The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) was the final nail in the coffin of World War I. The treaty was signed by representatives of Turkiye (successor to the Ottoman Empire) on one side and by Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) on the other. With this treaty, the war was ended but it also laid the foundation of modern-day Turkiye. The Ottoman Empire was reduced to the current State of Turkiye and was forced to give up large territories that belong to the empire. Hence, the treaty played a strong role to limit the geographical composition of the empire. Turkiye made no claim to its former Arab provinces and recognized British possession of Cyprus and Italian possession of the Dodecanese.
The Allies dropped their demands of autonomy for Turkish Kurdistan and Turkish cession of territory to Armenia abandoned claims to spheres of influence in Turkiye and imposed no controls over Turkiye’s finances or armed forces. The Turkish straits between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea were declared open to all shipping but Turkiye was restricted to claim any taxes on the trade happening in its waters. Here the issue arises that how the treaty affected Turkiye and its power capabilities.
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After signing the treaty, Turkiye agreed to the following:
Demarcation of the borders of the empire of the Ottoman Caliphate; renounced sovereignty over Cyprus, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Iraq and the Levant, except some cities located in Syria, such as Urfa, Adana and Gaziantep and Kells and Marsh; relinquished its political and financial rights related to Egypt and Sudan; abandoned Mutawakkilite Kingdom Yemen, Asir and parts of Hijaz, such as the city of Medina; left the fate of Mosul province to be determined through the League of Nations, as Turkiye renounced all claims in respect of the islands of the Dodecanese, which Italy was forced to bring it back to Turkiye; the treaty also established laws for the use of Turkish water straits and traffic rules and navigation in it at time of war and peace.
After signing the 100 years treaty, Turkiye bound itself to remain away from drilling, exploration of natural resources, tax collection on the Bosphorus river, etc. Since 2023 is around the corner, the question is whether Turkiye will reclaim its rights over the abandoned territories, resources and trade-related taxes. It is a huge question because all abandoned regions are independent states. These states quote examples from many parts of the world where either empire withdrew from specific geographical locations of their abandoned territories due to war, conflict, or treaties. But what is the difference between withdrawal due to war and abandoning territories due to treaties?
History indicates that many powerful countries have withdrawn their troops from foreign countries for a variety of reasons. Such as during the Russia-Afghan war, Russia withdrew its troops and left Afghanistan. The major reasons behind its withdrawal were: 1) The Russian economy was weak and not capable of continuing the war any further; 2) the dying ratio of a soldier to officers was getting higher. More officers were dying, which was not a good indication to continue with war; and 3) stinger missile technology was introduced that damaged Russian air supremacy. Hence Russia withdrew its forces and left Afghanistan.
Another example of withdrawal is the British empire’s withdrawal from the Indian Subcontinent. By the time the British withdrew from the region they had their own set of problems. Such as 1) this region was too far to be managed administratively; 2) there was a strong political movement happening already in the Indian Subcontinent. That kind of questioned the British existence in the region in the first place followed by who will control the power reigns; and 3) WW2 resulted in a weakened British economy. Keeping in view these concerns it was getting difficult for the British Empire to maintain its stronghold in the region. Resultantly, British Rule came to an end in the region. The recent US and its ally’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is another example provided.
However, in certain other withdrawals, some treaties came into existence such as the China-Hong Kong issue. The history of the conflict goes back to 1839 when the British invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic, social, and political affairs. One of Britain’s first acts of the war was to occupy Hong Kong, a sparsely inhabited island off the coast of southeast China.
In 1841, China ceded the island to the British with the signing of the Convention of Chuenpi, and in 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed, formally ending the First Opium War. But on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in a ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles of Wales, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few thousand Hong Kongers protested the turnover, which was otherwise celebratory and peaceful.
Currently, a similar kind of environment is building up in the Turkiye case where in 2023 Turkiye will come out of the Treaty of Lausanne and be free from its restrictions. By 2023 the period of the treaty ends, which has passed a hundred years, and here we understand Erdogan‘s comments, as Turkiye will enter a new era, and will begin oil exploration and drilling a new channel linking the two seas Black and Marmara as a preparation to start collecting fees from passing ships. Here the question arises will Turkiye be able to reintegrate/renovate its borders and claim all its lost territories and get involved in the drilling and exploration of resources?
Post Lausanne Treaty, Turkiye will be able to control trade on the Bosphorus river and reclaim its right to drilling and exploring resources become an issue of concern. If we look at the geographical location most of the abundant territories have some foreign forces, particularly the western forces. If Turkiye claims its lost territories, from some territory in Europe to the African region connecting the Middle East, it may face the heat of it. Looks like Turkiye will face serious problems and consequences for reclaiming its right over resources and territory post-Lausanne Treaty. Turkiye may have to break into conflict with other states. But is Turkiye economically and militarily strong/stable enough to face the consequences? Post-2023, Turkey will have to choose between war and peace or continue the status quo!
Dr. Farah Naz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government and Public Policy at the National University of Sciences and Technology. An Arabic version of this article was published by the KSA Command and Staff College
The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.