Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/29


Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Tuesday, 4 February, 1919, at 11 O’clock 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
    • Mr. Westermann
  • British Empire
    • Mr. H. Nicolson
    • Mr. A. Leeper
  • Greece
    • M. Venizelos
    • M. Politis
    • M. Speranza
    • M. Rentis
  • Italy
    • M. de Martino
    • M. Galli
    • Colonel Castoldi

Interpreter: Professor P. J. Mantoux.


Press Communiqués Relating to Committee Meetings Mr. Lansing said he wished to bring a matter to the notice of the Conference, which, if left unsettled, might lead to considerable confusion. He referred to the supply of information to the Press regarding the proceedings of Committee Meetings. Recently the Secretariat-General had issued to the Press a Communiqué relating to the proceedings of the Committee on Breaches of the Laws of War. That Committee had already prepared a communiqué of their own, and he [Page 868] thought the Secretariat-General should avoid taking up such matters, especially as they did not really know what took place at such meetings, except through the procès-verbaux. He wished to propose, therefore, that the Secretariat-General should give to the Press no information relating to Committees.

M. Clemenceau said that he agreed that in future the Committees should issue their own communiqués, and the Secretariat-General would take no action in the matter.

M. Sonnino enquired whether, as a matter of principle, each Committee should not send its communiqués to the Secretariat-General for communication to the Press.

M. Clemenceau thought this procedure though, strictly speaking, correct would lead to a considerable loss of time.

(It was agreed that Committees would in future issue their own communiqués to the Press).


Greek Territorial Claims in Western Asia Minor (i) Claims Based on President Wilson’s 12th point M. Venizelos said he would next deal with the claims of Greece to Western Asia-Minor. Article 12 of President Wilson’s programme, which he had already cited, also governed the solution of the problem of Asia-Minor. Article 12 read as follows:—

“The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolute unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.”

Now, what should be the correct interpretation of that Article? What regions should, according to the principle therein laid down, be submitted to Turkish sovereignty? A broad and generous interpretation must be given to the principles contained in President Wilson’s 12th Article, if Turkey was to retain as large a territory as possible, whilst admitting the grant of autonomy to all suppressed nationalities. Unless this procedure were followed, it would, for instance, be impossible to solve the Armenian question and so put a stop to the sufferings of those people, who had lost through massacres over one million people during the course of the war. In the case of the Ottoman Empire, a wide latitude of action was admissible, because Turkey had signed the Armistice without conditions. Again, when the Emperor of Austria had announced on the 7th October, 1918,1 his willingness to apply the autonomous principle to the various parts of his Empire, President Wilson had replied2 that he was no more free to accept simply the autonomy of those peoples as a [Page 869] basis of peace and he insisted that it was they, and not he, who ought to judge what action on the part of the Austro-Hungarian Government would give satisfaction to their aspirations, and to their conception of their rights and their future as members of the League of Nations. The same principle must obviously be applied to the Ottoman Empire. He did not know whether his views were shared by the Conference, but he would explicitly state that the claims of Greece to Western Asia-Minor were based on the principle that no territory previously belonging to Turkey could remain a part of the future Ottoman Empire unless it contained an absolute majority of Turks.

(ii) Geography & Geology of Western Asia Minor Now, applying this test, it would be evident that on a population basis, the western part of Asia Minor, west of a line running between Kasteiorizo and the Sea of Marmora could not form part of the Turkish Empire and must be allotted to Minor Greece. From that territory, however, he would exclude a portion of the Dardanelles sandjak, which should form part of the Internationalised Area. The western territory of Asia Minor claimed by Greece could be separated from the rest of Asia Minor not only for ethnic reasons, but also because geographically and historically it formed a specially distinct and separate region.

This particular region of Asia Minor had been described as follows by the German geographer Philipson in his work “Reisen und Ferchungen [Forschungen] im Westlichen Kleinasien”, of which the fifth and last part had appeared during the war of 1915:—

“The Asia-Minor Peninsula shows a great geographical contrast which explains the part it played in History as a hyphen between the Asiatic and the Helleno-European Civilisations.

The central part of the large and moderately levelled country surrounded from the N. S. and E. by high mountains is formed of homogeneous and partly dry wide plateaus, divided into sections by a few ranges. On the contrary, the western portion, from S. of Constantinople shows a remarkably varied formation. Ranges in every direction, of varied area, formation and shape, are divided by deep valleys ravine-like or basin-like, which extend themselves from East to West from the central plateaus to the multiform coast which gives their outlet to rather important rivers.

These valleys have on the orographical formation of western Asia-Minor a greater influence than that of the interior ranges, because they provide it with rich and useful land and easy means of communications.

This compact morcellation of the country and the useful variety of the coast-line, which is a consequence of it, as well as of the general slope brought on by the last geological periods, show common features between Western Asia-Minor and Greece proper, to the [Page 870] extent that we may consider both as one geographical entity—the Ægeide—.

To this contrast between Central and Western Asia-Minor, in shape and formation, corresponds an equally important contrast between their respective climates and vegetation. In the Centre surrounded by high ranges, prevails the lack of rainfall and the cold winter of the steppes. On the contrary, the open western position is provided by the sea breeze with ample rainfall, so that the warm summer alone is dry. Therefore, the essential feature of Western Asia-Minor is the most genuine Mediterranean climate and vegetation. Thus one great natural barrier divides Asia-Minor: on one side a secluded plateau of a practically Asiatic nature; on the other, an Ægean country with all the features of Greece proper and reciprocal relations both in history and in nature with the sea and overseas with Greece. Therefore, we meet in the Centre the Asiatic civilisation, and the Greek civilisation on the Western coast both in the past and in present time.”

(iii) Population of Peninsula of Asia Minor Turning next to the numeration of the population inhabiting this region, no official statistics had ever been issued. Each nationality had, from time to time, issued separate statistics, but these, when compared, gave fantastic results. The statistics which he would now quote had been obtained by the Greek Patriarchate, and he could guarantee their accuracy. These estimates gave a total population of 1,700,000 Greeks for the whole of the peninsula. A proof of the correctness of these estimates was contained in a pamphlet published in 1915 in Berlin by a Mr. Dietrich. The Turkish persecutions in Asia Minor had always been directed from Berlin. Still, the Germans were a practical people and they were anxious to have correct statistics, and so Mr. Dietrich had been commissioned to make a census, with the result that he arrived at the figure of 1,600,000 Greeks. This result, which was based on the population existing after the persecutions of 1915, fully corroborated his own estimate of 1,700,000. The handbooks of geography used in the high schools of Turkey proper gave the figure of 1,300,000 as the Greek population of Asia Minor. There was a considerable difference between this figure and the one previously quoted by himself, but the difference was not greater than could be expected under the circumstances.

(iv) Population of Western Asia-Minor Turning now to the portion of Western Asia Minor, claimed by Greece, including the vilayets of Aidin and Broussa, and the independent Sandjaks of the Dardanelles and Ischmid, the Greek population amounted to 1,081,000. If, to the above territory, were added the islands, adjoining the mainland, between Kastelorizo and Mytilene, a total of 1,450,000 Greeks would be obtained. Though the islands of Khios, Mytilene and Samos had been incorporated in Greece at the end of the [Page 871] last Balkan war, the Turkish Government had never recognised the allegiance of the inhabitants of those islands to Greece. The islands were strictly connected economically with the mainland, and many of the landowners of the islands also possessed holdings on the mainland. There had been a rapid increase in the Greek population everywhere, whilst the Turkish population had continuously decreased. Thus, for example, Cyprus, at the present moment, had a population of 300,000. According to the “Almanach de Gotha” the population in 1879 had been only 135,000. That is, in 40 years, the Greek population had almost doubled, whilst during the same period the Turkish population had only very slightly increased. Again, in Crete, in 1830, when the first census was taken, 70,000 Mussulmans and 70,000 Greeks were enumerated; the two nationalities being equal. In 1881, after 50 years, the population was returned at 207,000 Greeks and 72,000 Turks, clearly showing that whilst the Turkish population had been practically stationary, the Greek population had increased three-fold, in spite of the fact that the former represented the dominating power and the latter the persecuted and subservient race. Finally, the Greek population in 1900 was 273,000 and in 1910 330,000, whilst during this period the Turkish population had diminished through emigration. Exactly the same thing had occurred at Mytilene, Khios and Samos. These facts clearly exhibited the vitality and vigour of the Greek element as compared to the Ottoman element.

(v) Population of western Portion of Asia Minor Claimed by Greece The total population of Western Asia Minor, including the adjoining islands, had been given as equal to 1,480,000. The whole of the territories inhabited by these Greeks, however, was not claimed by Greece: certain outlying portions, including the territory round Constantinople, containing a total population of 319,000 Greeks, should be excluded. This gave a total population of 1,132,000 Greeks in the whole of the area claimed by Greece. Within this same territory the corresponding Mussulman population was 943,000, including Mahommedans of all races, though Turks were in greater numbers. The Greek population, however, had a majority of 189,000, and this was sufficient to show that it could not be considered to form “a part of the Turkish portion of the Ottoman Empire”. The Turkish minority of 943,000 would be still further reduced after the 100,000 Jews and Armenians and other Christians were added to the Greek, thus raising the total to 1,250,000 non-Mussulmans, as compared to 943,000 Mussulmans.

The more Eastern portions of the territory claimed by Greece was more thickly inhabited by Turks. Consequently, by the exclusion of certain portions of the Eastern Sanjaks, a territory more compactly [Page 872] occupied by Greeks could be obtained. But economic reasons would militate against such procedure and, in his opinion, the same principle should apply as for Bohemia, Bohemia formed a geographical entity having on its North-Western border a fringe of Germans, who, for economic reasons, could not be excluded. It was argued that Bohemia should therefore be incorporated as a whole in Czecho-Slovakia, the Czech population being in the majority, for if the Germans were excluded, the economic life of the country would become impossible. This principle being accepted for Bohemia, where the various populations had all reached the same degree of civilisation, it must be the more readily accepted in the case of Asia Minor, which was inhabited by two races differing so greatly; the one representing an old and advanced civilisation, the other unable to establish a Government acceptable to foreign races. The Turks were good workers, honest in their relations, and a good people as subjects. But as rulers they were insupportable and a disgrace to civilisation, as was proved by their having exterminated over a million Armenians and 300,000 Greeks during the last four years.

President Wilson enquired whether the figures relating to the Mahomedan population had been obtained from the Greek Patriarchate, or from official Turkish sources. He thought the latter figures were always too small, as taxation was involved.

M. Venizelos replied that the figures had been supplied by the Greek Ecclesiastical Authorities, but he thought they had been originally derived from official Turkish statistics.

(vi) Greek Population in Turkish Government of Central Asia Minor Outside the area of Western Asia Minor, claimed by Greece, some 922,000 Greeks, perfectly organised and maintaining 1,400 schools, with 100,000 scholars, would still remain under the Turkish Government of Central Asia Minor. For central Asia this evil there was only one possible remedy. Under the Peace Treaty, the Turkish Government should undertake to purchase the real estate and house property belonging to such of the Greeks inhabiting Turkish territory as might desire to emigrate into Greek Asia Minor. The Greek Government should adopt the same policy in regard to property and real estate belonging to Turkish Asia Minor. There would thus be set up a current of mutual and voluntary migrations, thanks to which it might be hoped that in the course of a few years the people remaining in the Turkish State would be composed exclusively of Mahomedans; whilst the Greek element would become overwhelming.

(vii) Trebizond In reply to an enquiry which had been addressed to him by President Wilson, he explained that Trebizond, containing a population of 36,000 Greeks, had claimed to be formed into a small Republic. He did not favour this proposal as [Page 873] he thought it would be very undesirable to create a large number of small States, especially as the country surrounding the town comprised a very large number of Turks. In his opinion the vilayet of Trebizond should form part of the State of Armenia.

(viii) Armenia Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether M. Venizelos had any idea as to what should constitute the Armenian State.

M. Venizelos said that in his opinion the Armenian State should include the six Armenian vilayets, together with Russian Armenia and the vilayets of Trebizond and Adana.

Mr. Lloyd George enquired whether Cilicia would be included in the Armenian State.

M. Venizelos replied in the affirmative and said that Armenia would contain all the territories around Mount Ararat.

President Wilson remarked that the whole question was mixed up with humane considerations. The American missionaries had said that the Turks had also treated the Turks very badly at the time they were ill-treating the Armenians. He enquired if M. Venizelos could throw any light on this report.

M. Venizelos said that no Turks had been ill-treated; but Mahomedans, such as Arabs, Kurds, etc. had certainly been persecuted, and that was quite natural.

(ix) Free Ports in Asia Minor It might with justice be asked whether conditions in the interior would be rendered extremely difficult by the surrender of Western Armenia [Anatolia] to Greece. He thought that question could be answered in the negative, for, on the South side, as well as on the North side, Anatolia would have free outlets to the sea. Furthermore, he would strongly favour the creation of a Free Port, with international guarantees, on the Western coast of Asia Minor for the import and export of the commerce of the interior. This would be to the mutual benefit of the two nations and especially to Greece, who was a commercial maritime nation.

Statistics showed that Western Asia Minor had a majority of Greeks. It was therefore entitled to the grant of autonomy, and since the principle of autonomy naturally involved the right of union, the new autonomous State of Western Asia Minor would thereby be entitled to union with Greece, if the inhabitants so preferred. Can it be said that Asia Minor would prefer to join Greece rather than to form a separate unit? In the present day the spirit and feeling of nationality in all countries was so strong that the desire of these peoples would not be to form an independent Greek State, but to unite with their Greek brothers.

[Page 874]

(x) Anticipated Military & Administrative Responsibilities of Greece in W. Asia Minor Again it might be asked whether the acquirement of this new territory would not place too heavy a responsibility on Greece, both from a military and administrative point of view. The military situation would present no difficulties, for Greece, unlike Roumania, who was ringed about all sides by enemies, had only to guard against the Bulgarians. Greece was already allied to Serbia and Roumania, and she possessed a numerical superiority over the Turks. Moreover, the guarantees of the League of Nations would constitute a further protection. The Administrative responsibility would no doubt be heavy, but it would not exceed her powers. During the last twenty years the Greek element had played a considerable part in the administration of Turkish territories. Moreover, the Greek nation had a special capacity and genius for co-operating with the Turks whenever political conflicts ceased. A large number of the Turkish populations was of Greek origin and, therefore, as soon as religious and political troubles ceased, it was easy for them to live together in perfect amity.

A reference to the map would show that new Greece would have the singular appearance of a State formed around a sea. That certainly was an inconvenience. But for thirty centuries Greeks had lived under these conditions, and had been able to surmount great catastrophes, to prosper and to increase.

(xi) Greek Territorial Claims & Greece’s Action During War In conclusion, he realised that Greece did not appear before the Peace Conference with the full titles she would have possessed, but for the betrayal of a King. Still he had a right to ask that a people should not be held responsible for the acts their King. The people had not supported the King’s actions, but they had striven to bring about a reaction by electoral strikes and revolutions and, in spite of German propaganda which had been carried on for many years, the country had succeeded at a critical moment to right itself. It had been faced with a sort of Bolshevism, but it had been able to recover. At the commencement of the war he had offered to side with the Great Powers. He had proposed intervention when the Allies had appeared in the Dardanelles. He had never asked for any reward. Indeed, when he had first suggested an alliance with the Great Powers, neither Turkey or Bulgaria had entered the war, so that it would have been impossible for Greece to have obtained compensations. At the time when he himself had gone to Salonika and ordered mobilisation, the situation was such that Greece could not possibly have hoped for any benefit. At that time he had suggested to Mr. Lloyd George that Turkey should be allowed to retain Asia Minor as well as her [Page 875] European possessions as an inducement for her to negotiate a separate peace. Greece was a small country, and her greatest strength lay in her honesty. It was in full confidence that he left the future of the country to the Conference.

M. Orlando said he wished to repeat his expression of sympathy for M. Venizelos and for Greece. He sincerely hoped that the small differences existing between Italy and Greece would be readjusted to the satisfaction of both countries.

(M. Venizelos, M. Politis, and the experts who had been present during the discussion of the Greek question then withdrew).

(xii) Resolution Regarding Greek Territorial Claims Mr. Lloyd George asked permission to make a proposal. The statement of M. Venizelos had raised so many questions, both statistical and geographical, that he proposed the same course should be followed as had already been taken in the case of Roumania. That is to say, that experts be appointed to co-ordinate all the facts and the Conference would then decide questions of policy when the reports of the experts were received.

It was agreed:—

“That the questions raised in the statement by M. Venizelos on the Greek territorial interests in the Peace Settlement shall be referred for examination in the first instance to an expert committee composed of two representatives each of the United States of America, The British Empire, France and Italy.

It shall be the duty of this Committee to reduce the questions for decision within the narrowest possible limits and make recommendations for a just settlement.

The Committee is authorised to consult representatives of the peoples concerned.”

(The meeting adjourned to 3 p.m. tomorrow, 5th February, 1919).

  1. See note No. 4978, October 7, 1918, from the Swedish Minister, Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 341.
  2. See ibid., p. 368.