Lausanne, Treaty of (1923)

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renegotiation of treaties ending world war i resulting in more favorable treatment of turkey.

Defeat in World War I resulted in a harsh peace treaty for the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres (1920) stripped Turkey of all its European territory except for a small area around Constantinople (now Istanbul); demilitarized the straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas, opened them to ships of all nations, and placed them under an international commission; established an independent Armenia and an autonomous Kurdistan in eastern Anatolia; turned over the region around İzmirto the Greeks; restored the capitulations; and placed Turkish finances under foreign control. By separate agreement, some parts of Turkey left to the Turks were assigned to France and Italy as spheres of influence.

Unlike the other nations on the losing side in World War I, Turkey was able to renegotiate its treaty terms. This was the result of the decline of the sultan's power, the rise of the nationalists under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the defeat of the Greeks' attempt to expand their power in Turkey. The latter development placed Turkish forces near British troops in the area of the straits and led to an armistice at Mudanya in October 1922 at which the Allied powers restored Constantinople and the straits to Turkish authority and called for a peace convention to renegotiate the terms laid down at Sèvres. The Allies invited both of the contesting powers in Turkeythe sultan's government and the nationalists under Kemalto a conference at Lausanne, Switzerland. This precipitated Kemal's decision to separate the positions of sultan and caliph, abolishing the former, exiling Mehmet VI and giving the residual powers of caliph to his cousin, Abdülmecit II. Thus, when the conference at Lausanne began in November 1922, Kemal's Ankara government was the sole representative of Turkey.

İsmet Paşa, later İsmet İnönü in honor of his two victories over the Greeks at İnönü, led the Turkish delegation as the newly appointed foreign minister. He was determined to reestablish Turkish sovereignty and negotiate as an equal with the British, French, and Italians at the conference. However, İsmet found himself treated as a supplicant rather than the representative of a government with recent victories. Unable to compete with the sophisticated debate of the Allied diplomats, İsmet responded with his own unique tactics. He feigned deafness, contested every point however minor, read long prepared statements, delayed debate by consultations with his colleagues, and periodically insisted on deferring discussion pending instructions from Ankara. These tactics led to a break of negotiations for two months beginning in February 1923.

The Lausanne conference resulted in seventeen diplomatic instruments. Turkey recognized the loss of its Arab provinces, but plans for an independent Armenia and an autonomous Kurdistan were abandoned. The European powers no longer demanded capitulation, and although Turkey agreed to minor financial burdens and tariff restrictions, there were to be no war reparations. The Greeks lost their zone around İzmir, and no other powers retained zones of influence. Turkish territory in Europe expanded, but control over Mosul in Iraq and Alexandretta in Syria remained with the British and French respectively. Finally, the conference recognized Turkish sovereignty over the straits, although there were some concessions in the form of a demilitarized zone and an international commission to supervise transit through the straits. In short, İsmet achieved virtually all that nationalist Turkey under Kemal's leadership desired.

see also sÈvres, treaty of (1920).


Ahmad, Feroz. The Making of Modern Turkey. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Howard, Harry N. The Partition of Turkey: A Diplomatic History, 19131923. New York: Ferig, 1966.

daniel e. spector
updated by eric hooglund

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Treaty of Lausanne

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