Join us for EMBCA’s “ The Legacy of the Treaty of Lausanne on its 100th Anniversary ” Webinar Panel Discussion on Sunday, November 12, 2023 at 2 P.M. EST/ 9 P.M. Athens EEST. The panel discussion will be Introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos EMBCA’s President. The distinguished panel , currently in formation , will include Author/ Independent Historical Researcher Stavros Stavridis; Historian Dr. Nikos Nikoloudis ; Attorney John Papaspanos; and Educator/ Community Leader, Peter Stavrianidis, PHD.
The Treaty of Lausanne, signed on July 24, 1923, played a pivotal role in reshaping the political landscape of the Eastern Mediterranean. This treaty marked the end of hostilities between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire, formally concluding World War I in the region. While it addressed numerous issues, its legacy continues to influence contemporary relations between Greece and Turkey, two key signatories. The Treaty aimed to establish peaceful relations between Greece and Turkey, marking the end of hostilities after World War I and the so called Greco-Turkish War. However, over the years, several contentious issues have strained and continue to strain their relationship.
The Treaty of Lausanne is a historical document of great significance. It not only recognized the Republic of Turkey as the successor state to the Ottoman Empire but also delineated its borders, ending centuries of imperial rule. One of its central provisions, the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, led to the mass displacement of over 1.5 million people, fundamentally altering the demographic makeup of both nations. This exchange, while aimed at resolving ethnic tensions, left a legacy of unresolved issues including the Christian genocide in the late Ottoman period ( addressed in the earlier Treaty of Serves), and grievances among the affected populations.
One of the key legacies of the Treaty is the enduring territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea resulting in ongoing disputes over sovereignty and resource exploitation. Both Greece and Turkey lay claim to islands, islets, and the continental shelf, leading to frequent tensions, naval standoffs, and massive airspace violations. This issue continues to remain a flashpoint in their bilateral relations.
Moreover, the issue of Cyprus continues to haunt the relationship between the two nations leading to a complex and protracted conflict. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 further strains relations, with the island remaining divided into the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. This unresolved issue continues to hinder regional stability in the East Mediterranean.
Another contentious legacy of the Treaty is the protection of minority rights. While the treaty guaranteed the rights of the Greek minority in Turkey and the Turkish minority in Greece the Greek Orthodox minority was ethnically cleansed over time after the Treaty in Turkey and issues of religious freedoms, education, and cultural preservation, underscore the ongoing challenges in implementation of the original provisions.
Furthermore, the Treaty of Lausanne did not anticipate the complexities of the modern geopolitical landscape. The discovery of substantial hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean has amplified regional competition and exacerbated tensions between Greece and Turkey, as well as Cyprus with these nations asserting their rights to explore and exploit these resources, leading to disputes with neighboring countries and constant potential conflict, creating a complex web of disagreements. Conspiracy theories on the Treaty of Lausanne include claims in civil and formal circles in Turkey that the Treaty of Lausanne will expire in 2023. According to the conspiracy theory, “Turkey is forbidden to mine its natural resources (such as boron and petroleum) due to the "secret articles" of the treaty; therefore, Turkey will rapidly become a developed country by mining and exporting its resources once the treaty expires.”
The legacy of the Treaty is also intertwined with broader issues such as nationalism and regional power dynamics. Nationalist sentiments in both Greece and Turkey fuel historical grievances, further complicating diplomatic efforts to resolve disputes. The influence of major international actors, such as the United States, the European Union, and Russia, adds another layer of complexity to the situation.
In conclusion, the Treaty of Lausanne, signed a century ago, continues to cast a long shadow over the relations between Greece and Turkey. While it laid the foundation for the modern states and delineated borders, it left numerous unresolved issues that persist to this day. Territorial disputes in the Aegean, the Cyprus conflict, minority rights, and resource competition are just a few of the contemporary problems stemming from the treaty's legacy. Resolving these issues requires diplomatic finesse, and a commitment to regional stability. Only by addressing the legacy of the Treaty of Lausanne can can we hope to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for them and the wider region. We hope this panel discussion contributes, with others, and ongoing serious bilateral diplomatic dialogue leads to a peaceful resolution to current tensions in the East Mediterranean.
The key provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne:
- Borders and Territorial Adjustments: The treaty recognized the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey, with a few exceptions. It allowed Turkey to regain control of the Anatolian Peninsula and Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire had lost territories in the Balkans and the Middle East, and Lausanne confirmed these losses.
- Straits: The treaty declared the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be international waterways under Turkish control. It guaranteed free passage to all ships during peacetime, ensuring access to the Black Sea.
- Population Exchange: The treaty mandated a large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Over a million Greeks in Turkey and Turks in Greece were forcibly relocated to their respective countries.
- Religious Minority Rights: The Treaty of Lausanne included provisions to protect the rights of religious minorities in Turkey. It recognized the rights of non-Muslims, such as Greeks and Armenians, to practice their religions and manage their institutions.
- Reparations and Assets: Unlike the reparations imposed by the Treaty of Sèvres, Lausanne did not demand any reparations from Turkey. It also preserved Turkish assets abroad, ensuring the country’s financial stability.
- Sovereignty: Treaty of Lausanne reestablished Turkey’s sovereignty as an independent nation-state, ending the Ottoman Empire’s existence. It recognized the Turkish government as the legitimate authority over its territory.
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