Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan openly criticized the Treaty of Lausanne in a speech to local political leaders in Ankara, firing off incendiary comments which appeared to be veiled attempts to question the borders between his country and Greece, which were agreed upon by the 1923 treaty.
This is the first time a Turkish leader has publicly disputed the treaty, which is considered by most Turks to be the “title deed of the Turkish Republic” and the guarantee of the country’s borders following the unraveling of the Ottoman Empire.
Referring to the date of the supposed coup attempt, Erdogan said on September 29 that “July 15 is the second War of Independence for the Turkish nation. Let us know it like that. They threatened us with Sèvres in 1920 and persuaded us to accept Lausanne in 1923. Some tried to deceive us by presenting Lausanne as victory. In Lausanne, we gave away the now-Greek islands that you could shout across to,” he said in a fiery speech.
Just as troubling were his innuendos that air and sea borders with Greece are still in dispute.
“We are still struggling about what the continental shelf will be, and what will be in the air and the land. The reason for this is those who sat at the table for that treaty. Those who sat there did not do [us]justice, and we are reaping those troubles right now,” he said to the local leaders.
The Treaty of Lausanne is the peace treaty that was negotiated and signed in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1923-24 between Turkey and Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, and Romania, effectively creating the modern nation of Turkey from the crumbling Ottoman Empire.
The treaty ended numerous conflicts and outright wars going on throughout the region and defined the borders of the modern Turkish Republic. In the treaty, Turkey gave up all claims to the remainder of the Ottoman Empire and in return the Allies recognized Turkish sovereignty within its new borders.
An interesting component to the treaty included the “protection” of the Greek Orthodox Christian minority that was left in Turkey following the genocide that had just concluded a year earlier, as well as an exchange of populations that moved survivors across the Aegean to mainland Greece in 1922-23.
Despite the fact that a clause in the treaty was implemented to protect 270,000 remaining Greeks who lived, primarily in Constantinople, as well as on the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, the treaty was violated numerous times, causing the population of Turkey’s Greeks to drop to less than 2,000 today.