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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The ephemeral Treaty of Sèvres

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After more than fifteen months of preparations, on August 10th, 1920 the short-lived Treaty of Sèvres was signed in the Paris suburb of Sèvres between Great Britain, Italy and France as well as other smaller nations and the Ottoman Empire, a big loser of World War I soon to be almost completely dismantled.

The foundations had been laid at the Conference of San Remo in April 1920, attended by the prime ministers of Great Britain, Italy and France, the Japanese ambassador to France as well as American observers.

With Allied, including Greek troops occupying the capital Constantinople, renamed Istanbul in 1930, since the end of 1918, the Ottomans had little room for maneuver.

The total remake of the Middle East meant that Britain took control of Palestine and Iraq, while France gained Syria and Lebanon. On the Western Arabian Peninsula, the Kingdom of Hejaz received international recognition, but in 1925 was conquered by a neighboring sultanate and in 1932 became part of Saudi Arabia.

Russian Armenia was recognized as a separate sovereign state, hoping to gain some Ottoman land in the West, though ceased to exist after Soviet forces invaded in late 1920.

Greece was given most of the region of Thrace and granted rights in Smyrna in Western Anatolia, nowadays known as Izmir. Italy was able to keep the Dodecanese Islands occupied since 1912 until 1947, when they were finally ceded to Greece.

The establishment of a Kurdish state ultimately failed, also because a lack of unity among Kurds, many of whom ended up fighting against the Western powers that had envisioned it in the first place. The Dardanelles Strait was to be turned into an international waterway and certain ports near Constantinople into “free zones”.

The Ottoman Empire completely lost control of its finances, including the management of the Ottoman Bank, imports and exports, the national budget, financial regulations, requests for loans, reform of the tax system and debt repayments. Economic cooperation with Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria, whose economic assets were liquidated within its territory, was forbidden.

The Ottoman army was limited to 50,000 men and the navy to thirteen boats. These military terms could be supervised. An air force had ceased to exist in 1918.

Field Marshall Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, father of modern Turkey and head of a provisional government, considered the treaty unacceptable. He reorganized the remnants of the Ottoman army, ultimately driving out all foreign forces and therefore burying the Treaty of Sèvres.

The new Turkish nationalist regime inked its replacement, the Treaty of Lausanne, on July 24th, 1923, giving up all claims to former Ottoman possessions. In return, Turkey’s current boundaries were recognized.

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