsmet İnönü, recognizing the significance of his own position as one of the principal parties involved, expressed the fundamental principle that must be upheld: the freedom and independence, which all civilized nations deserve.

On November 21, the negotiations commenced at the grand hall of the Château d’Ouchy. The Allies established a set of guidelines to steer the course of the conference according to their preferences. Lord Curzon assumed the role of president, with Massigly, the French delegate, appointed as the general secretary. Additionally, they assumed control over the presidency of the third commission, which would address the initial issues on the agenda. İsmet İnönü expressed his desire for one of the commission chairmanships to be assigned to Türkiye and for a Turkish assistant to be appointed to the position of secretary general. However, these requests were not granted, and only Reşit Saffet Atabinen served on the writing committee.

All these circumstances foreshadowed a challenging negotiation process. As remarked by a contemporary observer, the Turks emerged as victors during the conference. However, the Turkish-Greek issue was largely overshadowed, as the focus shifted towards the settlement and regulation of relations between Türkiye and Europe. The conference encompassed the broader question of the East, encompassing various Eastern matters. Greek Prime Minister Elefteros Venizelos, backed by Curzon’s support, adopted a tone reminiscent of a representative from a victorious nation. England, on its part, displayed determination to retain control over Mosul, the oil-rich region encompassed by the National Pact’s (Mîsâk-ı Millî) borders.

Türkiye sought 4 million gold in compensation from Greece for the destruction caused in Anatolia. Conversely, the Allies demanded 50 million gold as compensation for the expenses incurred by their armies during the occupation of Türkiye, as well as an additional 15 million gold to account for the losses suffered by their citizens. Ultimately, an agreement was reached when both sides relinquished their respective compensation demands. Türkiye surrendered the Turkish gold that had been delivered to them by the German and Austrian governments at the end of World War I, and also provided payment for the ships ordered from England.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of all involved- fundamental differences remained unresolved regarding numerous issues such as the Islands, Mosul, and war reparations requested from Greece. Eventually, the three allied states created a prepared text that was to be either completely accepted or rejected by the Turkish delegation on January 31st 1923. Curzon warned İnönü that this was Türkiye’s best chance to find a resolution, and that failure to accept it would lead them astray into « the invisible darkness of Asia ». İnönü stood firm on his commitment of not agreeing to any deal that would entrain imprisonment for his country. After the session, Curzon decided to leave Lausanne. The talks came to a halt and as a result, the Turkish delegation returned home.

After receiving objections from Türkiye the three allied states responded on February 29th. On March 8th negotiations resumed as Türkiye presented their counter proposals to the agreement. In April 1923, the second meeting in Lausanne began, with Sir Horace Rambdold replacing Curzon. Unfortunately, this time, economic and financial issues caused some difficulties since Greece demanded for compensations. Eventually, Greece withdrew from Karaağaç Station and handed it over to Türkiye to resolve the compensation issue. Despite efforts, no agreement on the Turkish-Iraqi border was reached and was left for future negotiations.

The Lausanne Project,The Agence Rol Collection, du Lausanne Palace

The negotiations concluded on July 17th, but the signing of the treaty was postponed until July 24th to allow the delegations to obtain the required authorization from their respective governments. As İsmet İnönü waited for a response regarding the permission he had requested for a significant period, he eventually reached out to Mustafa Kemal. With the authority granted to him as the President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the Commander-in-Chief, İnönü signed the treaty on July 24, 1923, during a ceremony held at Lausanne University Hall.

It’s vital to understand that when discussing The Treaty of Lausanne we aren’t dealing with a single document but rather an amalgamation consisting of the primary peace treaty alongside seventeen protocols or conventions attached thereto. In total, there are one hundred forty-three articles organized into four parts. Section One deals with land ownership rights along with various political matters relevant to minority groups residing inside Türkiye’s borders (Articles One through Forty-Five). Financial issues are brought up at length in Section Two (Articles Forty Six through Sixty Three) while economic provisions take center stage in Part Three (Articles Sixty Four through One Hundred). Lastly Section Four (Articles One Hundred and One through One Hundred Forty Three) addresses transportation and healthcare provisions. Although most contentious issues separated both parties had to be covered during negotiations preceding its official signing the Mosul issue remained unresolved. Specifically, discussions centered around determining the Turkish – Iraqi border which was referred to as the Mosul issue. However, Article 3 acknowledged Türkiye and Great Britains willingness to amicably resolve this issue within nine months of Treaty signatures.

The main provisions of the treaty can be summarized as follows:

Borders: The Turkish-Greek border in Thrace was defined by the « thalweg » of the Meriç River. As part of this agreement Imbros (Gökçeada), Bozcaada, and Tavşan Islands were given over to Greece while Karaağaç remained under Turkish control. Following Greek troops’ withdrawal from Imroz and Bozcaada – both previously occupied by Greeks – Türkiye set up an administrative system that included local participation as per treaty conditions. Naval bases or fortifications could not be built by Greece on Lesbos (Midilli), Chios (Sakız), Samos (Sisam), or Nicara (Nikarya) thanks to Articles 13-14 and Appendices 5 & 15 provisions mentioned in The Treaty of Lausanne. Italy retained control of Rhodes (Rodos) and the Dodecanese Islands (Oniki Adalar), instead of them being returned, as originally agreed in The Treaty of Ouchy, according to Article 15. The British had declared the annexation of Cyprus in 1914 which remained under their control after the Treaty, however, Turkish residents could obtain citizenship within the following two years (Article 20-21). In addition, it was decided that Egypt and Sudan were both under British rule (Article 17). The renunciation of rights over Tripoli (Libya) was similarly recognized (Article 22). To establish the border between Türkiye and Syria reference was made to the Treaty of Ankara reached with France on October 20, 1921. This accord stipulated that Turkish heritage would be conserved for those residing in Iskenderun and Antakya.

Capitulations: With the provision of Article 28, « The parties to the treaty declare that they accept the complete abolition of the capitulations in Türkiye, each party in relation to itself, » the capitulations in Türkiye became a thing of the past.

Minorities: The Treaty of Lausanne is an important agreement between Türkiye and Allied Powers as it accorded several rights to non-Muslim minorities who lived within territorial boundaries (Articles 37-44). While there was no mention in particular about Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate being appointed as representatives of Greeks – considered as minority population – some discussions during peace negotiations saw Turkish officials deciding toward their expulsion from national borders. Ultimately though it was decided that they would lose their « ecumen » status (i.e., universal), and move into religious institutions without bearing any political duties.

Straits: In addition to this key point underlined by Articles 37- 44 is another vital aspect: Article 23 stipulates unrestricted passage via sea or air through straits during both peacetimes and wartime; ensuring uninterrupted flow is thus facilitated. To ensure compliance with constraints laid out within this clause add-on protocol included naming commissions chaired by Turkish representatives consisting other representatives from countries like England, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, and Serbia – the US was also given the option of joining. In adherence to the treaty, a distinct territory adjacent to both shores of the Dardanelles and Istanbul Straits had to be kept nonmilitary. But there was an exception made for Türkiye; it could maintain its military force with up to 12,000 soldiers stationed in this vicinity.

Population Exchange: Protocol No. 6 indicates that a substantial portion of the Greek community residing in Türkiye and the Turkish community dwelling in Greece would be subjected to mutual population exchange. In accordance with respective policies at the time in both Greece and Türkiye, certain Greeks living in Imbros (Imroz), Bozcaada, and Istanbul along with Turks residing in Western Thrace were not included in the population exchange when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923.

While most members of Türkiye’s Grand National Assembly welcomed this landmark treaty for peace, some voiced concerns regarding unresolved issues surrounding Mosul and Dodecanese Island (Oniki Ada) war reparations. However, on August 2nd that year, representatives ratified both the treaty itself as well as its annexes with a vote count largely in favor (213 to 14). Significantly for not only Türkiye but also nations across the world – particularly those who played crucial roles during World War I – this treaty marked an established moment for an independent Turkish state that gained recognition from major global powers; furthermore, it represented how many political objectives outlined for the Turkish Independence War through National Pact (Mîsâk-ı Millî) had indeed become a reality over tough times.

In conclusion, the Treaty of Lausanne stands as a testament to the power of diplomacy in achieving lasting peace and serves as a valuable lesson for future generations. Peace is the ultimate goal that should be pursued by all nations, and it is the responsibility of every individual to work towards its establishment. In the 21st century and beyond, peace is of utmost importance that we uphold this principle and actively advocate for it in all corners of the world. Without any doubt, by doing so, we can ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

Ümmügülsüm Çavuş
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Image de couverture : The Lausanne Project, DERSO AND KELÈN’S CARICATURE OF THE SIGNING.

Mah, N. (1924), The Settlement of Lausanne, American Journal of International Law, 18(4), 696-706.

Menning, R. (2023), Lausanne Conference (1922–23), In The Encyclopedia of Diplomacy, G. Martel (Ed.).

Serafettin Turan (2003), Lozan Antlaşması, TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi.

Cemil Bilsel (1998). Lozan Cilt I – II. Sosyal Yayinlari.