Paris Peace Conf. 180.03101/47
Secretary’s Notes of a Conversation Held in M. Pichon’s Room at the Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Wednesday, 26 February, 1919, at 3 p.m.
|America, United States of||present during question 1|
|Hon. R. Lansing.||Great Britain|
|Hon. H. White.||Sir Eyre Crowe, K. C. B.|
|Mr. L. Harrison.||H. E. M. Crespi.|
|British Empire||present during question 2|
|The Rt. Hon. A. J. Balfour, O. M., M. P.||America, United States of|
|The Rt. Hon. Viscount Milner, G. C. B., G. C. M. G.||Dr. C. H. Haskins.|
|Lt. Col. Sir M. P. A. Hankey, K. C. B.||Sir Eyre Crowe, K. C. B.|
|Mr. E. Phipps.||Italy|
|France||H. E. M. Crespi.|
|M. Pichon.||present during question 3|
|M. Tardieu.||America, United States of|
|Secretaries||Dr. C. H. Haskins.|
|M. Berthelot.||Great Britain|
|M. de Bearn.||Sir Eyre Crowe, K. C. B.|
|Italy||Maj. Gen. The Hon. C. J. Sackville-West, C. M. G.|
|H. E. Baron Sonnino.||Brig. Gen. H. W. Studd, C. B., D. S. O.|
|H. E. Marquis Salvago Raggi.||France|
|Count Aldrovandi.||Maj. Lacombe.|
|Japan||H. E. M. Crespi.|
|H. E. Baron Makino.||Gen. Cavallero.|
|H. E. M. Matsui.||present during question 4|
|America, United States of|
|Dr. W. L. Westermann.|
|Lt. Col. Gribbon.|
|H. E. M. Crespi.|
|present during question 5|
|H. E. M. Crespi.|
|Boghes Nubar Pasha.|
|Interpreter: Prof. P. J. Mantoux.|
|America, United States of||Lieut. Burden.|
|British Empire||Captain E. Abraham.|
|France||Captain A. Portier.|
(1) M. Pichon said that before beginning the Agenda Mr. Balfour wished to make a proposal.
Frontier Between Poland & Germany Mr. Balfour said that the matter to which he wished to draw attention was one of some importance. The Conference was anxious to make all possible arrangements for completing a speedy Preliminary Peace with Germany. One of the matters requiring settlement was the frontier between Germany and Poland. He had supposed that a Committee was dealing with this matter, but on enquiry he had found that he was mistaken. He therefore suggested, either that a Committee should be employed to investigate this question, or that it should be added to the labours of an existing Committee. For instance, that dealing with Polish affairs. If this were accepted M. Jules Cambon would be the President. He then read the following draft terms of reference to the Paris Commission on Polish Affairs:—
“It is agreed:—
That the question of the boundaries of the Polish State shall be referred for examination and report by the Committee set up by the Preliminary Peace Conference in Paris for the consideration of Polish affairs.
The Committee is instructed to report on the boundary between Poland and Germany not later than March 8th.”
M. Pichon asked whether Baron Sonnino agreed.
Baron Sonnino pointed out that the frontiers of Germany in general had not been handed over for discussion to any Commission. [Page 140]Nevertheless, the other frontiers would also have to be dealt with. The various Commissions, it had been agreed, were to be asked to make their reports by March 8th. On March 8th, therefore, the Conference would have before it material concerning portions only of the frontiers requiring definition. There would not be on that date any report concerning the frontier of Germany with Austria-Hungary.
Mr. Balfour pointed out that the land frontiers of Germany marched with Denmark, Belgium, France, Switzerland, German-Austria, Czecho-Slovakia and Poland. In all cases, save that of German-Austria, the question was being dealt with mostly by Commissions. The question raised by Baron Sonnino referred to the frontier with German-Austria. Was it proposed that there should be a Commission on this subject?
Mr. Lansing said he thought there was to be a Commission on the approximate frontiers of Germany as a whole.
Mr. Balfour suggested that co-ordination of all the reports of the Commissions could take place after they had been received.
Baron Sonnino said that he did not care whether a Commission was appointed to deal with the frontier of German-Austria or not, but if the Council was to be in a position to settle frontiers on March 8th, it was clear that the present procedure would not furnish material for a general discussion. Part of the work had been farmed out to Commissions. Was the rest expected to settle itself, or to be dealt with by each delegation separately?
Mr. White questioned whether any alteration was foreseen in respect to the frontier between Germany and German-Austria.
Baron Sonnino said that perhaps there would be no need to alter this frontier, but there were many other questions not being dealt with by Commissions. For instance, the frontiers of Bulgaria and Turkey.
M. Salvago Raggi said that it was important to decide whether such questions were to be dealt with separately by delegations, or collectively in Commissions.
M. Pichon pointed out that there were Commissions on Greek, Roumanian, Serbian and Yugo-Slav questions.
M. Salvago Raggi said that there [is] none on Turkey.
M. Pichon suggested that the Greek Commission might be charged with this question.
Mr. Balfour said that he thought it would be a mistake to entrust the big political question connected with Asia Minor to any Commission.
Baron Sonnino asked in what other manner it would be possible to deal with Greek aspirations in Asia Minor.[Page 141]
Mr. Lansing suggested that all boundaries not specially referred to Commissions or Committees should be entrusted to a co-ordinating committee to be formed at a later stage. The frontiers of Germany which were more particularly under discussion might be dealt with by that co-ordinating body. He said he would have something to propose on the following day on this subject and suggested that the discussion be postponed.
Baron Sonnino concurred with this proposal.
(It was then decided that the discussion on boundaries in general should be postponed until the following day, but that the question of the boundary of the Polish State should be referred for examination and report by the Committee set up by the Preliminary Peace Conference in Paris for the consideration of Polish Affairs. The Committee is instructed to report on the boundary between Poland and Germany not later than March 8th.)
(2) M. Tardieu said that the Commission at the outset had been stopped by certain hesitations and doubts which it had decided to submit to the Council. He then read the following statement:— Statement by M. Tardieu on Behalf of Belgium Commission
“At the first meeting of the Committee, the following opinions were expressed:—
- It is difficult to state an opinion regarding possible compensations in favour of any Power without recording, in that respect, the opinion entertained by the Power under consideration.
- It is difficult to express any opinion regarding possible compensations without having first studied what these compensations are to make up for.
- On the first point, the Committee is unanimously of opinion that under present conditions it is not entitled to ask the representatives of Holland to give evidence.
- On the second point, several members of the Committee believe that the Committee does not hold any brief from the Supreme Council to take up that study.
Under these conditions, the Committee begs to submit to the Supreme Council the following questions:
- If the Committee is entrusted only with the study of the compensations to be eventually granted to Holland in exchange for territories eventually transferred by Holland to Belgium, is the Committee authorised to hear the representatives of Holland, and in what way shall this hearing be called for?
- Is the Committee authorised, under the reservations resulting from the present situation, to study from the ethnical, political, economic and military point of view the territorial claims of Belgium on the left bank of the Scheldt and on the southern part of Dutch Limburg?
(Note: The above text is the English text as furnished by the Secretariat General.)
M. Pichon said that the proposal leading to the creation of the Commission had been made by Mr. Balfour. Subject to any explanations Mr. Balfour cared to make, it appeared to him that the Commission should be empowered to examine Dutch witnesses.
M. Tardieu said that Dutch delegates on receiving an invitation from the Commission might attend, but it was not unlikely that they would say that they had no explanation to offer. Should they refuse to make any statement, the work of the Commission would not be much assisted. His own suggestion was that the Commission should be empowered to study the Belgian claims. Without knowing what they were the Commission could not decide what ought to be given to Holland by way of compensation.
Mr. Balfour said that if he were appealed to for a statement of the position he would say that Belgium had no claim, in the ordinary sense, to any territory belonging to a neutral and friendly State. The sort of question that arose between Roumania and Hungary did not arise as between Belgium and Holland. The Conference had no power to ask Holland, a friendly and neutral State, to cede any portion of its territory; and if this were admitted, as he thought it must be admitted, the question for the Commission was a purely practical one. The Belgians said that certain portions of Dutch territory were very inconvenient to Belgium, interfering with their waterborne traffic or rendering their strategic defence risky. No right to an alteration was alleged, but it was suggested that certain territories, now under German sovereignty, but Dutch in sympathy, language and tradition, might be so much desired by Holland, that their cession would incline the Dutch to offer Belgium the territories she desired. This he understood to be the Belgian argument. The Commission had not been asked to adjudicate on the value of the exchange. Only the Dutch could decide whether it satisfied them. But there were certain questions on which the Conference should obtain data before contemplating any such exchange between Holland and Belgium. It would be manifestly wrong to hand over unwilling German populations to Holland. The problem was to know whether they were willing to be Dutch. Such a problem was quite outside the scope of the question raised by M. Tardieu. On this subject he thought it right to inform the Council that the Dutch Minister in London had called on him in a state of considerable agitation after reading in the newspapers that the question of taking Dutch territory and giving it to Belgium had been discussed before the Council. The Dutch Minister had said that nothing would induce Holland to give up an inch of its territory. Mr. Balfour had not thought himself justified in mentioning the question of an exchange [Page 143]of German territory for territory ceded to Belgium. He had said that the Conference did not consider it any part of its functions to offer territory belonging to a neutral and friendly State to another State.
M. Pichon said that the Dutch Minister in Paris had come to see him on a similar errand. M. Pichon had replied very much as Mr. Balfour had. He had said that the Belgian Delegation had suggested a possible exchange, but that the Council had not made any decision on such a subject, and certainly would do nothing without the knowledge and consent of Holland. The Dutch Minister had left a formal declaration by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs that Holland would not consent to yield any portion of its territory.
M. Tardieu said that according to Mr. Balfour’s interpretation, all the Commission could do was to gather information about Frizia and Guelderland; respecting the language, race, economical situation, etc. of the populations. Even this he thought would be difficult, unless the Commission knew roughly the extent of territory over which their investigation must be carried out. The extent of this territory would no doubt be governed by the amount of compensation required to satisfy the Dutch. The view expressed by Mr. Balfour had been the view of the British and American Delegates on the Commission, but, as there had not been complete agreement, it had been decided to refer the matter to the Council. As Chairman, he could now make the position quite clear to the Commission.
Mr. Balfour agreed that the scope of the Commission must remain somewhat vague. The limits could not be laid down exactly.
Mr. Lansing said that the Commission must take into account the views of the populations in the territories to be surrendered by Germany to the Dutch and also by the Dutch to the Belgians.
Mr. Balfour said that he thought it was hardly necessary for the Commission to investigate the feelings of the population of Maestricht and on the south bank of the Scheldt.
Lord Milner remarked that it seemed unnecessary to disturb the minds of those people.
M. Tardieu said that he wished to make an observation not as Chairman of the Commission, but as a member of the Conference. He admitted that the Belgians had no territorial claims in the ordinary sense, but the underlying principle of their whole demands was that the régime of neutrality set up in 1839 had been destroyed by the war. Belgium did not wish to return to that status. Two of the signatories of the Treaty of 1839—France and Great Britain—supported Belgium in this, and President Wilson had declared himself in favour of complete sovereignty for Belgium. But as long [Page 144]as the Great Powers had not declared openly that a new régime must be substituted for the old, the work of the Commission would continue to be hampered. It would have doubts as to whether it could deal with one subject or another. It would be involved in diplomatic difficulties, especially in dealing with Holland. He thought that not only in the general interest, but in fairness to Belgium, this question should be decided once and for all. If it were declared that the 1839 Treaty had ceased to exist, it would follow that fresh negotiations between the signatories of that Treaty had become necessary.
Mr. Balfour said that he was quite of M. Tardieu’s view. He felt inclined to suggest that the Commission over which M. Tardieu presided should be asked to consider the question. He would suggest some such terms of reference as the following:—
“Inasmuch as circumstances have, in the opinion of the Conference, profoundly modified or destroyed the Treaty of 1839, the Commission should consider what steps ought to be taken to put the status of Belgium on a new basis.”
Mr. Lansing said that he had no wish to disagree, but he doubted whether the Treaty had been destroyed merely by the outbreak of war. As between the belligerents, the Treaty might have come to an end, but it was unlikely that the war terminated it between Belgium and neutrals.
M. Tardieu said that this was an additional reason for his statement that revision was necessary. So long as the treaty remained unrevised, Belgium remained bound to Holland, even though she and the Allied Powers were anxious to be free from this old arrangement.
Mr. Lansing said that he was raising no objection to the reference of the question to the Commission.
Mr. Balfour pointed out that the Commission had no right to abrogate a Treaty.
M. Tardieu enquired whether there was any objection to hearing Belgian representatives before the Commission to assist in the study of this matter.
Mr. Balfour pointed out that this might be troublesome, in as much as the Commission had no right to call Dutch evidence.
M. Tardieu then suggested that without hearing any evidence, Dutch or Belgian, the Commission should give its own view of the neutrality Treaty. After hearing the report, the Conference could then consider what decision should be taken. After a decision had been taken, the Council would be in a position to call witnesses from all countries interested.
(It was decided that the Belgian Commission should examine the question of the neutral status of Belgium as established by the Treaty of 1839, and make recommendations to the Council concerning modifications of this status.)[Page 145]
(3) At M. Pichon’s request, General Belin read the following report:—
Creation of Neutral Zone in Transylvania “The Military Representatives of the Supreme War in Council, after taking cognisance of the decision reached by the Prime Ministers of the Allied and Associated Powers at their meeting on the 21st February, 1918 ,1 concerning the delimitation of a neutral zone in Transylvania between Hungarians and Roumanians:
After hearing in succession
The Roumanian General Coanda on the general conditions, historical, moral, political and ethnographical relating to these questions:
The Roumanian Colonel Dimitresco on the strategical conditions required to place the Roumanian armies in a position to defend themselves against all eventual aggression by Hungarian troops:
Dr. Vaida, Roumanian Minister, on the general internal conditions of Transylvania:
General Henrys, Commander-in-Chief of the French Army of the Orient:
General Charpy, Chief of Staff of the General Commanding-in-Chief the Allied Armies in the East, on the possibility of the occupation by these Armies of the neutral zone to be defined;
On the principle that the proposals which they submit to the Conference of the Prime Ministers relate only to provisional measures of occupation, without prejudice in any manner to the final attribution of the occupied regions.
The Military Representatives further consider:
That the advance of Roumanian troops to contact with Hungarian troops may have the consequence, among others, of causing serious conflicts between them;
That it is desirable to take all measures to avert such conflict as would impede the work of the Peace Conference and create between the peoples destined in the future to live side by side profound causes of hostility likely to disturb the peace.
The Military Representatives therefore conclude:—
That it is desirable to create in Transylvania between Hungarians and Roumanians a neutral zone free from all Hungarian and Roumanian troops, the important points in which should be occupied by Allied troops (approximately 2 infantry battalions with some squadrons or 1 regiment of cavalry) with the mission of maintaining order and tranquillity in this zone, with the assistance, if necessary, of Inter-Allied Commissions whose function it will more particularly be to control the various administrative offices, the administration of the territories continuing to be carried out in accordance with the conditions fixed by the Armistice with Hungary.
They propose that the zone should be defined as follows:—
Eastern or Roumanian Limit: The main road from Arad to Nagyszalonta thence the railway Grosswardein (Nagy Varad)—Nagy Karoly, Szatmar Nemeti. All localities mentioned to be excluded [Page 146]from military occupation by the Roumanians but, together with the railway, to be available for the use of the Roumanian troops and inhabitants, under Allied control, for economic purposes.
Northern Limit: The River Szimos.
Western or Hungarian Limit: A line 5 kilometres west of the treaty line of 1916.2
Southern Limit: The armistice line of November, 1918 (River Maros), Arad and Szeged being occupied by Allied troops to the exclusion of both Roumanian and Hungarian troops.”
M. Pichon asked General Belin whether he felt sure that the Inter-Allied Control could be organized.
General Belin replied that this question had been put to General Charpy, who thought that General Berthelot’s army could spare the two battalions required. There was not between the Hungarians and Roumanians any very notable tension, and a very small force would apparently suffice to maintain order. This had been found to be the case at Arad and at Szegedin, where one squadron of cavalry and one company respectively had been stationed. He had since heard that a report from General Pathé stated that General Berthelot could not furnish the two battalions. The Military Representatives, therefore, only stated that two battalions were required to keep order and left it to the Governments to find them. General Charpy, however, had told him that, if the Allied Governments decided to adopt the recommendations made by the Military Representatives, he felt sure General Henrys would contrive to ensure order.
Mr. Balfour said that he would like to draw attention to a small point in the drafting of the report. The western limit of the zone was described as a line 5 kilometres West of the Treaty line of 1916, There had been a great deal of discussion as to whether this treaty had or had not been abrogated by the agreement made between Roumania and the enemy. This discussion had caused considerable excitement of public opinion in Roumania. It was perhaps desirable not to allude to it in such a document. He would suggest, therefore, that the geographical description of the line should be substituted for the description given.
(It was agreed that the draft should be altered accordingly.)
M. Tardieu asked whether so small a force as that suggested would be able to occupy the railway effectually.
General Belin explained that a company would be situated at each of the main junctions, together with a “Commission de gare” which would regulate the working of the line. The line would be used to furnish the necessary supplies to the Roumanian forces and to the local populations, under Allied control. Any trouble occurring between [Page 147]these occupied points could be dealt with rapidly by small flying columns. Very little trouble was anticipated. The same arrangements were contemplated on the Hungarian side, and a company would be stationed at Debreczen. In addition to the troops on the south, this force would be able to police the whole zone.
M. Salvago Raggi pointed out that mention was made in the document of an armistice with Hungary. He suggested that the words “with Hungary” be deleted.
(This was agreed to.)
He further suggested that in the last paragraph, for the words “the armistice line of November, 1918 (River Maros)”, the words “the line of the River Maros” should be substituted.
(This was agreed to.)
(With the alterations noted above, the report of the Military Representatives was adopted. For Final text, see Annexure “A”.)
(The Military Representatives then withdrew.)
(The Armenian Delegates then entered the Room.)
(4) M. Aharonian read the following statement:—
Statement of American Deputation “As representatives of the Armenian Republic—which has been regularly constituted for a year in Transcaucasia, with Erivan as the seat of its Parliament and Government—we have the honour to lay the following facts before the Conference and to make the following request:—
Before the war of 1914–1918, there were about 2 million Armenians in Transcaucasian Russia, to say nothing of Armenians in Turkey and Persia, A fifth of these were scattered in the big cities, especially Tiflis, Batum and Baku, and the remainder, i. e. more than a million and a half, lived as a compact community in the districts of Erivan, Kars, Chucha, and Alexandropol, which have been the dwelling-place of our race for two or three thousand years and where the Supreme Head of the Armenian Church, the Catholicos of all Armenians, lives in his monastery of Echmiadzin.
At the beginning of the war, our nation not only forgot all grievances against Tsarist rule and rallied whole-heartedly to the Russian flag in support of the Allied cause, but our fellow-countrymen in Turkey and all over the world offered to the Government of the Tsar (the archives of the Russian Embassy at Paris prove this) to establish and support Armenian legions at their own expense to fight side by side with Russian troops under the command of Russian generals.
The Tsar’s Government stated, through its Ambassador in Paris, that it would be preferable if individual Armenians enlisted in the Russian Army. They at once did so and during 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1917 Armenian volunteers from all parts of the world fought for the Allied cause side by side with their fellow-countrymen who [Page 148]were regulars in the Russian Army; more than 180,000 Armenians defended the freedom of nations, and this devotion to the common cause called down on the Armenian people the hatred of Ottomans and Young Turks, which gave rise to massacres lasting two years and laid waste all the Armenian vilayets of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1917, when the Russian revolution summoned the Constituent Assembly, the Armenian deputies (who had been freely elected by our nation) received a mandate to fight to a finish and to help loyally in the organisation of a Russian Republic based on a Parliamentary constitution and federative rule. Russia had no more faithful helpers during Kerensky’s rule than our nation, either on the battlefields of Europe and Asia or in any administrative offices of the capital or provinces.
In the Autumn of 1917, when all Armenian territory and the Ottoman vilayets freed by the combined efforts of Russia and Armenia, as well as the provinces of Transcaucasia, were exposed to the Turkish invasion owing to Bolshevist defection, the leaders of our people, both laymen and Churchmen, begged the authorities and the Russian Command not to forsake them and renewed their offers of help to continue the struggle. But the Russian generals themselves were forsaken by their men, and the Peace of Brest-Litovsk handed over to Turkey the western half of Caucasian Armenia, including the gate of Kars which laid all Transcaucasia open to invasion.
In order to oppose this invasion and still remain faithful to the Allied cause, the Armenian people in the Caucasus summoned the National Congress on 20th October, 1917; 125 delegates duly elected by the Armenian people, appointed a Council, or rather a Government for National Defence. I became its President, and the mandate given to its 15 members was to resist the Turkish invasion by all possible means and to replace the collapsed Russian front in Asia by an Armenian front.
From October 1917 to June 1918 this Government, under my direction, reorganised and maintained an Armenian army with the help of Armenian resources alone without any help from Russia (which we considered from then onward as a foreign country) or the Allies, who were too far away from us to send more than encouragement and promises. Even Armenian soldiers serving with the Russian armies on the European front could not rejoin us, and Armenian volunteers still fought in the Allied ranks in Palestine.
Through the French Consulate at Tiflis, the French Government sent us a telegram from His Excellency Boghos Nubar Pasha (head of the Delegation sent to the Allies by the Armenian Catholicos), in which our fellow-countrymen throughout the whole world urged us to hold on whatever happened and not to abandon the cause of the Entente.[Page 149]
On behalf of the National Council, I replied, through the French Consulate at Tiflis:—
- That the Armenian Nation was ready to do its supreme duty, as it had done since the beginning of the war;
- That it counted on the material, moral, and, if possible, military help of the Allies.
- That it asked them to acknowledge the independence of Armenia.
In reply to this telegram, I received a second communication from His Excellency Boghos Nubar Pasha (still through the French Consulate) in which the promise of help and assistance was renewed to us.
As regards the independence of Armenia, we were told that the declarations made in the British House of Commons and the French Chamber of Deputies were of such a nature as to satisfy our claims.
Although we did not know what the text of those declarations was, the Armenian Nation rallied round its National Council, in order to fling itself yet again into the struggle against the Turks. A leveé en masse was decreed, and an army of 50,000 men organised in the latter months of 1917, notwithstanding the endless difficulties created by the antagonism which our various Caucasian neighbours manifested against us and against the Entente.
The Tartars and the Kurds, siding openly with Turkey, organised themselves at our rear and did whatever they could to hamper us. The Georgians—with whom we had been linked in the past by the common bond of religion and of suffering—did not consider it their duty to side with us. Though far from the Allies and without their promised help, alone, abandoned and even harried by our neighbours, we nevertheless threw ourselves once more into this supreme struggle, intending, even if we could not be victorious, to stop the Turkish advance towards the interior of the Caucasus, whilst awaiting that Allied victory as to which we never cherished the least doubt.
General Nazarbekian—whose military skill had been greatly appreciated in the Russian Army—was appointed Commander-in-Chief, and the renowned Andranik, who had fought Abdul Hamid and Turkish tyranny for 30 years, was placed at the head of a division of Turkish Armenians. It was this Armenian Army which entered the front abandoned by the Russians, and held it from Erdinjan to the Persian frontier.
This unequal struggle against a greatly superior enemy lasted 7 months. The most sanguinary battles took place at Erdinjan and at Van. There were encounters at Erzerum, Sarikamish, the fortress of Kars, Alexandropol, Sarderabad, and Karaklis, when the Turks lost very heavily. I myself went to Sarikamish, in order to reestablish [Page 150]moral[e]. It was this heroic Armenian resistance which not only prevented the Turks from advancing into the interior of the Caucasus, but also, by holding back their army, prevented their descent into Mesopotamia for 7 months and helped General Allenby to victory in Palestine by deflecting a large proportion of Syrian forces.
In the meantime, German troops having reached the Caucasus, Georgia declared its independence under German military protection. Tartary, with the help and support of the Turkish army, also declared its independence under the name of Azerbaijan. Caucasian unity was thus destroyed. It was then that the Armenian National Council proclaimed the independence of Armenia.
Our Republic has been in existence for nearly a year. She has repulsed Tartar and Georgian aggression, and has maintained a regular and disciplined army approximately 40,000 strong. We have been untouched by Bolshevism and any other demoralising taint, and have kept perfect order over a territory of 60,000 square kilometres.
It is on behalf of the Armenian Republic that I now make the request set forth below:—
In view of the fact that Russia abandoned the Armenians to their fate, in spite of their entreaties, allowed a war beyond their strength to devolve on them alone, and that, moreover, without even consulting them, she handed over to Turkey by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk3 the Armenian provinces of Kars, Ardahan and Kaghisman, and so ruined hundreds of thousands of Armenians; that by these very acts she broke all ties which bound her to the Armenian nation, the Armenian Republic asks for recognition of the independence it won on the battlefield, and which the success of its arms has forced even our enemies to acknowledge. In view of the sacrifices which Armenia made, without bargaining, for the cause of the Allies, I have the honour to demand, on behalf of the Armenian Nation, that it should be given, through its delegates, a well-merited seat at the Peace Conference.
The Caucasian Armenians ardently desire reunion of the republic with the Armenian provinces of Turkey, for the following reasons:—
- Because the two main sections of the nation, Turkish Armenia and Caucasian Armenia, though separated from each other in an entirely arbitrary manner are identical as regards essential characteristics, speaking the same language, and possessing the same traditions and customs, religion, church and ecclesiastical head—the Catholicos of all Armenians.
- Both sections of Armenia represent a single geographic and economic whole, extending from Lori [Gori?] and Borchalu in the [Page 151]north down to the Mediterranean and, in the south, to the Armenian Taurus.
- This national unity is imperative not merely by reason of historical rights, but also by reason of present necessity, for Caucasian Armenia, which is civilised and powerful and possesses a population of nearly 2,000,000, would be the only sufficient basis for the reorganisation and restoration of Turkish Armenia, now depopulated and ruined by the Turks.
- The desire of the Caucasian Armenians to be united to their compatriots in Turkey is all the more intense and justifiable from the fact that a large portion of the population of Caucasian Armenia originated in Turkish Armenia, and was transplanted by the Russians during the last century. In fact, the districts of New Bayazet, Kaghisman, Kars, Alexandropol and Akhaltzikh are populated almost exclusively by Turkish Armenians.
- The ecclesiastical centre for all Armenians is situate within the territory of the Republic at Echmiadzin, on the banks of the Arax. Within this territory are also to be found nearly all the capitals of the various dynasties of Great Armenia, i. e. Armavir, Vagharchapat, Dvin, Artachat, Yervandakert, Yervand achat and Ani.
- The valley of the Arax which is the centre of Armenia—has also from time immemorial been the centre of Armenian culture and civilisation. The ruins of the capitals above mentioned bear witness thereto.
- Armenian unity is necessary, for should the two sections of the people remain divided, such division would give rise to an undying desire for union, which desire would inevitably cause disturbance and unrest.
- The union of Turkish and Caucasian Armenia is already an accomplished fact, for within the territory of the Armenian Republic there are at present from 400,000 to 500,000 Turkish Armenians who have escaped massacre by the Turks during the war, and the younger generation of which has fought for the conquest of liberty on all our battle-fields.
The Caucasian Armenians, for their part, have during the last thirty years continually sent the best of their youth, under the leadership of such glorious chiefs as Durman, Vartan, Dro, and many others, to fight against Turkish tyranny and deliver Turkish Armenia from the Ottoman yoke.
Our history has proved that unity and independence alone have served the Armenian Nation.”
Boghos Nubar Pasha made the following statement:—
“I shall try to be as brief as possible in order not to tax your patience. I think it is needless to recall the numerous promises of reform made by the Porte since the Congress at Berlin. These [Page 152]promises were never fulfilled. Nor need I recall the massacres and deportations concerning which you have full knowledge. You also know by official evidence, which has been published, the unheard of crimes surpassing in horror all that history has registered hitherto, the victims of which reach and even exceed one million.
I wish, however, to recall that at the beginning of the War the Turkish Government had offered to grant the Armenians a sort of autonomy, asking from them in exchange, volunteers to rouse the Caucasus against Russia. The Armenians rejected this proposal and placed themselves without hesitation on the side of the Entente Powers from whom they expected liberation.
The Armenians have fought at the side of the Allies since the first days of the War, until the signature of the Armistice on all fronts.
I shall not repeat what they achieved in the Caucasus. M. Ahrounian, President of the delegation of the Armenian Republic has just given you a long account far better than I shall be able to do.
I would like to mention, however, that in Syria and Palestine, in the Legion d’Orient where Armenian Volunteers, in accordance with the invitation made by the French Government to the National Delegation in 1916—when the agreement between the Allied Powers was signed—gathered to the number of five thousand forming more than half the French contingent and took so brilliant a share in the great Palestine victory, which liberated Syria, that General Allenby sent them an official congratulation.
Lastly, in France, in the Foreign Legion, a crack Corps which has covered itself with glory, Armenian Volunteers gained a special distinction for bravery and endurance. Of 800 recruits at the beginning of the campaign, scarcely 40 have survived. All the rest fell facing the enemy.
This Military contribution has been officially and warmly appreciated by the Allied Governments and I need not press the matter further. All that I wish to indicate is that this attachment of the Armenians to the cause of the Entente was one of the motives of the massacres and deportations.
The Armenians, therefore, have been belligerents. The complete victory of the Allies has finally liberated Armenia from the Turkish yoke. That is an accomplished fact. We would add that, if to the victims of massacres and deportations, be added our losses on the field of battle, it will appear that the tribute of life paid by Armenia is heavier than that of any other belligerent nation. Her losses reach more than one million lives out of a total population of 4½ million souls. Armenia has earned her independence by the arms and the blood of her children.[Page 153]
I have two kinds of observations to present. I wish first to speak of the delimitation of the future Armenian State as we understand it. I shall then give you some details concerning the population.
Our claim is that independent Armenia should comprise all Armenian territory and should be formed of:—
- Cilicia (with Sandjak of Marash) the six vilayets of Erzerum, Bitlis, Van, Diarbekr, Kharput, Sivas and a portion of the vilayet of Trebizond giving access to the Black Sea.
- The territory of the Armenian Republic of the Caucasus the population of which demands union with its brothers in Turkey under one single Armenian State.
It has sometimes been said and written that we wish to include within the limits of this State the future Armenian State territories which are not Armenian. This is untrue. Not only do we not make any such demand, but on the contrary, we ask that the final frontiers be fixed not by us but by a mixed Commission which shall work on the basis of historical, geographical and ethnical rights. The present administrative limits of the provinces or Armenian vilayets are arbitrary and false. They were drawn by Abdul-Hamid for the purpose of his policy in such a way as to include capriciously non-Armenian regions, in order to bring about a Mussulman majority. Our request is that these outlying regions, generally Kurdish or Turkish, should be detached.
Thus, the whole of Hekkiari and the South of Diarbekr which are mainly Kurdish should be excluded from Armenia; similarly the Turkish region west of Sivas and many others. As to Trebizond we recognise that the population is mainly Greek, but the Port of Trebizond is the only considerable outlet for the whole of Upper Armenia on the Black Sea. Our claim is moreover in accord with the declaration made by M. Venizelos who treated the question in a broad spirit of equity, which I am happy to recognise, in his Memorandum addressed to the Peace Conference.
As to our border with Syria, our Syrian neighbours have latterly put forward very unjustifiable claims to the major part of Cilicia which they would include in Syria.
This pretension cannot be maintained. Cilicia is an essentially Armenian Province. It was for four centuries until 1375 the State of the last kingdom of Armenia. Some parts of it, such as the region of Zeitun maintained up to our time a semi-independence under Armenian Princes. At Sis, capital of Cilicia, the Catholicos, religious head of all the Armenians of Turkey, has, from time immemorial up to the present day, maintained his pontifical seat.[Page 154]
As to the population the great majority is Armenian and Turkish. The Syrian element is insignificant. Before the war, there were in Cilicia only 20,000 Syrians as against 200,000 Armenians. No atlas of the ancient or modern world includes Cilicia in Syria. Geographically, historically, ethnically, Cilicia is an integral part of Armenia and its natural outlet in the Mediterranean.
The North frontier of Syria is the chain of the Amanus, not that of the Taurus, as represented in the publications of the Syrian Committee with the object of including Cilicia in Syria.
A few words now on the subject of population. I would like to say at the outset that there have never been exact statistics in Turkey. The Turkish Government always falsified those returns intentionally with the object of proving that the Armenians were an insignificant minority. I wish to cite a few examples of these falsifications. The Turkish Government showed the Armenians of the vilayet of Van as numbering 80,000. Now there is certain evidence that the number of Armenians from this vilayet who took refuge in Russia exceeds 220,000.
At the other extremity of Armenia in the whole of Sandjak of Marash the Turkish Government reckoned about 4,200 Armenians; now in the town of Marash alone according to Elysée Reclus there were more than 20,000 Armenians, half the population of the town. Zeitun in thfe Sandjak of Marash with its eight villages had, in accordance with statistics made on the spot in 1880, 27,460 Armenians and 8,344 Mussulmans.
It has been alleged that there are no Armenians left in Armenia since the massacres and deportations, or at all events that those who remain form an insignificant minority. Happily this is untrue.
Firstly, according to principles no-one today disputes, the dead must count as much as the living. It would be intolerable that the unspeakable crimes committed against a whole race should benefit their author’s. But the purpose of exterminating a whole people was not achieved. After this War the Armenians will be, as before it, more numerous than the Turks and even than the Turks and Kurds combined.
In fact, although the losses of the Armenians were very great, those of the Turks in the course of the war have not been less. A German Report gives 2½ millions as the total losses of the Turks by war, epidemic and famine, which have caused terrible havoc owing to improvidence and shortage of hospital personnel and medicines. At least half of these losses have been sustained by the population of the Armenian provinces, which have been practically the only recruiting grounds for the Turks, and which have been invaded both by Russian and Armenian armies. If, therefore, it is admitted [Page 155]that the Turkish population has at least sustained equally heavy losses, the Armenians are still in the majority after the war, as they were before it. But this majority will be still greater when the Armenian Republic of the Caucasus is united to Turkish Armenia to form one State, as both the Armenians of the Caucasus and those of Turkey ardently desire.
M. Abrounian [Aharonian] has just laid the case before you and I support all he has said. I cannot overstress the point that this is a matter of the greatest importance for the Armenians, because the two groups of Armenians are interdependent. The Caucasian Armenians are more numerous than the Turkish Armenians. The latter, however, are more favourably situated as regards fertile land.
As has already been said (and it is perhaps unnecessary to repeat it) there are bonds of race, blood, religion and language between the two groups. We are, in fact, brothers. The Armenians in the Caucasus have established themselves in that country to escape from Turkey. They have now only one desire, to return to their native land. During the massacres before the war it was due to the Caucasian Armenians that the Russian and Allied Governments were asked in 1915 and 1914 to approach Turkey in favour of the Turkish Armenians.
I wish now to say a few words with regard to the position of the Armenians in the East and in the Ottoman Empire. I shall demonstrate by a few facts that they are quite capable of governing themselves when the time comes for them to set up an independent State.
Just to give some idea of the economic activity of the Armenian element in Turkish Armenia, I will quote some figures, taken from pre-war commercial and industrial statistics of the Vilayet of Sivas, which I have produced at previous negotiations in Paris in 1912 and 1913.
The Vilayet of Sivas is the least Armenian of the six Vilayets, but if you look at the figures relating to imports you will see that out of 166 wholesale merchants, 141 were Armenians and only 13 were Turks. In the export trade there were 127 Armenian merchants and 23 Turks. Out of 37 bankers and capitalists, 32 were Armenians and 5 only were Turks. It appears, furthermore, according to the book recently published by M. Leipzius, that out of a total population of 20,000,000 inhabitants, of whom 2,000,000 were Armenians, the latter held some 80 to 90 percent of the commerce in their own hands.
M. Leipzius, after his enquiry at Constantinople in regard to the Massacres, stated that the result would be very detrimental financially to Germany and Austria, because, all commerce being in the hands of the massacred Armenians, the Germans and Austrians would be unable to recover their debts.[Page 156]
I will quote a passage from a book by Dr. Rohrbach, a well-known pan-Germanist, who desired to see Germany annex Armenia, and this will give you an idea of the German opinion on the Armenians before the war:—
“In present-day Turkey, reduced almost entirely to its Asiatic possessions, the Armenians carry much more weight than their numbers would seem to warrant. Owing to their high intellectual and commercial standards, they are without doubt the most active people among Eastern nations. In fact it might be said that they constitute the only people in those regions who are imbued with what might be called national qualities. The Armenian has that energy and tenacity of purpose which are quite contrary to the usually accepted attributes of the Eastern character”.
That is the opinion of a German, and it is simply because the writer is a German that I have made the quotation.
It remains for me to address you on Armenian policy, claims and aspirations. I have already told you what is meant by the Armenian State from a geographical standpoint. I must now point out that, from the political point of view, our programme has not varied in any way as far as the national delegation is concerned. This programme, which I have already had the honour to explain to the Great Allied Powers, may be summed up in three points:—
- Liberation from the Turkish yoke.
- It is not sufficient to liberate the Armenian people who have been in bondage. As they will now find themselves in an inferior position I asked for the joint protection of the Powers. I have not asked for joint rulership, to which I already knew the meeting would be opposed. There had already been unfortunate examples of condominium, and I know that the meeting would not feel disposed to make one more example. As an Egyptian, I know exactly what it means.
- By joint protection of the Powers I mean that kind of protection which would prevent aggression from outside, and not an intermeddling with internal political and administrative affairs.
- From the first I have also asked that the Great Protecting Powers should give a mandate to one or other of them to administer and organise Armenia.
That is the programme we adopted in 1915. We modified it when the idea of a League of Nations was formulated by President Wilson, and we adapted our programme to the new ideas.
The first point of our programme is now realised, since we are freed from the Turkish yoke. The two other points are realised also, if the newspaper reports are correct, since the Peace Conference has already decided to place the peoples oppressed by the Turks under the protection of the League of Nations with a Power as mandatory. We therefore have the firm hope of seeing our aspirations realised.
We need only entrust ourselves to the sense of justice of the Peace [Page 157]Conference, and we have no doubt but that the Conference will approve the programme of our national claims. The Powers now know and can trust the Armenians, whose national feelings, vitality and warlike valour have been strikingly revealed in the course of the war.
The Powers can rest assured that, with the qualifications all now recognised, the Armenians, under a régime of peace, justice and liberty, and under the tutelage of the League of Nations, will soon form a flourishing and prosperous State, and will be one of the most powerful factors of peace and civilisation in the East.”
M. Pichon thanked the Armenian Representatives, and the Armenian Delegation withdrew.
(5) On M. Pichon’s proposal, it was decided that the following questions should be discussed at the next Meeting to be held on Thursday, February 27th, at 3.0 p.m.:—
- —Proposal by Mr. House for a Commission to deal with delimitation of frontiers. Agenda of Next Meeting
- —The Zionist question.
(The Meeting adjourned to Thursday, February 27th, at 3.0 p.m.)
Villa Majestic, Paris, 27th February, 1919.