Paris Peace Conf. 180.03501/87
Notes of a Meeting of the Heads of Delegations of the Five Great Powers Held in M. Pichon’s Room, Quai d’Orsay, Paris, on Saturday, November 8, 1919, at 10:30 a.m.
America, United States of
- Hon. F. L. Polk
- Mr. L. Harrison
- Sir Eyre Crowe
- Mr. H. Norman
- M. Clemenceau
- M. Pichon
- M. Dutasta
- M. Berthelot
- M. de Saint Quentin
- M. de Martino
- M. Barone Russo
- M. Matsui
- M. Kawai
- America, United States of
|America, United States of||Capt. G. A. Gordon|
|British Empire||Capt. G. Lothian Small|
The following were also present for items in which they were concerned:
America, United States of
- General Bliss
- General Sackville-West
- Mr. Forbes-Adam
- M. Gout
- General Bunoust
- M. Galli
- Commandant Mazzolini
- Prince Boncompagni
- M. Shigemitsu
1. Sir Eyre Crowe stated that in the next to the last meeting the Council had had to pass upon a proposal made by General Walch on behalf of General Nollet. He had understood that it was a question of laying upon Germany the payment of the salaries of all the personnel of Military Commissions [Page 36] of Control in Germany. That proposition conformed to the point of view maintained by the British Government. He read, however, in the procès-verbal, that Germany was only being charged with the payment of the salaries of personnel not belonging to the regular military forces, that is to say, the civilian personnel. There was no civilian personnel in these Commissions, or at least among the military members there were many who were civilian technical experts put on the footing of officers. Rectification of procès-Verbal HD–85, Minute 31
M. Clemenceau thought that Sir Eyre Crowe’s rectification called for no objection.
(It was decided:
to modify resolution No. 3 of H. D. 85, so as to read as follows: “It was decided that the payment of the salaries of the personnel of the Military Commissions of Control in Germany should be assumed by Germany.”)
2. M. Clemenceau pointed out that the agenda brought up the discussion of the report of the Commission of Investigation in Smyrna (See Appendix “A”). M. Venizelos had asked to be heard. It seemed to him that there were two questions in to be asked of M. Venizelos. First, he should explain the massacres of which the Greek troops were accused. Moreover, he himself was much struck by reading in the Commission’s report that the Greeks would not be able to maintain themselves in Smyrna by their own efforts. The Greeks had been sent to Smyrna on the clear understanding that their occupation should not be taken as equivalent to a definite attribution of territory to them. He noted that the Greeks had gone beyond the limits of the Sandjak of Smyrna without the permission of the Council and had done so upon a telegram from M. Venizelos. He thought that it was necessary to remind them that the Turkish question was not settled and to ask them to state definitely if they could maintain themselves at Smyrna by their own efforts. The information received indicated that in many respects the conduct of the Greeks had been abominable, and that Turkey would never accept, unless obliged to by force, Greek occupation, or, to a certain extent, Italian occupation. As far as the Greeks were concerned, he thought this information was correct. The question would not have arisen if the Greek occupation had not given rise to certain incidents. It was not the Council’s fault if the question had to be raised. The Turkish problem was not settled. He felt that the Council would be more and more led to respecting the integrity of Turkish territory; under these circumstances it would be well to warn the Greeks that they should not behave as conquerors of Asia Minor. Report of the Commission of Investigation in Smyrna
M. de Martino wished to associate himself with what M. Clemenceau had just said: the military occupations in Asia Minor were [Page 37] clearly only provisional and should in no way prejudice the final settlement of the Turkish question. This question could not be divorced from the more general question of the fate of the territories of the former Ottoman Empire which was of interest to all Mediterranean powers. Italian opinion was clearly favorable to the principle of respecting the integrity of these territories. Moreover, he wished to point out that the relations between the Italian troops and the Turkish population in Anatolia were excellent and that no conflicts had taken place between them; on the contrary, on many occasions the local populations and authorities had indulged in manifestations of gratitude.
Sir Eyre Crowe felt that the Council was entering upon a basic discussion of Greek occupation. He thought that the conclusions of the Commission went beyond the instructions received by it. The Commission had been formed, at the request of M. Venizelos himself, to investigate the massacres. Its report treated, in general terms, the whole problem of Greek occupation, and also questioned the decisions of the Supreme Council. What would happen if the Council, as the report suggested, asked the Greeks to leave Smyrna? Would they be replaced by Turks or was an Inter-Allied occupation contemplated? The affair of the Vilayet of Aidin had just shown how difficult of realization such an occupation was: the French Government had felt it impossible to send a battalion and, under these conditions, the British Government had not felt that it could assume this burden. If Inter-Allied occupation was impossible could the Council really think of allowing the Greeks to retire when there was no one to replace them. Could it possibly think of evacuating the country before peace had even been concluded?
M. Clemenceau thought it clearly could not. He felt, with Sir Eyre Crowe, that it was impossible at the moment to ask the Greeks to retire but it would perhaps be well to have some officers on the spot who could inform the Council as to the situation at Smyrna.
Sir Eyre Crowe pointed out that the Greeks unfortunately claimed that many of the difficulties arose from the fact that they did not have complete authority in that region. In any case it seemed impossible to agree with the conclusions of the Commission which proposed a regime under which the Greeks might perhaps occupy but the Turks would govern. Rather than create an organ of supervision it would be better to give the Greeks greater liberty of action and at the same time a larger and more definite share of responsibility.
M. Clemenceau observed that the danger was that the Greeks would take too much latitude.
Mr. Polk wished to know what the attitude of the Council was? It seemed to him that there was some thought of rejecting the conclusions of the report now before it. He was not so inclined. The [Page 38] Commission had thought its mission was to establish the responsibility for the events at Smyrna; it had pointed out these responsibilities as it saw them and had not hesitated to question the acts of the Council itself. The report contained serious matters. Did the Council intend or not to take them into consideration? For instance, paragraph 37 of the report pointed out that M. Venizelos himself had ordered the reoccupation of Aidin without taking the Entente into consideration. He felt that it was impossible not to repose confidence in the investigators whom the Council had chosen, or else another Commission should be sent.
Sir Eyre Crowe thought that the order given by M. Venizelos had already been discussed by the Council of Four.2
M. de Martino felt that it was impossible not to discuss the report inasmuch as it emanated from a Commission set up by the Supreme Council.
M. Clemenceau said that the report would be discussed after M. Venizelos had been heard. (At this point M. Venizelos entered the room.)
M. Venizelos hoped that the Council would permit him to give a brief historical summary of the conditions under which the investigation had been conducted; he felt that this recapitulation would show that he had good reason to ask that this investigation should be considered null and void and that another investigation should take place. On the 18th of July, after he had asked the British Government, as a result of a question which had been put in the House of Commons, to send an investigating officer to Smyrna, the Supreme Council had decided to create a Commission of Investigation.3 No Greek officer sat on that Commission. He had protested to the President of the Conference and had received the reply that a Greek Representative should follow the work of the Commission.4 On August 22d he had been obliged to inform the Supreme Council that his representative, Colonel Mazarakis, was not allowed to be present at the taking of testimony, under the pretext that his presence might intimidate certain witnesses.5 The Commission had declared that it would confine itself to communicating the depositions to him. He, Mr. Venizelos, had protested against that decision, which was contrary to elementary rules of justice. Later on the Commission had made it known that the Greek representative would be put upon the same footing as the Turkish representative who was permitted to follow its work. Such similar treatment, offensive to an Allied people, forced him to protest. [Page 39] On the 14th of September he had again been obliged to protest because the Commission had refused to call the witnesses which the Greek Delegate had proposed should be heard, and because it had refused to communicate to Colonel Mazarakis the testimony which had been taken. The President of the Conference had replied to him that the Greek Delegate was not entitled to insist on being present at all deliberations of the Commission, but that the minutes, including the hearings of witnesses, would be delivered to Colonel Mazarakis who could then present his observations thereon to the Commission before the latter reached its conclusions.6 Nevertheless the Commission had not wished to communicate to the Greek Delegate the depositions made before it on the pretext that secrecy had been promised certain witnesses. In so acting it had violated the most elementary principles of justice and it put, unintentionally doubtless, a positive premium upon false testimony. He had addressed himself to the Conference which had answered that it could not go behind a promise given by the Commission.7 He wished to press this point upon the Council; an investigation conducted under such conditions could not be trustworthy. It was impossible thus to pass judgment upon the honor of an army without having given that army the means of defending itself. He felt that he was entitled to satisfaction, since it was a question of a State which had always been faithful to its alliances and friendships, and since this request was formulated by a representative of that State who had always borne himself loyally towards the Conference.
M. Clemenceau asked if General Bunoust had any remarks to make as to the materiality of the facts in question.
General Bunoust said that he did have some remarks to make. The Commission had never decided to communicate the depositions taken; it had unanimously decided that the depositions would lack sincerity if the Greek representatives had to be informed of them. The Turks would not have opened their mouths in the presence of a Greek officer. In spite of that precaution the Commission had sometimes had difficulty in finding witnesses; thus at Aidin no Turkish witnesses had been found. When the Supreme Council’s telegram of September 30th reached the Commission it had not yet ended its labors; it had only concluded the summary of the established facts and it had transmitted this in full to Colonel Mazarakis. Colonel Mazarakis had presented observations on this subject which the Commission had taken into account on one point.
M. Clemenceau asked whether, after the Commission had received the telegram of September 30th, it had taken depositions which it had not communicated to M. Venizelos’ representative.[Page 40]
General Bunoust thought that the Commission might, after that date, have taken the second deposition of Colonel Smith.
M. Venizelos did not wish to insist upon that point. He felt, however, that he might say, without offending anyone, that civil investigators would have been more anxious not to violate cardinal principles of justice, and that they would not, for instance, have allowed witnesses to be heard without being sworn. At Aidin the Commission might well have taken non-Turkish testimony and have been satisfied therewith. He felt finally that he might remark that the procedure adopted inevitably exposed the investigators to the danger of being carried away by false depositions and reaching unjust or inaccurate conclusions. The animosity between Turks and Greeks was an incontestable fact; moreover, it was certain that many Europeans in Smyrna preferred the continuance of the Turkish regime which, with respect to strangers, was a regime of special privileges, rather than the establishment of the Greek regime, which was a regime of equality.
M. Clemenceau asked if M. Venizelos did not intend to discuss the facts brought out in the report.
M. Venizelos said that he did not want to discuss conclusions based on testimony which had not been brought to the knowledge of the Greek representative.
M. Clemenceau observed that it was a serious matter to make such a reply. The Council had expected from M. Venizelos precise answers on questions of fact. As head of the Government he must know if the alleged facts had really happened. He was astonished that M. Venizelos did not wish to discuss them.
M. Venizelos recognized that there had been excesses but he thought that they were readily to be explained. He admitted equally that the conditions under which the debarkation took place created an administrative responsibility of the Greek Command. The Greek Government moreover had inflicted heavy penalties. But the Council could not forget that the day before the occupation the Turkish population had assembled, and that protests against the occupation had been posted up.
General Bunoust said that these posters were not appeals to resistance. The Turks were only asked to assemble in order to prove that the Turkish element was in the majority; the crowd of Turks, moreover, was not armed.
M. Venizelos observed that in any event there was a tendency to resistance, inasmuch as the day before civil prisoners had been released.
General Bunoust explained that they had only been released during the night preceding the debarkation. The Commission’s report, [Page 41] moreover, had recognized the responsibility of the Turkish Governor in these circumstances.
M. Venizelos added that stores of arms had been looted by the crowd. Under these conditions the debarkation took place. The officer commanding the Greek troops had been guilty of imprudence. The Council knew how gunshots, coming from parts unknown, had provoked a reply on the part of the Greek troops. A panic followed and that was the beginning of the excesses. He thought he ought to point out that the next day or the day after a Court-Martial had been organized, that in the first five days of its sitting this Court-Martial had condemned three Greeks to death, one of them being a looting soldier, and that it had totalled seventy-four convictions, of which forty-eight were of Greeks. Nothing more could be asked of the most civilized country. As for the massacre of the prisoners who were being led on board vessels in the harbor, Colonel Mazarakis’ investigation, which had resulted in severe condemnation of the Lieutenant commanding the escort, had established that the excesses of which the prisoners had been the victims were largely due to the crowd, and that only about twenty prisoners had been killed. In any event, forty-eight hours after the debarkation of the troops, order had been reestablished. He wished to ask General Bunoust if since that time the city had not been perfectly calm.
General Bunoust replied that such was the case.
M. Venizelos stated that Colonel Mazarakis did not agree with the Commission on the affair of Menemem. According to the Colonel, a Greek battalion which had evacuated Pergamum, after having suffered serious losses, while entering Menemem had been attacked by Turkish fanatics. This attack had provoked excesses. The Commission, which did not consider that Turkish aggression had been established as a fact, had certainly been led into error by the witnesses which it had heard; it spoke of three hundred Turks killed; according to his information, only twenty had been killed. It was evident that on this point an investigation in the nature of a cross-examination would have been suitable.
General Bunoust observed that the Commission had attached very little importance to the figures furnished it; it was perfectly aware of their inexactness. In any event it had not based its conclusions on a Turkish report, according to which one thousand were killed, but on an investigation made the day after the uprising by a French officer.
M. Venizelos stated that in the affair of Nazilli the fault lay with the Greek officer who, threatened with attack, thought he could evacuate the town prior to the time ordered by the English Admiral. In any event, in that affair, it was the Greeks who had suffered most. As [Page 42] for Aidin, he maintained that twenty-five hundred Greeks perished and that the number of Turkish victims was far less.
General Bunoust explained that the Commission had relied upon a French investigation, according to which there were reported to be about twenty-five hundred Greek victims and fifteen hundred Turkish. The estimation of the number of Turkish dead was moreover difficult on account of the exodus of the population.
M. Venizelos acknowledged that Aidin, occupied by the Greeks and then evacuated, had been re-occupied on an order given by him, which order had had unfortunate results. He wished to give the reasons which had caused him to issue that order. The Greeks were in a state of war with the Turks. If the Turks could boast of having expelled the Greeks from Aidin, their situation at Smyrna would have become impossible; therefore he had given the order to re-occupy the town. Moreover, he had informed the Council of what he was doing. Already, prior to that time, he had instructed the Greek military authorities not to hesitate, in the event of attack by Turkish bands, to go beyond the limits of the zone of occupation in order to break up centers of hostile resistance. In any event these incontestable facts remained: the Greek section of Aidin was entirely destroyed, twenty-five hundred out of eight thousand Greeks had perished, the Greek element formed the richest and most civilized part of the population; and it was the Greeks who had suffered most. He regretted that the procedure adopted by the Commission had not allowed the Turkish losses to be ascertained. Finally, he felt obliged to protest against the passage of the Commission’s report which repeated an accusation of the Sheik-ul-Islam to the effect that the Greek Red Cross had introduced arms into Smyrna.
General Bunoust observed that the Commission had not considered this accusation well founded.
M. Venizelos said that it was true that prior to the Greek occupation the Greek Sanitary Officer had insisted that the boxes of the Red Cross which were unloaded at the customs be not inspected, and that the Turkish Governor had consented thereto; but he could not allow the Greek Red Cross to remain under the shadow of suspicion. The Sheik-ul-Islam also pretended that the Greeks had taken advantage of their occupation to bring about an influx of Grecian population in those regions. That was entirely false: since the events of May, 1914, there had been in Greece 300,000 refugees from Asia Minor. He had ordered them to be repatriated, but it had been pointed out to him that the dwellings they had left were being inhabited by Turks whose lodging would have to be insured, and that the question was a delicate one. Under those circumstances the repatriation had been [Page 43] postponed. There had only been isolated cases of repatriation and he did not think that there were more than 5,000 or 6,000 who had returned. He felt sure that the excesses, which he deplored, had not gone beyond what should have been expected under analogous circumstances on the part of any army. The affair had certainly been exaggerated; moreover General Bunoust did not deny that severe punishment had been meted out to those found guilty. The Greek army had not deserved ill of its Allies and the Greeks had ensured the maintenance of order. If certain fugitive Turks had not returned to Smyrna that fact could be attributed to the pressure brought to bear on them by the Turks in the interior.
General Bunoust remarked that it was quite possible.
M. Clemenceau asked what was the importance of the Turkish bands with whom the Greeks had to deal?
General Bunoust said that the Commissioners had spent a day with these bands; and they did not seem to have great cohesion and they had no offensive capacity. The Nationalist movement, however, was a serious matter and it could arrest all military progress in Asia Minor unless an operation on a large scale should be decided upon.
M. Venizelos said that there was no question of that.
M. Clemenceau observed that that, however, was just what M. Venizelos had done. Greece had had a Mandate from the Conference and had not kept within the limits of that Mandate. Some members of the Council were wondering what would happen if the Turkish attacks should increase in severity. Could Greece, without the support of her Allies, make the necessary military and financial effort until such a time as the country should be completely pacified? That was the troublesome point.
M. Venizelos replied that certainly the longer the question was dragged out the more financial difficulties would increase for a small country such as Greece. She had an army of 12 divisions of 325,000 men; an army stronger than it was at the time of the Armistice. He felt assured that if the Conference should charge Greece with the task of defeating Turkey she would be able to do so.
M. Clemenceau said that he had put the question the other way.
M. Venizelos said that with 12 divisions he had nothing to fear. Mustapha Kemal only had 70,000 men. It was evident that if the present situation was unduly prolonged Greece would have financial difficulties, but he hoped that would not be the case.
M. Clemenceau thanked M. Venizelos in the name of the Council for his presentation of the case. (At this point M. Venizelos left the room.)[Page 44]
M. Clemenceau suggested that the discussion be postponed until the following Monday. (This was agreed to.)
(The meeting then adjourned).
- Ante, p. 5.↩
- The order by M. Venizelos for the reoccupation of Aidin was not given until July 2, 1919, and therefore could not have been discussed by the Council of Four.↩
- See HD–10, minute 1, and HD–11, minute 4, vol. vii, pp. 191 and 207.↩
- See HD–12, minute 5, and appendix E, ibid., pp. 238 and 249.↩
- Appendix F to HD–64, vol. viii, p. 476.↩
- See HD–64, minute 6, ibid., p. 463.↩
- See HD–71, minute 3, ibid., p. 675.↩
- Filed separately under Paris Peace Conf. 181.8302/3.↩
- Translation from the French supplied by the editors.↩
- HD–11, minute 4, vol. vii, p. 207.↩
- Minutes of meetings and annexes not printed (Paris Peace Conference 181.8301/1–46).↩
- See HD–13, minute 12, ibid., p. 264.↩
- Appendix A to HD–10, ibid., p. 200.↩
- See HD–64, minute 6, vol. viii, p. 463, and HD–71, minute 3, ibid., p. 675.↩
- For text of the Armistice with Turkey, October 30, 1918, see Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 441.↩
- Post, p. 71.↩
- See IC–181C, minute 17, vol. v, p. 484.↩
- CF–19, minute 2, vol. v, p. 721.↩
This report was accompanied by the following letter:
Constantinople, [Sept.] 29/October 12, 1919.
Mr. President: I have the honor of submitting to the Commission several observations which have been suggested to me by the statement of the results of the inquiry which you were kind enough to send me.
Be assured of my highest regards,
Colonel Alexandre Mazarakis
[Footnote in the original.]↩
- Post, p. 71.↩