Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/28

BC–21

Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Monday, 3 February, 1919, at 11 a.m.

  • [Present]
    • America, United States of
      • President Wilson
      • Mr. R. Lansing
      • Mr. A. H. Frazier
      • Mr. L. Harrison
      • Lieut. Burden
    • British Empire
      • The Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
      • The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P.
      • Gen. The Rt. Hon. Louis Botha
      • Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey
      • Major A. M. Caccia
      • Mr. E. Phipps
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau
      • M. Pichon
      • M. Dutasta
      • M. Berthelot
      • Capt. Portier
      • M. de Bearn
    • Italy
      • M. Orlando
      • Baron Sonnino
      • Count Aldrovandi
      • Major Jones
    • Japan
      • Baron Makino
      • H. E. M. Matsui
      • M. Saburi
      • M. Kimura

Present During Discussion of Greek Question

  • America, United States of
    • Mr. C. Day
  • British Empire
    • Mr. H. Nicolson
    • Mr. A. Leeper
  • Greece
    • M. Venizelos
    • M. Politis
    • M. Speranza
    • M. Rentis
  • Italy
    • M. de Martino
    • Colonel Castoldi

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.

1.

Appointment of Delegates to Commission for Teschen M. Clemenceau informed the meeting that M. Velten, one of the members of the Commission for Poland had been appointed to represent France. He asked the representatives of the Great Powers to name their delegates.

Mr. Lloyd George said that he had consulted the British military authorities yesterday as it had been agreed that the British delegate should be a military man. It was expedient that he should be of the same rank as the French representative, M. Velten, he had decided to appoint an officer of the ranks of Colonel.

[Page 857]

President Wilson said that the American delegate had not yet been found: there were so few available Americans on this side of the water.

M. Orlando said that the Italian representative would be named to-morrow.

2.
Appointment of Delegates for Commission to Rumania M. Clemenceau announced that the following experts had been appointed for the examination in the first instance, of the questions raised in M. Bratiano’s statement on the Rumanian territorial interests in the peace settlement, in accordance with the resolution passed at a conversation held in M. Pichon’s room at the Quai d’Orsay on Saturday, February 1st, 1919 (I. C. 130).1
  • America, United States of
    • Mr. C. Day
    • Mr. Seymour
  • British Empire
    • Sir E. Crowe
    • Mr. A. Leeper
  • France
    • M. Tardieu
    • M. Laroche
  • Italy
    • M. de Martino
    • Count Vannutelli
3.

Delegates for Committee on League of Nations M. Clemenceau said he wished to raise the question of the appointment of additional delegates to represent the Small Powers on the various committees. The number of delegates to form part of each of these committees had been duly agreed upon and were already appointed; but he thought they should if possible, endeavour to meet the special wishes of the Smaller Powers, treating each case on its merits.

First as regards the League of Nations. The Conference had decided that each of the Great Powers should appoint two delegates, and that 5 delegates should be elected to represent the whole of the Smaller Powers.

The Smaller Powers had nominated delegates from Belgium, Serbia, Brazil, China, and Portugal, but they now asked that an additional delegate should be appointed by each of the following countries, namely, Poland, Greece, Czecho-Slovakia, and Rumania.

President Wilson thought that the proposal would have the effect of constituting a very large committee, and the representation of the Smaller Powers would thereby become equal to the representation of the Great Powers. The League of Nations committee, however, was to meet that afternoon, and he proposed that he should be empowered to put the question to the Drafting committee for decision.

[Page 858]

(It was agreed that the question of appointing additional delegates to represent Poland, Greece, Czecho-Slovakia, and Rumania, on the League of Nations Committee should be referred by President Wilson to that Committee for decision.)

4.

Commission on International Regime for Ports, Water-ways Railways M. Clemenceau said the Conference had agreed that this committee should consist of 2 delegates for each of the Great Powers, and 5 delegates to represent the whole of the Smaller Powers. The 5 representatives of the Smaller Powers ports water included members of the delegations for Belgium, China, Serbia, Greece and Uruguay. The Smaller Powers now asked for 4 supplementary delegates to be appointed, selected from the Powers in the order of the votes recorded at the election of delegates, namely, Rumania, Portugal, Czecho-Slovakia, and Poland. Rumania on account of its special interests in the Danube, had good reasons to be represented, and he thought that satisfaction would be given to all the Smaller Powers if their request for 4 additional delegates were granted.

(It was agreed to refer the question of the appointment of supplementary delegates to represent the Smaller Powers on the Inter-Allied Commission on the International Regime for Ports, Waterways, and Railways, to that Committee for decision.)

5.

Inter-Allied Commission on Reparation M. Clemenceau continuing said the Conference had agreed that each of the Great Powers should have 3 representatives on this Committee, and that 10 seats should be reserved for the Smaller Powers. Accordingly two representatives of on Reparation each of the following Small powers, Poland, Rumania, Serbia, Greece, and Belgium had been appointed. Czecho-Slovakia now also asked to appoint a representative on account of its paramount economic and financial interests in connection with the final liquidation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially as they had agreed to take over part of the Austrian debt. If Czecho-Slovakia were admitted, all the Powers interested in the liquidation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire would be represented, as Poland, Rumania, and Serbia, were duly represented.

Mr. Lloyd George agreed that Czecho-Slovakia had a good case and should be represented.

M. Clemenceau pointed out that Portugal had also put forward claims to a seat.

(After further discussion it was agreed that two additional seats should be granted to Czecho-Slovakia on the Inter-Allied Commission on Reparation).

6.

Inter-Allied Commission on Breaches of the Laws of War Mr. Lloyd George informed the meeting that the British Representatives on this Commission would be:—

(1)
The Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon He wart, Attorney-General, and
(2)
Sir Ernest Pollock, K. C., Solicitor-General.

It was proposed that these two representatives should form a panel.

(This was agreed to.)

7.
Panel System of Representation to Apply to all Committees It was also agreed that when any one delegate was unable to attend a Committee Meeting, a substitute could be appointed.
8.

Greek Territorial Claims (At this stage M. Venizelos and M. Politis, members of the Greek Delegation to the Peace Conference, accompanied by their Greek experts M. Speranza and M. Rentis were admitted to the Conference.)

M. Clemenceau asked M. Venizelos to explain the territorial claims of Greece.

M. Venizelos said that he came there at the invitation of the Great Powers to put forward the territorial claims of Greece, and he proposed to divide the subject into the following chapters:—

  • N. Epirus;
  • The Isles;
  • Thrace;
  • Asia Minor.

He would first deal with Epirus and the Isles, partly because one of the Great Powers was greatly interested in the settlement of these questions. Conversations had actually taken place between Italy and Greece with a view to arriving at an agreement and to prepare the way to a settlement without binding the Conference. He need hardly point out that it was to Greece’s interest to maintain good relations with Italy and with all the Mediterranean Powers, in the same way as it had always been to her interest to maintain good relations with the other Western lowers. Greece was a small Power whereas Italy was a Great Power; but it was in the common interest of both to reach an amicable agreement.

M. Orlando asked permission to say that Italy was animated by the same spirit and desire to come to a sound and friendly agreement with Greece on territorial questions. He only disagreed with M. Venizelos when he referred to Greece as a small Power. It was a noble country, entitled to maintain an honoured place in the world.

(a) Claims in N. Epirus M. Venizelos expressed his gratification at the words spoken by M. Orlando. He would first discuss the Greek claims in N. Epirus in N. Epirus. In Northern Epirus Greece claimed a population majority. There were 120,000 Greeks as compared with [Page 860]80,000 Albanians. He fully admitted that many of these Greeks did not speak the Greek language; they only spoke Albanian. When Albania was created as an Independent State, two Commissions had been appointed—one for Northern Albania—the other for Southern Albania. The Commission for Southern Albania had proposed to carry out a plebiscite, but this proposal was not accepted and a census was held on the basis of the language spoken in each house. Albanian-speaking families were recorded as Albanians: the language test being accepted as proof of nationality.

After the experience gained in this war, neither race, nor language, nor skull, could be taken by itself as determining nationality: national conscience alone must decide. Thus Christians and Mohammedans inhabited Albania and, whilst the latter had, during the course of Turkish domination, accepted the Turkish Government and become real Turks, the Christians of Southern Albania had always remained attached to Greece. Over 300,000 of these Christians of Southern Albania had emigrated southward into Greece in order to protect themselves from the persecution of the Mohammedans. These 300,000 Albanians had become Hellenised both in manners and customs, whilst retaining the Albanian language, and they now played an important part in the economic life of Greece. Over two-thirds of the Greek Fleet was at present manned by men of Albanian origin. It might be interesting to mention that the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers in Greece—M. Repoulis; the Commander-in-Chief of the Greek Armies—General Danglis; the Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces in Greece—Admiral Coundouriotis, were Albanians. Again Albania had, during the war of Greek Independence, furnished many of the leaders of the revolution.

In conclusion, he drew attention to the fact that since the time of the declaration of the independence of Greece, the Christians of Albania had always considered themselves to be Greeks, and the Albanian movement only began 2 or 3 years ago. The Albanian situation should not be compared with the Irish question as regards the relations between the Orthodox Mohammedans and the Christians; for whilst in Ireland no civil war had occurred, in Albania, civil war had raged for over three centuries.

At Korytza, during Turkish rule, Greek schools had been established, supported by the residents of Korytza, and these were attended by 2,400 scholars. These schools had been closed during the war. When reopened in September last the attendance immediately numbered 2,300 scholars, but only 200 children attended the Albanian school which was extremely good, being under the direction of an American master. He thought that incident would supply perhaps the best evidence of the true sentiments and feelings of the people. [Page 861]Tukan Pasha, the President of the Albanian Committee, who was in Paris at the present moment to put forward the Albanian claims, had said that the Greek schools in Albania had been particularly favoured by the Turks, and that this fact accounted for the large attendance of scholars. This statement was obviously quite incorrect, as the Albanian Mohammedans had, until the last 2 or 3 years, never entertained any national feelings: they had always considered themselves to be Turks.

He did not propose to discuss the question of N. Albania: Greece put forward no claims to any part of that territory. The northern boundaries of the territories of N. Epirus claimed by Greece were demarcated by a line passing through Cimarra, N. of Tepeleni, W. of Moskhopolis, to Lake Prespa, where it joined the former frontiers of Greece.

(b) Greek Claims to the Isles Next, as regards the question of the Isles, all these were without exception Greek. The population was Greek, more especially, in the Dodecanese, where there were 110,000 Greeks as compared with 12,000 persons of other nationalities.

He drew attention to an album published in Italy. The illustrations of this book showed the degree of development of civilisation in these small inlands. No doubt some remnants of Latin domination still remained, especially in the architecture, due to the passage of the Crusaders. But this domination had had no influence whatever on the ethnic position of the islands, and at the present moment only the principle of nationality could be taken into consideration. Greece claimed not only the islands of the Dodecanese, but all the Aegean islands, including those which for strategic reasons owing to their situation at the entrance to the Straits, had not been attributed to Greece by the Conference of London after the Balkan War.

It might be asked why no specific claim had been put forward to the island of Cyprus. He had not done so for various reasons, the most important of these being that he was convinced that the British Government, who, 50 years ago, was the first to increase the Grecian Kingdom by the grant of the Ionian Islands, and who during the war had offered Cyprus to Constantine, would at the end of the war be sufficiently magnanimous to surrender Cyprus to Greece.

To sum up, Greece claimed all the islands of the Western [Eastern] Mediterranean, including the Dodecanese, Imbros, Tenedos, Kastelorizo, Rhodes and Cyprus.

(c) Greek claims to Thrace Thrace contained a population of 730,000 Greeks and 112,000 Bulgarians. He fully realised the difficulty of getting reliable statistics, as on those parts religion played such an important to part in the preparation of all statistics. He was, [Page 862]however, in a position to give definite proof that the Greeks numbered seven times more than the Bulgarians. This fact had been so well recognised by the Bulgarians that when, in 1912, the Bulgarians found themselves compelled to combine during the elections to resist the programme of the Committee of Union and Progress, it had been agreed between the Greek Patriarch and the Bulgarian Exarch to divide the representation between themselves in such a way as to give seven Greek and one Bulgarian deputies. Further, it was agreed that if the one Bulgarian failed to be elected, one Greek delegate would retire in his favour. The principle of nationality must therefore be applied to Thrace, and Bulgaria must cede the Western portion of Thrace to Greece.

Undoubtedly, this would entail for Bulgaria loss of access to the Aegean Sea. That was inevitable. But he was prepared to suggest a solution to meet the economic requirements of the Bulgarians, thus deprived of direct access to the Aegean. Although Bulgaria already possessed magnificent harbours in the Black Sea, which, as a result of the Straits becoming internationalised, would become a free and open sea, Greece would be prepared to grant to her a commercial outlet either at Kavalla or at Salonika on the same conditions and with the same international guarantees that would be granted to the other Powers of Central Europe similarly situated, namely, Hungary, Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, etc. He drew attention to the fact that after the Balkan War Greece had made a formal Treaty with Serbia, allowing her the free use for trade purposes of the port of Salonika, and of the railways giving access thereto. In this way Bulgaria would not only have her own Black Sea ports, but also the free Aegean ports. Bulgarian interests would thus be fully satisfied. But on grounds of nationality, Thrace must form part of Greece, to enable her to redeem the two and three quarter million Greeks inhabiting that territory. The frontiers of Thrace claimed by Greece were the following:—From the summit of Koula, on the present North-East Greco-Bulgarian frontier, the line followed the course of the Arda up [down?] to its junction with the Maritza and thence along the Turco-Bulgarian frontier of 1913 to Cape Iniada on the Black Sea. It was a curious fact that the proposed frontier corresponded very nearly to the Southern frontiers of Bulgaria as laid down by the St. Stefano treaty of 1878,2 which had been superseded by the Treaty of Berlin.3 This Treaty was intended to make every allowance to Bulgarian pretensions. Consequently, no injustice would be done to Bulgaria if those frontiers were now accepted. The portion of Thrace, claimed by Greece, had [Page 863]sometimes been likened to a narrow corridor, which would afford a vulnerable strategic boundary. His reply to that argument would be, firstly, that this corridor had a width of 80 kilometres from the sea; and, secondly, that it had been used by Turkey itself for 40 years as the only passage between Thrace and the rest of the Turkish Empire in Europe; and it would still have been in Turkish possession, but for her own misdeeds. Consequently, it would not constitute such a bad frontier after all. The Maritza cuts Thrace into two parts: Eastern Thrace and Western Thrace. Western Thrace contained a population of:—

35,000 Bulgars,
81,000 Greeks,
229,000 Turks.

In this territory Turkish Mohammedans preponderated, but the Greeks were more than double the Bulgars in numbers.

In Eastern Thrace, excluding Constantinople, there were:

35,000 Bulgars,
267,000 Greeks,
213,000 Turks.

In this region the Greeks had a larger population than the Turks.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether Eastern Thrace, as defined by M. Venizelos, included Adrianople.

M. Venizelos replied in the affirmative. It had been said that the Balkan War had been continued in order to hand Adrianople over to the Bulgarians, and that negotiations with Turkey had on that account been broken off. The question of population in the town of Adrianople deserved attention. In the town of Adrianople there were:—

25,000 Turks,
25,900 Greeks,
9,500 Jews,
3,500 Armenians,
300 Bulgarians.

This actually meant a Greek majority in Adrianople. Again, as regards the various counties of Adrianople the following figures might prove of interest:—

[Page 864]
(1) Kaza of Adrianople 41,000 Greeks,
44,500 Turks,
7,000 Bulgarians,
3,500 Armenians,
9,500 Jews.
(2) Kaza of Harsa [Hafsa] 9,000 Greeks,
8,000 Turks,
7,000 Bulgarians,
(3) Kaza of Mustapha Pasha 7,000 Greeks,
13,000 Bulgarians,
10,000 Turks.
He drew attention, however, to the fact that this Kaza was not claimed by the Greeks; they agreed it should, as at present, remain a part of Bulgaria.
(4) Kaza of Ortakeui 14,500 Greeks,
15,000 Turks,
4,000 Bulgarians.
(5) Kaza of Ouzoun Keple 19,000 Greeks,
10,000 Turks,
5,000 Bulgarians.

Taking the two parts of Thrace actually claimed by Greece, excluding the parts granted to Bulgaria after the Balkan War, as well as Constantinople, and other outlying parts, the total population would be:—

348,000 Greeks,
442,000 Turks,
70,000 Bulgarians.

The Turks thus had a slight majority, but this majority only existed in the Western part, which, as a matter of fact, was no longer in the hands of the Turks. In the parts at present held by Greece the Turks were in a decided minority. Admitting the fact that these territories should not under any circumstances be occupied by Turkey, he himself was quite willing that the inhabitants of Western Thrace should be consulted whether they would prefer union with Greece or Bulgaria. He prophesied with confidence that the inhabitants of Western Thrace, including the Mahommedans who had during the last War fought on the side of the Bulgarians, would decide in favour of Greece.

Mr. Lloyd George asked M. Venizelos how he proposed to ascertain the wishes of the Mahommedan population.

M. Venizelos said that he had intended his suggestion to apply only to Western Thrace: Eastern Thrace had never known Bulgarian domination. He suggested that some unannounced representative of the Great Powers at present in Sofia should be asked to ascertain confidentially the views of the Deputies, representing the Mahommedans of Eastern Thrace. Naturally, those Deputies would prefer union with Turkey; but if this were precluded, he felt confident they would elect to form part of Greece.

At the beginning of his speech he had said that Thrace contained 730,000 Greeks. In the detailed figures he had last given, the Greek population was stated to be 348,000. The difference was due to the fact that the borderlands along the Bulgarian frontier, inhabited by a large number of Greeks, were not claimed by Greece. Constantinople [Page 865]also had a population of 360,000 Greeks, but he put forward no claims to Constantinople. In reality Constantinople was a Greek town, but there were so many great international interests connected with the place that a special régime was undoubtedly indicated. The town, together with sufficient hinterland, should be placed under the League of Nations with a mandatory. The mere fact, however, that Greece had waived her claims to Constantinople only enhanced her rightful claims to the rest of Thrace. Speaking, however, on behalf of the whole Greek people, including the 350,000 Greeks in Constantinople, he expressed his firm conviction that in the general interests of the world, the Turkish Government together with the Sultan, should be made to leave Constantinople, and establish the new Capital of a new Ottoman State either at Konia or Brusa. As long as the Sultan remained at Constantinople even without the title of Calif, he would retain considerable prestige, which would permit him to exercise important influence over the Mussulman world and to cause trouble to all the Great Powers, including France and Great Britain. It had always been said, and he himself had always thought so, that Constantinople was a purely Turkish town. That however was not the case. It would actually be found that the Mohammedans of Constantinople were in a minority as compared with the Christians. Consequently, if the definition given in the 12th of President Wilson’s 14 points, were accepted, it would be admitted that Constantinople need not be included in the Ottoman Empire. For the future security of the world, a small Turkish state with its own Capital should be constituted in Asia.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether M. Venizelos proposed that Constantinople and environs should be internationalised, including Skutari and the opposite shores of the Bosphorus.

M. Venizelos replied in the affirmative, and suggested that the following localities should be internationalised—namely:—the vilayet of Constantinople: the sanjaks of Ismid, of Gallipoli, of Biga, and part of Brusa.

A certain Greek population would be included in this territory but Greece was prepared to accept the arrangement, as they felt certain that the population would receive fair treatment.

In conclusion it might be thought that he was dealing severely with the Bulgarians. People might say to him: “Why were you during the Balkan war, prepared to cede everything to Bulgaria, and now you are so irreconcilable?” He would reply that all he did at that time was done in the hope of forming a federation of Balkan people. He had been an idealist, and it had been a dream without reality. Again, during the last European war, he had agreed to make further sacrifices in order to bring the war to an end. [Page 866]Surely these sacrifices, which he had then been prepared to make, could not now be brought up against him. On the contrary, all these would-be sacrifices only strengthened his present claims. As a matter of fact, Bulgarian ambitions never could be satisfied. Whatever concessions might be made would be useless, for Bulgaria would never rest until the whole of the Balkans were handed over to her. Bulgaria claimed complete hegemony over the whole of the Peninsula, and she would seize every opportunity to fulfil her ambitions. Bulgaria represented in the Balkans the Prussia of Western Europe. She would always attempt to impose her militarism on the Balkans, just as Prussia had attempted to do in Western Europe. He wished to be strictly just to Bulgaria, but he had no wish to temper justice with benevolence. Bulgaria laid claim to a population of 4,900,000. He thought this figure excessive: his own estimate would be 4,500,000. But, whatever their population might be, it gave the Bulgars no right to rule over Greeks. Bulgaria now possessed a territory and a population which fully represented her ethnic rights. Should the claims of Greece now be fully admitted, Bulgaria would still remain in a better situation than Greece as regards the ratio between population and territory.

(It was decided that M. Venizelos should put forward the claims of Greece to Asia Minor on the following day).

(The meeting adjourned to 11 o’clock on Tuesday, the 4th February, 1919).

  1. BC–20, supra.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1878, p. 866.
  3. Treaty of July 13, 1878, ibid., p. 895.