Paris Peace Conf. 180.03401/15½


Notes of a Meeting Held at President Wilson’s House, Place des Etats-Unis, Paris, on Saturday, May 17, 1919, at 11 a.m.

  • Present
    • United States of America
      • President Wilson.
    • British Empire
      • Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, M. P.
    • France
      • M. Clemenceau.
Sir Maurice Hankey, K. C. B. Secretary.
Prof. P. J. Mantoux. Interpreter.

1. Mandates in Turkey. Alteration in Minutes No. 13A Attention was drawn to the draft notes circulated by Sir Maurice Hankey on the subject of the proposed mandates in Asia Minor. (C. F. 13A. Minute 3, Minute 11, and Appendices 1 and 2).1 Sir Maurice Hankey was instructed to make it clear in the revise of the Minutes that the decision had only been intended as provisional, and as part of a proposal that it was contemplated to make to the Italian Delegates.

2. The Italian Landing at Scala Nuova Mr. Lloyd George said he had received information from M. Venizelos sent by the Governor General of Samos, to the effect that the Italians had landed 500 men at Scala Nuova and occupied the Customs House. Consequently, they were now in possession of the whole coast of Asia Minor from Scala Nuova to Adalia. He felt that some immediate representation ought to be made to M. Orlando on the subject.

President Wilson suggested that a joint memorandum should be signed by Mr. Lloyd George, M. Clemenceau and himself, addressed to M. Orlando. This would give him an opportunity to look into the matter. He should be told that the independent action on Italy’s part was a matter of serious concern to the Allied and Associated Powers. If his explanations were not satisfactory, he should be told that Italian claims could not be discussed. A joint communication of this kind would be more formal and more impressive than a verbal remonstrance.

[Page 669]

Mr. Lloyd George handed round a memorandum from Mr. Balfour (Appendix), which he described as a powerful one, in regard to provisional decisions taken on the subject of Anatolia. He felt considerable doubt as to whether this provisional conclusion was a correct one. In any case, if the Italians continued on their present lines, it might be better to have only one mandate for Anatolia.

M. Clemenceau said for his part he did not want it.

President Wilson produced an ethnographical map of Anatolia, and pointed out how much more mixed the population was in the southern half of Anatolia than in the north, where it was almost wholly Turkish.

Mr. Lloyd George said it had to be borne in mind that the whole Mohammedan world would be aroused by this partition of Turkey, and this affected France just as much as it did Great Britain.

(It was agreed that Mr. Lloyd George should prepare the draft of the memorandum for consideration, and possibly for subsequent presentation to M. Orlando, on the subject of the Italian landings on the Coast of Asia Minor).

Villa Majestic, Paris, 17 May, 1919.

Appendix to CF–15A

[Memorandum by Mr. Balfour of the British Delegation]

The Problem of Italy and Turkey in Anatolia

The scheme provisionally accepted on Wednesday last at a meeting of the “Three”,2 contemplates the final destruction of the Turkish State. This is already condemned, and I think rightly, to the loss of its European possessions, its Arab-speaking population, and Armenia. It is therefore in any case reduced, as far as the area of its Empire is concerned, to a mere fraction of its former self; this fraction, however, we originally proposed to preserve, thus leaving to the Sultan that great block of Anatolia lying west [east] of the meridian of Constantinople, which is not merely inhabited by a population the vast majority of whom are Turks, but which contains within its boundaries most of the Turkish race. For this scheme has now been substituted one which cuts this region into two separate states, with different capitals, different sovereigns and different mandatories.

I look with much misgiving at this proposal. It will not only deeply shock large sections of Mohammedan opinion, but I think it [Page 670] will also be made the subject of a great deal of very unfavourable Christian commentary. We are all most anxious to avoid as far as possible placing reluctant populations under alien rule; but ought we not to be quite as careful to avoid the opposite fault? Is it a greater crime to join together those who wish to be separated than to divide those who wish to be united? And if the Anatolian Turks say they desire to remain a single people under a single sovereign, to what principle are we going to make appeal when we refuse to grant their request?

I think we must admit that no such scheme would ever have been thought of, if it had not been necessary to find some method of satisfying Italian ambitions. Unfortunately, this necessity haunts and hampers every step in our diplomacy. The Italians, armed with the Treaty of London, and supported by a passionate public opinion, will never be content with fragments of Tyrolese and Jugo-Slav territory in Europe; with French and British Colonial concessions in Africa, and with the Caucasus in the Middle East. We have also to find something for them out of the Turkish Empire in Asia Minor. Now I believe there are only two kinds of scheme possible by which the latter operation can be accomplished;—the scheme of partition advocated by the “Three”, and the scheme which I ventured to lay before them. This last has not, perhaps, in all respects, been very clearly understood; which is not surprising, for it was very hastily written, and not very fully explained. But the matter is so important that I may be permitted to return to it.

Under my scheme Turkey remained an undivided State without a Mandatory. Its status was substantially that of the historic Turkish Empire. Its territories were, indeed much diminished; it could no longer count as a Great Power; but in other respects the Sultan would reign at Brussa or Konia as his predecessors had formerly reigned at Constantinople.

Now it must be remembered that even at Constantinople represent atives of the Western Powers had special positions in his administration, justified, and, indeed, rendered necessary for various well-known reasons. The public debt, the customs, and in some cases the police, were under the control or supervision of foreign advisers. This system I do not propose to alter, but rather to perfect. The Turks are familiar with it, up to a certain point they welcome it, and they do not deem it inconsistent with their unity or their independence.

The alternative scheme, which found favour on Wednesday, destroys both; for it cuts Turkey into two halves; and puts each half under a separate Mandatory. What are its compensating advantages? It is said, in the first place, that it avoids the evils of a Condominium. A Condominium, we are told, is never a success; it is slow moving, [Page 671] ineffectual and the occasion of endless friction between the controlling Powers;—a friction so acute as even to endanger the peace of the world.

But the plan I propose is not a Condominium. A Condominium, as I understand it is the joint Government of a single State by many powers acting collectively. Under such a system, the Powers first agree upon a policy, and then impose it upon the subordinate State. They control, actually or potentially, the whole administration. If they differ, the administrative machinery stands still. If their differences are due to their being moved by inconsistent interests, they may become acute and even dangerous. The subordinate Government is perpetually tempted to play one off against the other, and the whole country becomes the theatre of rival intrigues. Everybody quarrels, and nothing is done.

Now nobody will pretend that the Constantinople Government was a good one, but it was not as bad as all this. There were, of course, endless [intrigues], political and financial. There was a perpetual struggle to obtain influence with the Sultan and his Ministers. There was much corruption; there was much mal-administration. But it was never a Condominium. The Sultan appointed his ministers; he appointed the Governors of his Provinces; he raised and commanded the Army; he directed the foreign policy of his country, and was in tyese and all other important respects, an independent sovereign. Certain branches of his administration were no doubt controlled, not by a foreign Condominium but by foreigners. He remained, nevertheless, in quite a different position from that which he would have held either under a Condominium or under a Mandatory.

Another objection raised against my scheme is that it gives special privileges to Italy in the southern part of the Turkish state. This is quite true, and of course I should greatly prefer that it were otherwise. But inasmuch as the whole plan is primarily devised in order to do something to satisfy Italian appetites, that is, I am afraid, inevitable. From an administrative point of view, the scheme would no doubt be much better if the Italians played no part in it. I freely admit it—but I submit that the argument is irrelevant The Italians must somehow be mollified, and the only question is how to mollify them at the smallest cost to mankind.

Then it is said that to give the Italians a first claim to concessions in any district is to violate the principle of equal opportunities for all nations. Again, I am not prepared to deny the charge. My whole object is to give the Italians something which they will really like, and it seems that they have a great liking for concessions. I remember, when the Marquis Imperiali was comparing the advantages which the French would get out of Cilicia with the advantages which Italy was [Page 672] likely to get out of her share of Asia Minor, he was wont to dwell upon the wonders of a certain copper mine, which he said, I am sure quite truly, was to be found somewhere in the French zone. In the same way, I observe that Baron Sonnino’s eyes are lovingly fixed upon a very indifferent coal mine on the Southern shores of the Black Sea. Personally, I regard these hopes and expectations with considerable scepticism. I doubt the existence of these hidden riches in Southern Anatolia. Even if they exist, I doubt whether their exploitation is going to make Italy rich; and I have a strong suspicion that even if these industrial enterprises are started under Italian patronage, they will be found after no great lapse of time to be under German management. But all this does not seem to me to be to the point. The object is to find some privileged position for the Italians in Southern Anatolia; and I particularly beg the “Three” to remember that she has already got the germs of such a position by a pre-war arrangement which she made with the Turks, in respect of the region neighbouring on Adalia. My suggestion only extends and emphasises her privileges. It does not create them.

In any case, as Italy is not, under my plan, intended to occupy the position of a Mandatory in these regions, the general principle—that no Mandatory has a right to exceptional trade advantages in the country which it controls—is not violated. The only difference that I can see between what would happen under my plan, and what would happen if nothing were done for the Italians in Asia Minor, is that in the first case Italy would without question or controversy have the refusal of all concessions within a certain area: in the second case these concessions will be scrambled for at Brussa by the rival company-mongers of every country under Heaven, supported, no doubt, by their respective Ministers. The first plan may be an infringement upon the liberty and equality, nominally at least, secured by the second; but 1 do not know that these most excellent things are seen to the best advantage when they are enjoyed by corrupt administrators and greedy speculators.

But once again, this is relatively unimportant compared with the main objects of the scheme I am endeavouring to support. This is designed to do two things; to maintain something resembling an inde pendent Turkish Government, ruling over a homogeneous Turkish population; the other is to find a position for the Italians within this Turkish state which will make a sufficient appeal to the ambitionsj the Italian Government. From every other point of view the plan is, I admit, a bad one; but from this point of view—which is the one at the moment chiefly occupying our thoughts—I still think it worthy of serious consideration.

A. J. B[alfour]
  1. Ante, pp. 614, 618, and 622.
  2. See CF–13A, p. 618.