Tasker H. Bliss Papers

Captain B. A. G. Fuller 39 to Lieutenant Colonel William B. Wallace 40

Dear Colonel Wallace: I heard this morning from Jones, with respect to the accuracy of the Russian version of the London Agreement, as published in the London Times.41 He had submitted the [Page 467] copy I furnished him to General di Robilant,42 who had gone over it with Sonnino. He tells me that the Russian version agrees with the Italian, save at two points. The wording of Note 1, Article 4, as given by the Times, differs from the Italian version, as does also that of Article 15, which deals with the exclusion of the Vatican from peace negotiations. There seems to be some mystery as to what these differences are. I am told that they are unimportant, but I cannot at present find out in what they consist.

I telephoned Dwight43 this afternoon, asking him to inform Colonel Grant44 that there is no gossip current here regarding the sending of the Italian troops to Libya. I am told, however, that for the last three months the Italians have been massing troops at Rhodes and at last reports had about 10,000 men there.

I enclose two copies of the memorandum about the Saint Jean de Maurienne conference.

Yours sincerely,

B. A. G. Fuller

Memorandum Concerning the Saint Jean de Maurienne Conference45

The Saint Jean de Maurienne conference was held on April 19th, 1917, in a railway carriage at Saint Jean de Maurienne. There were present Lloyd George, Ribot, Boselli, and Sonnino, who were later joined by Barrère, French Ambassador at Rome, Raggi, Italian Ambassador at Paris, Major General Sir G. M. W. MacDonough, Lieut-Col. Sir Maurice Hankey, Signor di Martino and Count Aldrovandi.

The first subject discussed was that of Italian aspirations in Asia Minor.

In order to understand clearly the purpose of this conference it should be remembered that the so-called London Agreement of April 26th, 1915, between Italy, France, Great Britain and Russia, promised to Italy an equitable share in the division of Turkey in Asia. Italy was to receive territory in the neighborhood of Adalia, where she had already acquired rights and interests under an Anglo-Italian treaty. At the same time the Russian claims to Constantinople had already been under discussion between France and Great Britain and the conversations between the two governments had resulted in the Sykes-Picot agreement of May 9th, 1916.46

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There had also been recent discussions between Balfour and the French and Italian ambassadors with a view to delimiting the Italian sphere in Asia Minor. These, however, had failed owing to the irreconcilable nature of the French and Italian claims. Italy demanded inclusion within her sphere of Mersina and Adana, but the French refused to renounce their claims to either place. The British Foreign Office was not disposed to include Smyrna in the Italian sphere and proposed, instead, an arrangement giving Italy a sphere starting at the Gulf of Scala Nova on the west, including Konia, and thence running east and striking the French sphere near Ulukishla and thence coming down to the Mediterranean coast near Anamur. The Italians, however, refused to accept this scheme.

At the Saint Jean conference Lloyd George, I have reason to believe, submitted a new plan drawn up by the British General Staff, which gave Italy a sphere including Smyrna and a second hinterland sphere bounded by a line running from a point south of Adramyti, on the Gulf of the same name, north to Balikesri and thence to Kutaya, thence south, excluding the Bagdad Railway, to Eregli, excluding Konia, and thence south to the coast to a point just west of Mersina. This arrangement would give the Turkish state which was to have been allowed to exist in a portion of Asia Minor, free access to the sea through the port of Selefkeh and would have enabled the Italians to construct branch lines from the Bagdad Railway to the coast.

Ribot had no objections to such an arrangement. Sonnino, at first, seemed satisfied with it, but after consulting experts made difficulties and increased his demand. He claimed that if only one or two Allies could realize their aspirations in Asia Minor at the end of the war Italy should be given compensation elsewhere. His idea seems to have been that although Great Britain, France and Russia might be able to realize their aspirations in Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia, Italy was not likely to be so fortunate in Asia Minor.

Sonnino put forward the following motion in French, the text of which I have seen and been able hastily to translate:

“It is understood that if an agreement should be reached at the Peace Conference such that the three powers are unable to share equally in the total or partial possession of the territories considered in the above convention, an understanding shall be reached establishing the compensation due to the power which may be obliged to content itself with a sphere of influence only, to make up for the difference between such a simple sphere of influence (to be recognized by Turkey and the Allies or by the Allies alone) and actual territorial possessions.”

Lloyd George, however, objected to this. He pointed out that Italy was doing nothing to help in the war against Turkey, whereas [Page 469] Great Britain had in Turkey 300,000 troops, exclusive of Salonika operations. He felt that if Italy had ambitions in Asia Minor she ought to contribute to their realization. He offered to concentrate a greater portion of the British forces in Palestine against Turkey and help Italy realize her aspirations, provided that Italy would send infantry to Salonika to replace the British infantry on the Macedonian front. Sonnino, however, refused and declined even to submit the proposition to his government or to Cadorna. Lloyd George, I am told, then hinted that Sonnino was trying to obtain, by blackmail elsewhere, what Italy was not making any effort to earn in Turkey. He refused to consider the question of compensation elsewhere, for Italy, but agreed that at the end of the war Italian claims would be discussed. He then put forward a resolution, the English text of which is as follows:

“It is understood that if at any time when peace is declared the total or partial possession of the territory contemplated in the agreement come to between France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia, as to disposal of parts of the Ottoman Empire, cannot be fully accorded to any one or more of these powers then the interests of the powers concerned will again be taken into equitable consideration.”

This resolution, after much discussion and amendments, which have been included in the text, was accepted.

Sonnino, however, raised another difficulty. He pointed out that the plan proposed by the British General Staff did not include Konia, which, however, had been included in Balfour’s proposal.

Lloyd George replied, that the General Staff scheme was an entirely new plan and was much more generous to Italy, as it included Smyrna and the territory west of Mersina in the sphere accorded Italy. Konia was excluded in order to give it to Turkey as the new capital. Sonnino, however, insisted and finally Lloyd George agreed to consult the British Cabinet, and to have further negotiations with Sonnino regarding the matter. He also promised to send Sonnino a map embodying the British General Staff’s plan.47

  1. On the staff of the American Permanent Military Representative on the Supreme War Council at Versailles.
  2. Secretary to General Bliss.
  3. For a translation of the Russian version of the Treaty of London, see Foreign Relations, 1917, supp. 2, vol. i, p. 497.
  4. Italian Permanent Military Representative on the Supreme War Council.
  5. Harry G. Dwight, Army Field Clerk on staff of General Bliss.
  6. Aide to General Bliss.
  7. Filed also under file No. 763.72/12623.
  8. For text, see Current History, vol. xi, pt. ii (1920), p. 499; also Eliot Grinnell Mears, Modern Turkey (New York, 1924), p. 614.
  9. For text of the agreement of St. Jean de Maurienne, see Current History, vol. xi, pt. ii (1920), p. 500; Mears, Modern Turkey, p. 619; and Italy, R. Ministero degli affari esteri, Trattati e Convenzioni, vol. 23 (Rome, 1930), p. 467.