The Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920) was the peace treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Allies at the end of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was signed with the German Empire before this treaty to annul the German concessions including the economic rights and enterprises. Also, France, Great Britain and Italy signed a secret «Tripartite Agreement» at the same date. The Tripartite Agreement confirmed Britain’s oil and commercial concessions and turned the former German enterprises in the Ottoman Empire over to a Tripartite corporation. The terms of the Treaty of Sèvres were far more severe than those imposed on the German Empire in the Treaty of Versailles. The open negotiations covered a period of more than fifteen months, beginning at the Paris Peace Conference. The negotiations continued at the Conference of London, and took definite shape only after the premiers’ meeting at the San Remo conference in April 1920. France, Italy, and Great Britain, however, had secretly begun the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as early as 1915. The delay occurred because the powers could not come to an agreement which, in turn, hinged on the outcome of the Turkish national movement. The Treaty of Sèvres was annulled in the course of the Turkish War of Independence and the parties signed and ratified the superseding Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
The representatives signed the treaty in an exhibition room at the famous porcelain factory in Sèvres, France.
The treaty had four signatories for the Ottoman Empire: Rıza Tevfik, the grand vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, ambassador Hadi Pasha, and the minister of education Reşid Halis, who were endorsed by Sultan Mehmed VI.
Of the Principal Allied powers it excluded the United States. Russia was also excluded because it had negotiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Ottoman Empire in 1918. In that treaty, at the insistence of the Grand Vizier Talat Pasha, the Ottoman Empire regained the lands Russia had captured in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), specifically Ardahan, Kars, and Batumi. Sir George Dixon Grahame signed for Great Britain, Alexandre Millerand for France, and Count Lelio Bonin Longare for Italy.
Among the other Allied powers, Greece did not accept the borders as drawn and never ratified it. Avetis Aharonian, the President of the Delegation of the First Republic of Armenia, which also signed the Treaty of Batum on 4 June 1918, was a signatory of this treaty.
Aims of the Allies
The leaders of France, Britain, and the United States had stated their differing objectives with respect to the Ottoman Empire during the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. The common theme was the sick man of Europe had come to his own end. However, it was a shock to the world when the treaty said the Allies were in agreement keeping the Ottoman Government of Constantinople, which remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire, though with the reservations of the conditions of the treaty. The treaty called for the expulsion of the Ottoman Empire from Europe. The treaty imposed terms so severe that British policy seemed to have succeeded in strangling the sick man of Europe in his sick-bed in Asia Minor.
The United States—having refused the Armenian mandate in the Senate—decided to have nothing to do with partition of the Ottoman Empire. The U.S. wanted a permanent peace as quickly as possible, with financial compensation for its military expenditures. However, after the American Senate rejected Wilson’s Armenian mandate, its only hope was its inclusion in the Treaty by the influential Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos.
The treaty solidified the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, in accord with secret agreements among the Allied Powers.
Kingdom of Hejaz
The Kingdom of Hejaz was granted international recognition. Estimated area of 100,000 sq mi (260,000 km2), and population of about 750,000. The biggest cities were Holy Places, namely, Mecca, with a population of 80,000, and Medina, with a population of 40,000. It formerly constituted the vilayet of Hejaz, but during the war became an independent kingdom under British influence.
First republic of Armenia – western borders defined by Woodrow Wilson
Armenia was recognized as an established state by the signed parties. (Section VI «Armenia», articles 88-93).
See also: Treaty of Alexandropol, Wilsonian Armenia and First Republic of Armenia
A late 1918 map showing Europe before World War I, with new states formed after the great war in red. Includes the borders established by the Treaty of Sèvres.
The Allies were to control the Empire’s finances. The financial control extended to the approval or supervision of the national budget, financial laws and regulations, and the total control over the Ottoman Bank. The Ottoman Public debt Administration (instituted in 1881) was redesigned to include only British, French and Italian bond holders. The Ottoman debt problem dated back to the time of the Crimean War (1854–56), during which the Ottoman Empire had borrowed money from abroad, mainly from France. During the Conference of Lausanne, the council decided that the Republic of Turkey was responsible for 67% of the annuity of the pre-war debt; the question of how payment was to be made, however, was not resolved until 1928. Also the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire were restored to prior to 1914. Capitulations were abolished in the first year of the war by Talaat Pasha. The control also extended to import and export duties, the reorganization of the electoral system, and the proportional representation of the «races» within the Empire. The Empire was required to grant freedom of transit to persons, goods, vessels, etc., passing through her territory, and goods in transit were to be free of all customs duties.
Future developments of the tax system, the customs system, internal or external loans, or concessions could not be arranged without the consent of the financial commission of the Allied powers. To forestall the economic repenetration of Germany, Austria, Hungary, or Bulgaria the treaty demanded that the Empire liquidate the property of citizens of those countries in its territories. This public liquidation will be turned over to the Reparations Commission. Property rights in Baghdad Railway passed out of German control.
The Ottoman Army was to be restricted to 50,700 men; the Ottoman navy could only preserve seven sloops and six torpedo boats; and the Ottoman state was prohibited from obtaining an air force.
The treaty included an Inter-allied commission of control and organization to supervise the execution of the military clauses.
See also: Malta Tribunals
The treaty required determination of those responsible for the «barbarous and illegitimate methods of warfare… [including] offenses against the laws and customs of war and the principles of humanity». Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres required that the Ottoman Empire «hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914.» However, the Inter-allied tribunal attempt demanded by the Treaty of Sèvres were eventually suspended.
France (Zone of influence)
France received Syria and neighbouring parts of Southeastern Anatolia, including Antep, Urfa and Mardin. Cilicia including Adana, Diyarbakır and large portions of East-Central Anatolia all the way up north to Sivas and Tokat were declared a zone of French influence.
Greece (Zone of Smyrna)
The expansion of Greece from 1832-1947, showing in yellow territories awarded to Greece by the Treaty of Sèvres but lost in 1923.
The occupation of Smyrna established Greek administration on May 21, 1919. This was followed by the declaration of a protectorate on July 30, 1922. The Treaty transferred «the exercise of her rights of sovereignty to a local parliament» but leaving the region under Ottoman Empire. According to the provisions of the Treaty, Smyrna was to be administered by a local parliament and it also gave the people of Smyrna the chance of a plebiscite after five years on whether they wished to join Greece as opposed to remaining in the Ottoman Empire. This plebiscite would be overseen by the League of Nations. The treaty accepted the Greek administration of the Smyrna enclave, however its sovereignty remained, nominally, with the Sultan.
Italy (Zone of influence)
Italy was confirmed in the possession of the Dodecanese Islands (already under Italian occupation since the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–1912, despite the Treaty of Ouchy according to which Italy was obliged to return the islands back to the Ottoman Empire). Large portions of Southern and West-Central Anatolia (the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and the inlands) including the port city of Antalya and the historic Seljuk capital of Konya were declared an Italian zone of influence. The Antalya Province was promised by the Triple Entente to Italy in the Treaty of London., and the Italian colonial authorities wished the zone to become an Italian colony under the name of Lycia.
A Kurdistan region was scheduled to have a referendum to decide its fate, which, according to Section III Articles 62–64, was to include the Mosul Province.
There was no general agreement among Kurds on what its borders should be because of the disparity between the areas of Kurdish settlement and the political and administrative boundaries of the region. The outlines of Kurdistan as an entity were proposed in 1919 by Şerif Pasha, who represented the Society for the Ascension of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti) at the Paris Peace Conference.He defined the region’s boundaries as follows:
«The frontiers of Turkish Kurdistan, from an ethnographical point of view, begin in the north at Ziven, on the Caucasian frontier, and continue westwards to Erzurum, Erzincan, Kemah, Arapgir, Besni and Divick (Divrik?); in the south they follow the line from Harran, the Sinjihar Hills, Tel Asfar, Erbil, Süleymaniye, Akk-el-man, Sinne; in the east, Ravandiz, Başkale, Vezirkale, that is to say the frontier of Persia as far as Mount Ararat.»
This caused controversy among other Kurdish nationalists, as it excluded the Van region (possibly as a sop to Armenian claims to that region). Emin Ali Bedir Khan proposed an alternative map which included Van and an outlet to the sea via Turkey’s present Hatay Province. Amid a joint declaration by Kurdish and Armenian delegations, Kurdish claims on Erzurum vilayet and Sassoun (Sason) were dropped but arguments for sovereignty over Ağrı and Muş remained.
Neither of these proposals was endorsed by the treaty of Sèvres, which outlined a truncated Kurdistan located on what is now Turkish territory (leaving out the Kurds of Iran, British-controlled Iraq and French-controlled Syria). However, even that plan was never implemented as the Treaty of Sèvres was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne. The current Iraq-Turkey border was agreed in July 1926.
Also article 63 grants explicitly full safeguard and protection to the Assyro-Chaldean minority. This reference was later dropped in the treaty of Lausanne.
Zone of Straits
Map (made in 1920) of Western Turkey, showing the Zone of the Straits in Treaty of Sèvres.
The Zone of Straits was planned to be established covering both the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. One of the most important points of the treaty was the provision that the navigation was to be open in the Dardanelles in times of peace and war alike to all vessels of commerce and war, no matter under what flag, thus in effect leading to internationalization of the waters. The waters were not to be subject to blockade, nor could any act of war be committed there, except in enforcing the decisions of the League of Nations.
It included not only the Straits proper but also the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara.
Certain ports were to be declared to be of international interest. The League of Nations were completely free and absolute equality in treatment, particularly in the matter of charges and facilities insuring the carrying out of the economic provisions in commercially strategic places. These regions will be named as the «free zones.» The ports were: Constantinople from St. Stefano to DolmaBahce, Haidar-Pasha, Smyrna, Alexandretta, Haifa, Basra, Trabzon, and Batum.
Thrace, up to the Chatalja line, islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and the islands of Marmara ceded to Greece. The sea line of these islands declared international and left to administration of «Zone of Straits.»
Main article: Wilsonian Armenia
Map (made in 1920) of Eastern Turkey, showing the extent of Turkish Armenia according to President Wilson’s boundary decision in Treaty of Sèvres.
Armenia was given a large part of the region according to the border fixed by President of the United States of America which was referred as «Wilsonian Armenia»; including provinces which did not have significant Armenian populations remaining after the war, such as the Black Sea port city of Trabzon.
British Mandate of Iraq
The details as reflected to the treaty regarding the British Mandate of Iraq was completed on April 25, 1920, at the San Remo conference.
Oil concession in this region was given to the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) which had held concessionary rights to the Mosul wilaya (province). With elimination of the Ottoman Empire with this treaty, British and Iraqi negotiators held acrimonious discussions over the new oil concession. The League of Nations vote on the disposition of Mosul, and the Iraqis feared that, without British support, Iraq would lose the area. In March 1925, the TPC renamed to the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), was granted a full and complete concession for a period of 75 years.
British Mandate for Palestine
The three principles of the British Balfour Declaration regarding Palestine were adopted in the Treaty of Sèvres:
The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
Palestine officially fell under the British Mandate.
French Mandate of Lebanon
The mandate settled to France at the San Remo Conference. Comprising the region between the Euphrates river and the Syrian desert on the east, and the Mediterranean sea on the west, and extending from the Alma Dagh Mountains on the south to Egypt on the south; Area of territory about 60,000 sq mi (160,000 km2) with a population of about 3,000,000. Lebanon and an enlarged Syria, which were later assigned again under League of Nations Mandate. The region was divided under the French into four governments as follows: Government of Aleppo from the Euphrates region to the Mediterranean; Great Lebanon extending from Tripoli to Palestine; Damascus, including Damascus, Hama, Hems, and the Hauran; and the country of Mount Arisarieh.
French Mandate of Syria
Faisal ibn Husayn, who had been proclaimed king of Syria by a Syrian national congress in Damascus in March 1920, was ejected by the French in July of the same year.
Fate of the treaty
While the treaty was under discussion, the Turkish national movement under Mustafa Kemal Pasha split with the monarchy based in Constantinople, and set up a Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara in April 1920.
On October 18, the government of Damat Ferid Pasha was replaced by a provisional ministry under Ahmed Tevfik Pasha as Grand Vizier, who announced an intention to convoke the Senate with the purpose of ratification of the Treaty, provided that national unity were achieved. This required seeking for cooperation with Mustafa Kemal. The latter expressed disdain to the Treaty and started a military assault. As a result, the Turkish Government issued a note to the Entente that the ratification of the Treaty was impossible at that time.
Eventually, Mustafa Kemal succeeded in his fight for Turkish independence and forced the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table.
Arabs were unwilling to accept the French rule in Syria, the Turks around Mosul were attacking the British, the Arabs were in arms against the British rule in Baghdad. There was also disorder in Egypt.