A SHORT SUMMARY OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: 1923-1939
INTRODUCTION: GOALS AND PRINCIPLES
AYLA GÖL (Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Dergisi, Ankara, Cilt .48, Sayi.1-4 (1993), ss.57-73)
The First World War brought the Onoman Empire to an end. The Ottoman Empire had been divided when it was defeated by Allied Powers. However. Turkey’s National Liberation War was won and the Republic of Turkey was established on October 29, 1923. The Grand National Assembly accepted a new constitution while Mustafa Kemal as its first presidenı The new republic cut of ties with the Ottoman past. The fırst fifteen years of Turkish state was dominated by Ataturk not only internal affairs but also affairs.
Turkish foreign policy betwecn the two world wars was influenced by Atatürk’s vision and his personalüy. Most writers caııthis era ‘The Turkey of Ataturk.’ According to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s foreign policy objectives were to seek recognition as a sovereign entity, and to seek to enjoy the fuıı benefits of peace. During this period, Turkish foreign policy remained true to the non-revisionist norms of Kemalist ideologyexcept for the Montreux Convention and the Hatay Issue-. i want to discuss this subject in two parts: the first part is brief the period of 1923-1932 and the second covers the period until the Second World War. Before giying tne details, i would like to give an introduction explaining the goalsand principles of Atatürk’s foreign policy.
If one is interested in Turkish foreignpolicy, an analysis of Atatürk’s foreign policy is important from several points of view. General Turkish foreign policy originat~ from Ataturk’s ideas. This is stiıı true today. For example the scntence, “Peace at home, peace in the world” encapsulated Ataturk’s approach, and it could still be said to be the main principle of today~s foreign policy . Even in 1992, Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel said Turkey’s foreign policy should be.basedon the protection and continuation ofpeace in the region and pcace in the world. 1 The other important principle la id down by Ataturk was looking to the West for direction. None of these principles has priority over the other. They haveequal imponance in Turkish foreign policy.
During the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the new Turkish state had some goals. The creation of a national Turkish state which was the main goal of the National Pact of 1920 and it stated thepolitical and military goals of the War of National Liberation. Related with this main goal, the completion of independcnce was
naturatıy the second goal of Atatürk’s foreign policy. There was no way of a mandate or protectorate would be accepted. The third goal was modernization. Atatürk identified mÖdemization with westernization and used both words synonymously. Turkey’s westem-inclined foreign policy began in Atatürk’s time in conjunction with efforts al modemization in the cultural sphere.
Turkish statesmen had formulated some principles that were the major foundation s of the attempts to achieve these goals.2 The first principle was realism. Atatürk always kept this in mind when dealing with national and international issues. Because of this i realistic policy, Turkeywas able to win and prescrve its independence.The second principle was allegiance to international law. Here there are several examples which will
be given later in details:
(i) The Briand-Kellog Pact of 1928
(ii) . Membership of the League of Nations
(üi) . The solution of the Mosul Question
(iv) The Montreux Convention of 1936
“Peace at home, Peace in the World” was the third principle which was
demonstrated by the Balkan Entente of 1934 and the Saadabad Pact of 1937. As i have
stated above, the Westward direction is the fourth principle. This direction has not been
changed since 1923. It is stili very important for Turkey not only politically but also
economically. For example Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and NATO
and also it is trying to be member of the EC.
The Turkish Grand National Assembly ratified the Treaty of Lausanne ‘which was
signed on July 24, 1923.Turkey was the ordy defeated nation of the First World War to
be able to negotiate peace on its own terms and won al most all its demands from the
Entente. Also, The Lausanne Treaty was the only post-war agreement which depended on
mutua.1 negotiations.3 The most important point that the secular Turkish state was
acknowledged by the international community.
At the same time. the Treaty of Lausanne lefl several problems between Turkeyand
the Entente Powers; the Mosul question • the problem of the Straits, the Hatayquestion.
The strategic importance of Turkey began to increase because of its borders created by
the Lausanne Treaty. It had borders with the important powers of Europe after 1923, i.e.
the Soviet Union, Britain in. Mosul. FranGe in Syria. and ltaly in the Agean Islands .
. 2M. Gönlübol “Atatütk’s Foreign Policyand Principles. in Turhan FeY7.ioglu(Ed.), .
Atatürk’s Way, IstanbuL. 1982, p.259.
30.KurkçUogıu. “Turco-British Relations Since the 19205,” in W.Hale and A. Bagış(Eds.),
Four Centurles of Turco.Brltlsh Relatlons~ Beverley, i984, p.88.
A SHORT SUMMARY OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: 1923-1939 59
Before establishing normal relations with these nations to solve problems in foreign policy, almost all the institutions of the Ottoman Empire were abolished during the five years following Lausanne; the Sultanate and Caliphate, the Islamic Lawand educational system, and the Arabic alphabeı4. Afterwards they started to apply a very realistie foreign policy. There are $ome examples of evidenee of “realism” in Turkish foreign policy. .
i. THE PERIOD NECESSARY TO SOL VE THE PROBLEMS THAT THE TREA TY OF LAUSANNE LEFT
1) The Question of the Etablis and Turkish.Greek Relations After the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Allied forces left IstanbuL.This caused the emigration of Christians from Istanbul to Greece. The problem started when
the Greek minorily wanted to stay in IstanbuL. The two countries decided to clarify the situation with an agreement. The Convention between Greece and Turkey conceming the exchange of Greek and Turkish
minorities was signed on Januaey 30, 1923. With thıs agreement the future of the Grm community in Istanbul, as well as the Muslim minority in Westem Thrace, was offieially guarantied. On t’.c other hand, the implementation of this treaty was more difficult than its preparation. It caused same problems between the two eountries due to
different interpretations. We can say the most important problem was “the question of the etabıis”. Artiele 2 of the exchange convention stipulated that: The following persons shall not be included in the exchange provided for in Artiele 1: The Greek inhabitants of Constantinople and the Moslem inhabitants of Westem Thrace .5
There was a differem interpretation conceming the status of the Greek residenLS settled in the city hefore 30 October 1918. From the Turkish point of view, the status of these Greek residenLShad to be determined by Turkish Law. According to the Greeks , the term etablis had to be interpretated by the treuty of 1923. A mixed-commission was establishcd to find a solution.Wishing to reduce to a minimum the number of nonexchangeable
Greeks, the Turkish government reopened the problem as soon as the mixed-commission was convened in October 1923. By September 1924 negotiations a! the mixed commissian had failed. The question of the etablis was referred to the judicial sub-committee but it could not break the deadlock either. The impasse was then presented LO the League of Nations.6 The Council of the League of Nations therefore suggested the possibiliLy of an appeal to the Permanent Court of International Justice. On February 21, 1925,the-Permanent Court of International Jusıice announced its opinion regarding this issue. According to the Courl’S apinion if the Greek minority of
Istanbul wished to be non-exchangeable; (i) they have to have been in Istanbul before November 30,1918,
4W. Hale, in Hale&Bagış(Eds.), op.clt .. p.5.
6 A. Alexandris, The Greek ~Inorlt}’ or Istanbul and Greek-Turklsh Relatlons,
Beverley, 1983, pp. 113-114.
(ii) they have to have intended settling in Istanbul pennanently. However, after this resolution there were some unresolved problcms relating to personal property possessions in the two countries. The other problem was the position of the ecumenical Patriarch at Istanbul in 1924. Palriarch Gregory expressed his anxiety about the status of the archbishops. He had come to the city af ter 1918 and was therefore exchangeable under the tenns of the exchange convention. For this reason, the Turks refused to rccognize the new patriarch. Turkish
(1) that mixed-commission decided that Patriarch was subject LO exchange,
(2) that Turkish govemment had no objection to election as Patriarch of person
properly qualified by Treaty of Lausanne,
(3) that foreign intervention on could not be admitted in domestic affair~.7
Resignation of patriarch assisted negotiations between Greece and Turkey. According to Sir Lindsay, Turkish Govemment bccame more moderate at outbrcak of Kurdish revolt in the Dersim region (when an offer was rJ1ade to allow exchangeable Metropoliıans if non-exchangeable Patriarch was elccted), but appeared to become less moderate when reassuring news regarding revolt was rcceived.8 . By early April 1925, negotiations had been resumed af ter these problems had been solved. The Ankara Accord was signedon June 21,1925. The aim of this agreement was to solve the financial and legal questions arising from the exchange. lt was about Greek
property in Turkeyand Turkish propcrty in Grecce. The second part was LO deal with the interpreıation of articles 2 and 16 of the exchange convention.9 They exchanged ambassador in the following month, and esıablished normal relations for the first time since the Balkan Wars. But General Pangalos, ‘who was a Greek dictator came to power on 25 June 1925. He refused to take any posilive action regarding LO situation and practically ignored Turkey. However, Pangalos soon fcll and the Athens agreement was signed on December 1, 1926 .ıo
Despite the agreement, meaningful relations did not start between the two governments until 1930. A strong wish for an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations was developed by Venizelos and Atatürk. These two Icaders came to symbolize the idea of peaceful Greek-Turkish co-existence. The negotiations were resumed in 1928 and an
agreement was first signed on Lo June 1930. It dcalt wilh the questions arising from the application of the Lausanne treaıy and wiıh the agreement on the exchange of populatioı’ıs. Consequently, they decided ıhat lhe Grcek and Turkish claims as-balancing. Properties were LO be restored to ıheir rightful owners wiıhin two months. In summary, the minorities issue was sblvcd and a trcaıy was signed which covered the following:
9FO:371 il 08651E41 02/30 1/44.
10 Alex, op.cit.,pp.127 -128.
A SHORT SUMMARY OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: 1923-İ939 61
neuırality, conciliation and arbiıration, a protocol of parity and naval arınamenlS and a commercial convention.11
2) Turkish.British Relations and the Mosul Question “The Turkish Quesıion” for Britain centred around the Mosul Question. According to Turkey, Mosul was within the National Pact boundaries. on the other hand the Treaty
of Lausanne left the undetermined frontier with Iraq to be settled directly with Britain as trustee for Iraq. In accordance with artiele three of the Treaty of Lausanne the problem was to be solved by mutual negotiations within nine moths. Talks opened in Istanbul on May 19, 1924, but reached no definite conelusion. The Treaty of Lausanne envisaged that if the parties failed to find a solution within nine months, the issue would be referred
to the League of Nations. By 6 August 1924 Britain had decided to make a unilateral application to the League
of Nations and had the item ‘Iraqi Frontier’ put on the agenda of the Council of the League. Turkey proposed a referendum in the region. During the discussions which began on 24 September, the British countered the Turkish request for a plebiscite by arguing that the matter was a boundary dispute. Finailyon September 30,1924, the Council of the League of Nations decided that a commission of neutral members be set up to . investigate the matter. At the same time the British issued a 48 hour ultimatum to the Turks to move from the area by October 9,1924. The Turks appealed to the League of Nations against the ultimatum. The League called a special session to meet in Brussels to discuss the matter. They decided upon’a line to divide the two territories. This became
known as the Brussels line. This provisional frontier approximated ıo the boundaries of the Otloman provinces of Mosul and Hakkari. Two days later, the Enquiry Commission was appointed and the commission gave ilS report to the League on 16 July 1925. The Brussels Line was accepted as a geographical border. Turkey refused to recognize the decision and questioned the Commission’s findings. The Secretary-Oeneral sent a letter to the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs on November 2, 1925. It was explaining that the Committee of the Council had special duty to investigate the question of the frontier between Turkeyand Iraq.12 The problem was then referred to the Permanent Court of International lustice in the Hague for an advisory opinion. The P.C.IJ. was only asked
ilS opinion on procedural matters. The Turkish government declared that the matter was a political one which could not be decided by judicial means, and that for this reason Turkey would not participate in the activities of the Court. However, the Council decided that the Brussels Line become the permanent border, thereby awarding Mosul to Iraq on December 16, 1925. Despite o ficial and popular reactions in Turkey, the govemment
decided to abide this decision.13 There were two reasons for accepting this decision: Firstly, the Turkish government formulated the problem as a territorial rather than an economic issue. Former Otloman
province Mosul was an oil-rich region but ilS population was largely Kurdish. According to Ankara, the integration of the Kurds within Turkey would cause more problems. 1 ıS.Bilge and eLaL, Olaylarla’ Türk Dış PoIltIkasl(1919-196S), Ankara,
Curzon had insisted that Mosul belonged to Iraq, on historical, economic and racial grounds. AIso, if Turkey owned Mosul, the Turkish frontier would have bcen within sixty miles of the Iraqi capitaL14 Another reason to seek a quick end for the Mosul Question was the Kurdish rebellion. A ‘Kurdish revolt wa<;led by Sheikh Said in the
Dersim region in February 1925.15 The most important symbol of Turkish-Kurdish brothemood disappeared with the abolition of the ealiphate. Shaikh Said and the other eooperating shaikhs blamed the Kemalist ;furkey as a godless govemment. In the name of the restoration of the Holy Law, the shaikh forces marehed through the eountry and scized govemment offiees.16 Because of these rcasons Turkey aecepted the dccision of the Lcague of Nations and the Turks formulated three proposals to put the British:
1) Britain would sign a neutrality treaty with Turkey.
2) The sovereignty of Mosul would be transferrcd to Iraq as a ‘fuHy self-goveming state’.
3) A request for shares in Mosul oiL17
The British-Turkish Trcaty was signed on June 6, i926. An important clause was that the Treaty gaye Turkey 10% of aH the oil royallies for 25 years from the Mosul oil fields. i8 However. within a year Turkey had accepted a one-off payment of £500.000.19 Furthermore, the British promised to refrain from agitation on behalf of Kurds and
Armenians.20 ‘ 3) The Milestones in Turkish-Soviet Relation The Mosul Question served as the motivation for Turkey to return to the foreign policy which it had foHowed during the War of National Liberation. Turkey felt the necd for the support of a major power. At that time the only major power which wished to maintain friendly relations with Turkey was the Soviet Union. Also the USSR had itself not yet normalized its relations with the West.
Turkeyand the Soviet Union signed a Pact of Non-Aggressıon and Security on December 17, 1925-onc day afLer the League’s decision on the Mosul Question.-21 Artiele 1 of this Pact reads: Both sides agrec to observe neııtrality towards the other on 14Geoffrey Lewis, Nations of the Modern World: Turkey. Third Edition. Emest Benn.
London. 1965,p.115. 15y. D. Yolkan and Nurınan .ltzkowiız. The Immortal Ataturk: A Psycoblography.
The University of Chicago, 1984, p.247.
i 6Kinross, p.399; look at Martin ‘van Bruinessen, Agha, Shaikh and State; The
Social and Political Structures of Kurdistan, Zed Books, London, 1992, 28 ı.
17 S.F. Evans, The Slow Rapproc’hement: 8ritaln and Turkey in the Age of
Kemal Atatürk, 1919-1939, Heverley, 1982, pp.95-96.
19J. C. Hurewitz, Diplomacy in the Near and Middle East, Yol.2, p.146.
20Brunissen, op.cit., p.275.
21 FO:37 1/1 0869/E8181/1944/44.
A SHORT SUMMARY OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: 1923-1939 63
case a military action should be carried out by one or more powers against one signatory party.22 In some ways the treaty was an extension of the Soviet-Turkish Treaty of 1921, which enshrined the principle of non-intervention by adding non-aggression and neutrality”.23 Actually, Turkey was very anxious about ltaly’s anitude towards Asia Minor. In a word, should a conflict between Turkeyand England arise over Mosul, ltaly might be tempted to join in and reoccupied Adana, if not Izmir, while Grcece rccaptured Eastern Thernce. An interesting interpretation that Ankara was suspicious of a secret understanding between Rome and Moscow or betVleen London and Moscow against Turkey. The guarantee of Turkey’s frontier should be with the Pact of 1925.24 Thrace On March 11, 1927, a commercial treaty was also signed. However, although the volume of trade between the two counlries increased between 1927 and 1930, relations were not always amicable. Some friction had arisen as a result of Soviet insistence on establishing “branches of the commercial delegation” in many Turkish citics. The Turks rejected the establishment of such offices in Kars and Artvin. On the other hand, they continued to
have good relations in the international arena. For example, they clearly demonstrated their allegiance to the rule of lawand to world peace, by signing the KelIog-Briand Pact of August 27, 1928. This pact was perhaps the first agreement signed by Turkey af ter Lausanne.Also, it was another proof to the world of Turkey’s desire for general peace and goodwilı.25
Turkeyand the Soviet Union had good and strong relations between 1933 and 1936. The SovielS offered Turkey crcdit for the purpose of buying Soviet made.machinery . In addition, the Soviets made free gifts of military vehicles and loaned the services of experts to set up industrial plants during this period. Although the Soviet Union supported the Turkish proposals for the Montreux Revision,relations had begun to deteriorate since i936. From the Soviet point of view, Turkey steered a course towards closer relations with the Western World. According to Turkey, the So viets might be harbouring imperialistic claims towards the’ Straİts and IstanbuL. In 1936, the deterioration of TurkisheSoviet relations was caused by the initiation of Turkish-British rclations. The real reversal in the Turkish-Soviet relationship was to come after Atatürk’s death in 1938. Although the Mosul incident brought Turkeyand Russia cIoser together for a time, there was a rapprochement with the Wesl. .
4) Turkish Rapprochement with the West: Italy and France Though Atatürk had never admired Mussolini, Turkish-ltalian relationshad been extraordinarily good unLiI 1938. They had reached an agreement in 1921 and Turkish –
halian trade relations from that time on had continued to Oourish. ReIations improved af ter the solution of the Mosul Question, and in May 1928 abilateral Turkish-ltalian agreement was signed. it was.a treaty of friendship, conciliation and neuLrality. It was the 22Hurcwiız,Op.cit.,p.143.
23Evans. op.cit .•p.93.
25FO:37 1/12799/A6246/1 /45.
fiest political pact which the Turks had signed with a Westem European Great Power after the war.26 According to this treaty in the event of one of the contracting parties being attacked by one or morc other power; the other party would remain neutral.27 Actua11yin 1928 ltaly was striving for a tripartite pact in the eastem Mediterranean among Turkey, Italy and Greece. After Turkish-ltalian pact, a Greco-Italian pact was signed on September 24, 1928. Alsa, ıtalian “conciliation” played an important part in the Greco-Turkish accord of 1930.28 France has always bcen a source of inspiration for the arts and g~neral culture of Turkish intellectuals. The subsequent recognition of the National Pact by France seemed to usher in a new era of Turkish-French relations. On October 20,1921, the Ankara Agreement was signed between Turkeyand France. The Turkish-Syrian border was
determined by this agreement as well as by a special administratiye regime for ıskenderun. AIso they agreed that a border-commission would decide the fixed frontier within one month. However, the commission was not founded until 1925 and it did not find any solutions. Af ter that Turkeyand France resumed negotiations on the border
question in 1926. On February i8, i926, the Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighbourliness was signed, which was the first agrecment bctwecn Turkeyand France since the Treaty of Lausanne. The Treaty established relations of good neighbourliness and friendship betwecn Turkeyand France. There had been no important modification of
frontiers, but only adaptations to practical necessities. As amatler of fact the whole of this agreement was based on the Treaty of Ankara of 192 i.29 The Grand National Assembly ratified this trcaty on the same day as the British-Turkish Agreement on the Mosul Question on June 8, 1926.30
There were two important questions betwecn Turkeyand France: the question of the
capitulations and the question of Hatayafter 1930’s. The system of the capitulations was
the privileges granted by Sultans to foreigners in the Ottoman Empire since 1535. Under
the system of capitulations, foreigners were not subject to Ouoman law. The
Capitulations were to be tötally abolished by the Treaty of Lausanne. After the abolition
of the capitulations, Turkey accepted to pay the debts of the Onoman Empire to the
Westem States, especially to France since it had more privileges than the others. On June
13,1928, the conventian deal with this issue was signed by Turkeyand France. Turkey
continucd to pay the instalmenı<; until the World Recession of 1930.
II. THE PERIOD OF TURKISH ACHIEVEMENT IN
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: 1932.1938
The progress of Turkish foreign policy was paralıcıcd by sUccess and pcace in the
international field in this period. The world economy was affected by the grcat recession
bctween 1929 and 1930. Almost every state tried to find a solution and theyall applicd
26H. Howard. The Partilion of Turkey: A Diplomatic History. New York. 1966. p.343.
A SHORT SUMMARY OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY: 1923-1939 65
different policies~ Two big groupings emerged as a result of the situation: The Revisionists (Germany, ftaly) and the Anti-revisionists (France, Britain). Turkey was in the Anti-revisionist Camp. As a result in 1932 Turkey was admitted to ,membership of the League of Nations. Joining the League of Nations was a milestone in Turkey’s rapprochement with the Wesl. Af ter becoming a member of the Lcague, Turkey remained faithful to the anides
of the Convention.
1) The Balkan Entente of 1934 against the Revisionist States Ataturk wanted to start good relationships with Turkey’s neighbours. He concluded two regional pacts to reinforce the defense policy: one in the Balkans and one with Turkey’s eastem neighbours. “The difficult problems have coneerned relations between Turkeyand the Balkan eountries, a lcgacy of the break-up of the Otloman Empire. Speeifie problems have arisen from Turkish minorities, their eultural freedom and propcrty compcnsation.”31 As I have stated above, the minority problem was solved by Turkish-Greek Agreemenl on J une 10,1930. On October 30 a treaty of Neutrality, Coneiliation and Arbitration was signed. A Cordial Friendship Paet of 1923 was to lead to the foundation of the Balkan Entente. In the 1930s, Bulgaria and ltaly were two aggressive states in the Balkans.
Moreover, their designs on southem Anatolia during the First World War had not been forgoııen by Turkish statesmen. At that time Atatürk deeided that a Balkan federation was the ultimate aim of Turkish foreign policy. Turkey had signed treaties with all the Balkan Slntes separately: with Yogoslavia in 1925 and 1933; Bulgaria in 1929; Rumania in 1933; Hungary in 1927. However the Balkan siluation outside the sphere of Turkish-
Grcek rcIalions appeared Icss oplimislic. The Balkan States organized many eonferenees for Balkan Unity betwccn 1930 and i933. Finally in February 1934, (the Balkan Entenıe was sİgned bctwccn Turkey, Grccee, Yugoslavia and Romania), guaranteeing all frontiers and pledging colleetive seeurity for the Balkans. In fact the Entente was againsı a possible attaek by Bulgaria. Sinee Bulgaria and Albania refused to join, the Balkan Union would never become a genuine regional organization.Actually, without Bulgaria and Albania the agreeriıent cannot be ealled aBaıkan Agreement.This agreement was an important step towards international peace. Instead of solving any problem it caused funher friction. For example, Bulgaria increased its diplomatic rclations with the Soviet
Union.32 Apart from Bulgaria, Turkey fcared of Ilnlian aggression in the region.In spite of the Treaty of Neutrality and Conciliation, relaıions bctween Turkeyand ltaly did not proceed in a pcaccful manner. Thcre was not any problem beıwecn 1928 ahd ı932.
However, Mussolini’s speeehes in 1934 brought Turkish suspicions to the surface. According LO Mussolini, the historical aim of Ilnly has two namcs: Asia and Africa. Although Mussolini Slnted that hc had never included Turkey in his plans, lıaly’s attack on Ethiopia further incrca<;ed Turkey’s suspicions. On the othcr hand, the ltalians objected to the Montreux Convenlion. From 1937 uritil 1939, rclations bctween the two countries
31 Duygu B. Sezer, ” Turkey’s Security Policics,” in Jonathan Alford(Ed.). Greece and
Turkey:Ad’ersity In Alliance, Go”er Puhlishsing, Guildford, 1984,p.80.