The Treaty of Lausanne is the last negotiated settlement in the aftermath of World War One that remains intact today. Replacing the Treaty of Sevrés, the Lausanne Treaty ultimately would define the borders and modern nations in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
The Lausanne Treaty continues to be upheld today, though violations of the treaty have brought several nations close to conflict and full-blown war.
The Treaty of Sevrés
The Treaty of Lausanne initially didn’t define the modern borders of the Mediterranean, and the Treaty of Sevrés preceded it. When the Ottomans capitulated to the Entente from World War One, their empire was partitioned into various zones of influence.
The British, French, and Italian empires proposed large swaths of the empire, with a zone of Italian and French interests in mainland Anatolia. The Hellenic Kingdom (Greece) was given the autonomous mandate of Smyrna, which could’ve been voted into a permanent province of the nation, and a proposed Western Armenian and Kurdish state could’ve been implemented.
The remnants of the Ottoman Empire were regulated into a rump state. With France mandated Cilicia, Greece given the vital merchant city to Smyrna, Italy given the Southwest coast, and Armenia given Trebizond, a modern Turkish state was left without any vital economic lifelines.
While the last Sultan, Mehmed VI, was okay with implementing Sevrés, one Turkish officer and capable commander, Mustafa Kemal, was not. Mustafa Kemal, who led the defense of Gallipoli, one of the few times Winston Churchill was defeated as an officer, would lead an insurgency against the Allied Powers.
Kemal’s army, known as the Kemalists, would score key victories against Armenia and France. Armenia’s mandate, proposed to be supported by US President Woodrow Wilson, did not have the senate support to make it into a protectorate, and the mandate was partitioned between a dual attack by the USSR and Kemalists. After heavy fighting, France signed an agreement with Kemal, freeing up the troops he needed for a war against Greece.
Italy, which wanted the crucially important Dodecanese Isles, also signed a pact with Kemal in fear that Greece would regain the islands. Britain was the only great power left to support Greece, which went through a National Schism and logistical problems, which the Kemalists kept.
The Kemalists seized the initiative at the Battle of Sakarya. They ultimately broke through the Hellenic army’s defensive lines, forcing a cataclysmic retreat, which ended in the dark destruction of Smyrna—a historical Ionian Greek city. After the Hellenic army’s collapse and capitulation, Mustafa Kemal abolished the sultanate and rewrote a new treaty that favored the Turks.
Replacing the Treaty of Sevrés
The victory by the Kemalists and subsequent instability in the region due to the Soviet Union purposely leaking the Sykes-Picot Agreement led to the Allies coming to the table to discuss a new treaty with Mustafa Kemal’s Turkish Republic. With the Treaty of Sevrés never indeed implemented, representatives from Turkey and Kemal would discuss a new treaty to solidify the region.
Turkey would retain all territories captured by the Kemalists, such as Western Armenia, Cilicia, Antalya, and Smyrna, along with the proposed international zone of Constantinople and the formerly Greek-held Adrianople. Greece would cede another territorial ambition on Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace, and likewise, Turkey would cede any initiatives towards the Aegean Isles.
Implementations of Lausanne
Turkey ratified the Treaty of Lausanne on August 23rd, 1923, and the allies confirmed it in Paris in 1924. Mustafa Kemal, now dubbed Ataturk (father of Turks), wrote a provision that granted immunity to the perpetrators of the Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian genocides, and the rehabilitation of the Young Turks led to decades of genocidal denial by the Turkish Republic to this day.
To solidify a more secular Turkey compared to the more heavily Islamic-influenced Ottoman Empire, Ankara would cede all territorial claims outside of Asia Minor. Turkey reneged claims on the historic city of Aleppo in Syria, Mosul and Baghdad in Iraq, Cyprus, which would become a British colony, and all claims of the Aegean isles aside from Imbros and Tenedos, which became part of Turkey.
Northern Epirus, captured and annexed by Greece, would be ceded to Albania. Athens and Ankara promised minority rights to the Muslim populations of Thrace and the remaining Greeks of Constantinople, which were excluded from the population transfers.
Italy, which supported the Kemalists to retain control of the Dodecanese, would ultimately lose them to Greece as part of the WWII capitulation. Turkey, to this day, resents Greece for having the isle chain as part of the Hellenic Republic and has threatened to invade and annex the isles, while Greece has militarized them as a contingency if war comes.
Violations of the Treaty Today
Despite promises made to the allies and Greece, Turkey’s ever-increasingly emboldened policies have jeopardized the peace that Lausanne brought. Constant encroachments of Greek airspace and maritime integrity have pushed both nations close to war, with the Imia Crisis nearly igniting the match. The continuous provocations violate Articles 12 and 16 of Lausanne, solidifying Greece’s territorial integrity over the Aegean Isles.
Turkey, Greece, and the UK have a guarantor status on Cyprus’ territorial integrity. Nevertheless, Turkey has a forty-nine-year internationally condemned occupation of one-third of Cyprus. Erdogan’s ruling government has threatened to annex the occupied north, which could ignite a large-scale Mediterranean war between Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey.
Ankara would not uphold its end of the deal to protect the Greeks of Constantinople. The Istanbul pogrom of 1955 saw the destruction of the Greek quarter of the city. The Turkish government itself instigated it after a false flag bombing by Turkish intelligence at their consulate in Greece.
The Treaty of Lausanne was a century-long treaty meant to mend the Mediterranean nations’ relations and solidify the region’s current borders. Instead, the region may be closer to war than ever due to provocative actions by successive Turkish governments that veered off the course of Mustafa Kemal’s policies.