The Armenian problem is not an issue that is taken up and discussed in a
Lausanne Peace Treaty context. Yet, lately, Armenians have begun to make
intense efforts to persuade the world to recognize the “genocide”, seeking
ways of reviving the general approach that had once been embodied by the
Sèvres Treaty and, in this context, proving, from their own standpoint, that
the Lausanne Treaty is invalid.
The Armenian argument boils down to the following: “What happened in the
past was a genocide. There can be no statutory limitations for the
punishment of genocide. The reality of genocide cannot be erased with a
treaty. For this reason, the Lausanne Peace Treaty is unlawful, invalid
vis-à-vis the “Armenian genocide”. It cannot be applied to this issue. Under
the circumstances, the relevant provisions of the earlier Sèvres Treaty
would automatically gain validity and become applicable.”
But can it be so? The Lausanne Peace Treaty is a highly important contract,
an agreement that was signed and ratified and put into effect by the
quasi-totality of the then international community according to the proper
procedure and still remains in force, an agreement that covers all the
political, military, economic, financial and humanitarian issues pertaining
to the Republic of Turkey being the successor of the Ottoman State, an
agreement that creates an objective status in this regard and, therefore,
has consequences for third countries as well. Issues such as revision,
alteration or termination of this treaty can be examined and assessed not
according to the subjective demands and evaluations of the Armenians but
only according to the specific principles and rules cited in the treaty
itself and the general tenets and procedures of the Law on Treaties.
The Lausanne Peace Treaty constitutes a general legal framework that
regulates multilateral relations whereas Turkey-Armenia relations are
bilateral, special relations. In fact, relations between Turkey and Armenia
had been the subject of several agreements concluded prior to the Lausanne
Peace Treaty, namely, the Turkey-Armenia Peace Treaty signed in Gyumri on
Dec. 2, 1920, the Turkey-Armenia Peace Treaty signed in Moscow on March 16,
1921, the Turkey-Soviet Russia Friendship and Brotherhood Treaty signed in
Moscow on March 16, 1921, and the Friendship Treaty signed by Turkey,
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in Kars on Oct. 13, 1921. Just as the Sèvres
Treaty, the first one of these, the Treaty of Gyumri, was not ratified. (The
Soviet invasion of the Caucasus prevented the ratiffication process.)
Therefore, just as the Sèvres Treaty, it could never be implemented. The
latest two of these agreements, on the other hand, are still in force.
As can be seen, from Turkey’s standpoint the Armenian problem is an issue
that was resolved in the period that preceded the Lausanne Peace Treaty.
Armenians made certain efforts during the Lausanne process but these should
be seen as a new political and diplomatic initiative - one that failed.
In this context, it may be useful to explain the discussions that took place
in the course of the Lausanne process on the Armenian incidents. In 1915,
that is, one year after the start of the First World War, the Ottoman armies
were fighting on three fronts. The war was continuing with the British and
French in Gelibolu (Gallipoli), with the Russians on the eastern front and
with the British first in Suez and later in Iraq.
The relocation of the Armenians from one part of the Ottoman Empire to
another began in May 1915. The Allied Powers (Britain, France and Russia)
promptly issued a communiqué on May 24. They said that the Ottoman Empire
was committing crimes against humanity and stressed that the Porte, that is,
the Ottoman Government, would be held personally responsible for what was
being done to the Armenians. That communiqué was important with respect to
the Sèvres Treaty.
In 1916, with the assumption that the Ottoman Empire would be defeated in
the war, an Englishman and a Frenchman, Sykes and Picot, were assigned the
task of drafting agreements on how the Ottoman Empire would be divided.
These agreements, signed between the Allied Powers (France-Britain,
Britain-Russia and France-Russia), came to be known as the Sykes-Picot
Accord. With these agreements it was planned that the eastern parts of
Anatolia would be given to Russia and that the Armenians too would live
However, a number of developments that occurred in 1917 changed the
situation altogether: A revolution took place in Russia. As a result Russia
withdrew from the war. The USA joined the war but, while declaring war on
Germany, it did not declare war on the Ottoman Empire.
In the end the Central Powers (Germany - Austria - Ottoman Empire) lost the
war in 1918 and the Ottomans signed the Armistice of Moundros on Oct. 30,
During that period President Wilson of the USA made his “14-points”
declaration on peace, advocating the adoption of the “self-determination”
principle. Article 12 of the declaration said that Turks should be granted
the right to self-determination in that region of the Ottoman Empire to be
left to the Turks. However, it did not mention the boundaries of that
region. The region to be left to the Turks was to be the subject matter of
the Sèvres Treaty. Wilson declared that the “nationalities” to be “freed of
Turkish rule” including the Armenians would be entitled to an autonomous
political entity and life. It was under such conditions that the peace
conference that was to culminate in the Sèvres Treaty began in January 1919.
The Ottoman Empire could not actually take part in that conference and in
its deliberations. Despite that, it took the conference a very long time
to reach decisions. It began in January 1919 and ended in August 1920.
Although it did not witness serious negotiations it could not be brought to
a conclusion all that time because the participants could not find a
solution to the Armenian problem.
Armenians took part in the conference with two delegations. One of these was
called the Delegation of the Republic of Armenia and the other, which
represented those that were outside Armenia, the Armenian National
Delegation. The latter was headed by the much talked-about Bogos Nubar
Pasha, allegedly an Ottoman pasha. (He was an Egyptian Armenian.) At the
start of the conference Bogos Nubar Pasha made a statement in the vein of,
“We fought against the Ottomans. For this reason we are one of the warring
parties. It is in this capacity that we want to take part in the
conference.” Even if the 1948 UN Genocide Convention had been retroactive
—which it is not-and a legal assessment were to be made on the basis of that
assumption, these words would create a highly interesting situation indeed.
According to the UN Genocide Convention, if a given group is a party to an
armed conflict, its members will not be placed into the category of persons
to be protected within the framework of the Convention. Therefore, by
saying that the Armenians were one of the warring parties, Bogos Nubar Pasha
confessed that the Armenians had made war against the Turks,
rendering/groundless right from the beginning the genocide allegations that
were to be made at a later date.
Throughout this process the Armenians demanded establishment of a new
Armenian state (in addition to the territories of the existing Republic of
Armenia) in an area covering six eastern provinces of the Ottoman State plus
Cilicia, that is, the region between Adana and Maras in the south. The six
Ottoman provinces in question correspond roughly to 18 provinces of modern
Turkey. This is a total area of 250,000 — 300,000 square kilometers. The
westerners sympathized with the Armenian demand. However, the Armenian
population in that region was too small to create and govern a state of such
size. For this reason, prior to the Russian withdrawal from the war it had
been contemplated to place the planned Armenian state in Anatolia under
Russian protection. After Russia withdrew from the war it was contemplated
to give the region to the USA instead. US President Wilson had a warm
reaction to this suggestion. However, he could not push the motion through
the US Congress. The US Congress did not want an Armenia under US mandate,
supporting instead the idea of an independent Armenian state.
The Sèvres Treaty was signed on Aug. 10, 1920. Many of its articles concern
“Armenia”. The most significant one of these is Article 88. That article
says that Turkey recognizes in advance the independence and freedom of the
(still nonexistent) new Armenian state. And, according to Article 89, the
power of fixing the exact frontiers of that Armenia was being assigned to
President Wilson. And it was stated clearly where these frontiers should
lie. The article says that the frontier should be delimited in such a way
that the whole or any portion of (that is, an important part of) Erzurum
-Trabzon-Van- Bitlis -Lake Van would be transferred to Armenia. Wilson was
being asked to provide the answer to the question whether the territories of
the planned Armenian state should encompass all or part of the
aforementioned provinces. With that treaty Turkey was renouncing in advance
all its rights and title over the territory in the provinces it would thus
Articles 226-230 section of the treaty too involved the Armenians. These
articles envisaged that those responsible for the “Armenian incidents” would
be tried by the tribunals to be determined by the
The Ottoman Parliament never ratified the Sèvres Treaty. Meanwhile, the
Turkish War of Liberation began. The armed struggle in the eastern front
came to an end earlier than in the other fronts — with the victory of the
young Turkish State. After the war was won on the eastern front first the
Treaty of Gyumri and then the Treaties of Moscow and Kars were signed.
However, as mentioned above, two days after the Treaty of Gyumri was signed
the Bolsheviks came to prevail in South Caucasus and the treaty could not be
put into force. To make up for that, first the Treaty of Moscow and then —in
line with the Articles 6 and 15 of the Treaty of Moscow— the Treaty of Kars
Within this legal framework, the frontier problem between Turkey and Armenia
was solved via the Articles 1 and 2 of the Treaty of Moscow and the Articles
2 and 4 of the Treaty of Kars. Furthermore, contrary to what the Armenians
are claiming, even if the Treaties of Sèvres and Gyumri had been ratified
put into force according to the appropriate procedure, these would have to
be considered invalid anyway due to Article 6 of the Treaty of Moscow and
the Article 1 of the Treaty of Kars.
Meanwhile, according to Article 15 of the Treaty of Kars each of the
contracting parties came under the obligation to declare —immediately after
the signing of the treaty- a full general amnesty for the nationals of the
other party for crimes and offenses committed due to the war on the
Later Turkey won the battles of Sakarya and Dumlupýnar. In October 1922 the
Armistice of Mudanya was signed. In November the Turkish Grand National
Assembly (TBMM) Government was invited to the Lausanne Peace Conference. The
instructions the Turkish delegation received from the TBMM before leaving
for Lausanne consisted, as a coincidence, of 14 points. These instructions
mainly involved the frontiers, the capitulations and the minorities.
However, there were two other points that, significantly, empowered Ismet
Pasha and his delegation to withdraw from the conference at any point
without having to seek permission from Ankara. In other words, the Turkish
delegation was authorized to say, “No, thank you,” and leave if the Allied
Powers insisted on demands on two subjects. One of these two important
subjects was the Armenian homeland issue and the other was the
capitulations. The TBMM Government was prepared to make concessions even
from the frontiers issue despite the National Pact criterion. However, it
was clearly determined, from day one, not to make any concessions at all
regarding the “Armenian homeland” or the “capitulations”.
The Armenians wanted to take part in the Lausanne Conference as well but
this time they made no such statements as, “We were one of the warring
parties.” In the end, the Armenians managed to take part not in the main
commissions but in one of the sub-commissions. That sub-commission, where
the Turkish delegation was led by Rýza Nur, saw the toughest diplomatic
clashes. Rýza Nur, being no career diplomat, used strong language. Each
time Rýza Nur talked in a severe manner to his interlocutors Ismet Pasha
would offer a “superficial” apology and that scene would be enacted over and
In the end the Lausanne Treaty could be signed. The text made no reference
at all to the Armenians. On the other hand, the provisions about human
rights (the provisions related to non-discrimination on racial, linguistic,
religious etc. grounds) indirectly concerned the Armenians as well.
Contrary to the common belief, the “Declaration of Amnesty and Protocol”
which is the supplement to the Lausanne Treaty, was drafted in line with the
insistent demands of not Turkey but the Allied Powers. With that general
amnesty all of the crimes committed in wartime were pardoned. The crimes the
Greek Army committed in Anatolia too were pardoned along with the crimes
committed against the Armenians and vice versa.
Under Paragraph 6 of the Declaration the Turkish state pledged not to
contest the measures the British and the French had taken to ensure the
return of (and restitution of property to) those Armenians that had been in
the regions left outside the borders of Turkey (such as Syria) from 1918
when the Ottoman Empire lost the war and until the end of 1922, especially
during the time Istanbul and the Ottoman Parliament had been under foreign
occupation. According to that paragraph those Armenians that wanted to come
back would be able to do so, and the measures taken regarding those
Armenians that were within the Turkish borders and had their property
restituted, would remain valid.
Another provision that indirectly concerns the Armenians is Article 31 of
the Lausanne Peace Treaty about nationality. Those Armenians that had not
lost Turkish nationality would be able to come back anyway. The children of
those Armenians that had lost Turkish nationality would be able to come to
Turkey if, when they became 18-years-old, they chose Turkish nationality
within a certain time limit.
Among the Lausanne Peace Treaty provisions that indirectly concern the
Armenians, the most interesting ones are in the Articles 65-72 section. At
first sight these economic clauses may seem unrelated to the Armenians. It
can be said that the Turkish delegation may have refrained from making a
separate and clear reference directly to the Armenians in the Lausanne
Treaty since these issues stemmed naturally from the general meaning of
human rights law and there was no need for such a specific reference. These
economic clauses include a section titled “Property, Rights and Interests”.
This section provides protection for all the rights and interests of those
that had been subjected to mass relocation.’
Here, what is significant is that the same legal principles and procedures
were devised for what happened to the Armenians during the First World War
and what happened to the Turks during the Balkan Wars. In other words, if
the practice to which one of these two peoples was subjected to is to be
called genocide then the practice to which the other was subjected to should
be called genocide as well. To put it differently, the same rules of law
have to be applied to the Armenians and the Turks because of the incidents
they were subjected to. The acts that may be in question have to be assessed
according to the same criteria.
The Lausanne Peace Treaty does contain certain provisions on insurance
policies in general and on life insurance policies in particular that could
benefit the Armenians. However, these create the legal framework for
private law relationships between persons in a private law context.
Discussing the technicalities of this issue in detail here would be beyond
the specific aims of this article.
It must not be forgotten that a new state was being founded in Turkey. In
that process the problems, debts and responsibilities of the past would have
to be phased out. Only in this manner it would be possible to turn a new
page and start a new era. In a legal regime deadlines would be imposed on
the exercise of rights on such issues. If the exercise of these rights were
to be open-ended, that would create uncertainties as to the legal
relationships and the plans that have to be made for the future. For this
reason, statutory limitations would be introduced. These limitations enable
continuity in deeds and procedures. In this framework, it was agreed that
if, for example, an Armenian applied to the Turkish authorities, he or she
had to be given a positive reply in six months. Otherwise he or she would be
entitled to apply to a mixed tribunal over the subsequent 12 months. Under
the circumstances, the process of resolving the property disputes should
have been completed over the 18 months that followed the signing of the
Lausanne Peace Treaty and the issues should have been brought before the
tribunals if that had to be the case. The disputes were to be resolved
“definitely” with the decisions of these “hybrid” tribunals. These statutory
limitations have expired, and, in our day, there is no subject matter for
implementation of these provisions anymore.
Few years back, a problem arose between the USA and Switzerland regarding
the Jews. The Jews had obtained compensation from the Swiss Federal Bank,
some other Swiss banks and the Swiss Government due to what happened to them
during the Second World War. And the amounts of compensation were
considerable rather than symbolic. Taking this as an example, the Armenians
may want to use the same method. However, due to the reasons listed above,
legally this is not possible. The Lausanne Peace Treaty has adequately
regulated, in a private law context, the rights and interests of persons in
On such private law issues only real or moral persons whose rights have been
injured can be a “party”. The USA being or not being a party to the Lausanne
Peace Agreement as a state, is not a decisive factor from the standpoint of
whether it has the capacity or not to be a party to the case on such issues.
In his famous historic “Speech” Ataturk says two things about the Armenians
when listing the things Turkey achieved with the Lausanne Treaty: The Sèvres
Treaty had said that crimes had been committed in violation of the law of
war and it had envisaged punishment of the Ottomans. With the Lausanne
Treaty that was abandoned entirely. The Sèvres Treaty had aimed to create an
Armenia whose frontiers would reach the farthest points the Russian armies
had reached in Anatolia. That too was abandoned entirely with the Lausanne
Treaty. In other words, regarding the Armenian homeland issue the Turkish
delegation carried out in Lausanne the TBMM’s instructions word by word. No
concession was made on this subject at all. The Armenians took their place
in the Republic of Turkey as Turkish nationals within the framework of the
minority rights recognized by the Lausanne Treaty.
During the negotiating process of the Lausanne Peace Treaty the Turkish side
has made concessions on many important issues as required by a realistic
stance. However, none of these concessions has adversely affected the future
of Turkey’s legitimate rights. On the contrary, it has been possible for us
to enhance our rights and interests further when conditions are suitable —
as in the case of the status of the Turkish Straits. Probably the only issue
on which no concession was made, was the unjust demands related to an
* Retired Ambassador.
 In that case the Armenian presence would be within the Russian borders
under Russian mandate or protection.
 According to the Armenian approach the fact that a treaty was concluded
under such conditions would not affect its legal validity!
 Undoubtedly, at that time not only the Genocide had not been concluded
yet but also the “genocide” concept was not known as a technical term.
 In other words, the Otoman Empire was to apprehend those responsible and
ensure that they would be tried by the tribunals to be thus established. The
“Military Tribunal of Nemrut Mustafa” was ont of these. The Tribunal in
question was set by the Freedom and Accord Party that came to power in 1918,
that is, after the Unity and Progress Party lost the war. Taking revenge on
the Unity and Progress that had governed the country during the 1914-1918
period, the make-shift tribunal convicted as “guilty of Armenian incidents”
almost everybody brought before it without due process.
 Not only is the Armenian argument that the Sèvres Treaty would “take
effect once again” devoid of any legal basis but also, the said provisions
of these treaties- which were put into effect at a date later than the date
on which the Sèvres Treaty was signed- definiately rule out any such
 Therefore, even if we wanted to engage in a mental exercise on a
hypothetical criminal law problem and assumed that the 1948 UN Genocide
Convention was retroactive to the 1915 incidents, we would stil have to
conclude that due to the Article 15 of the Treaty of Kars no punishment
could be meted out the “culprits” anyway.
 Undoubtedly, Ismet Pahsa and Rýza Nur may have agreed in advance for
Rýza Nur to act in that manner.
 The reports Ismet Pahsa sent to Ankara indicate that many such quarrels
took place during the meetings. Ismet Pahsa wrote, “Rýza Nur became angry
once again and used strong language.” Meanwhile, Britain too had its share
of Rýza Nur’s verbal attacks. Though, at that time, Britain was as powerful
a country as the USA currently is, he was able to say to his British
interlocutor, “You, leave us alone and look at Ireland instead.” And on two
occasions he walked out of the room.
 See, for example, Articles 37-44 on protection of the minorities.
 We noted above that this issue had been resolved in the context of the
bilateral realtions betwen Turkey and Armenia. Although these provisions
mainly regulate Turkish-Greek relations, we believe that, considering the
overall sructure of the treaty and strategic goals cited in the preamble of
the treaty, an additional interpretation in the manner mentioned above may
well be made.
 As mentioned above these provisions cover the Armenians not
specifically but in a general context.
In other words, an Armenian had the right to come and say, “1 have lost
that house. You are obliged to restitute that.” Those Armenians that were
living in Syria after being relocated were able to address their demands for
restitution to the French authorities, Syria being under French mandate.
And, in return for granting the Armenians such legitimate rights and
interests, something important was obtained: The “Property, Rights and
Interests” of those Turks that were similarly forced to relocate (to Turkey)
during the Balkan Wars were protected under these same provisions. The
Treaty introduces the obligation to grant to Turks and Muslims in Greece,
Bulgaria and the countries called “Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia” at that
time in place of Yugoslavia the the same rights Turkey was granting the
Armenians. A deadline was set for demanding these rights and a court was set
up to deal with the disputes that might rise. These courts, called “mixed
tribunals”, were courts of law and not criminal courts and they consisted of
judges from various countries along with Turkish judges.
 See: Lausanne Peace Treaty Article 74 and the First Section annexed to
that article: Life Insurance.