Both British and French authorities during and after the First World War consistently referred to the lands enclosed by the Taurus and Amanus mountain chains at the very northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea by the classical name “Cilicia” rather than Çukurova, the long-accepted Turkish name for the same region. This Allied usage even crept into Turkish parlance of the period, and one finds frequent reference to Kilikya throughout contemporary Turkish documents. With respect to Ottoman administrative units, the term Cilicia took in the Province of Adana and the Sanjak of Maraş.
As regards the Turco-French consict for mastery in Cilicia in the period following the Great War there have been few works published in Turkish. Of those that have been, most all have been memoirs. Damar Arıkoğlu’s Hatıralarım (My Recollections) and Kasım Ener’s Çukurova Kurtuluş Savaşında Adana Cephesi (Adana Front in the War of Liberation of Çukurova) are outstanding among them. At the same time a striking lack of interest on the subject by the French historians should also be mentioned. The publication of the French author Paul du Véou, La Passion de la Cilicie: 1919-1922, is a notable exception. It is true that French policy in the Levant in the years between the two world wars was a relatively minor aspect of France’s overall foreign policy. But the same cannot be said about the historic consequences of the Anglo-French rivalry in the region during the same period. French scholars have shown a perhaps understandable reluctance to delve into this French affair. They could apparently find little to attract them in an episode of their imperial history that could not be regarded as one of fulfilment and voluntary restitution of territory. As a matter of fact, the Cilician conşict reşected adversely on the glory and prestige of the ‘victorious France’ by marking the first major French defeat in an imperial war since 1763.
It is also to be indicated that in the Anglo-Saxon countries no book has yet been published solely dealing with the post-1918 Cilician dispute. Furthermore, in the earlier research there has not been much attempt at a synthesis of the various components of the question. The main purpose of this paper is, therefore, to provide some sort of analytic framework for an important though neglected phenomenon in Turco-French relations subsequent to the First World War. French documents and Turkish sources, as well as British reports, are used to create a balanced and accurate survey of an area of history in which unbiased studies are badly needed.
Certain conversations were held in 1915 between Britain, France and Russia, which premeditated the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, in the event of an Allied victory in the First World War. These bargainings resulted on 16 May 1916 in the drawing up of what has ever since been known as the Sykes-Picot Accord. Sir Mark Sykes was an authority on the Ottoman Empire and was the principal British delegate to sign this agreement. François Georges-Picot was the French Consul-General in Beirut before November 1914 and was the chief French representative in these talks. The Sykes-Picot Accord, among other things, set out the areas of the Ottoman Empire which were to be handed over to France, on the one hand, and to Britain on the other. It also drew up the political and administrative systems that were to be instituted in the regions thus acquired. France was to receive: (i) The Blue Zone, which comprised the Levantine coast from Acre to the Taurus mountains – i.e., Lebanon, the Ansarieh country, district of Iskenderun and Cilicia. This zone extended north-west to Anatolia by an ever-narrowing strip of territory. (ii) “A” Zone, which included the whole of the Syrian hinterland with Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo – also Upper Mesopotamia, including Mosul.
On the basis of this agreement was organised the allied occupation of these areas after the Armistice of Moudros. An amendment agreed to between the British and French Prime Ministers, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau, in 1919 deprived France of Upper Mesopotamia, with Mosul, and allotted it to Britain. The territory occupied by the British forces as the result of the Allied victory was divided into four zones, all under the supreme authority of General Edmund Allenby as Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force: (i) The Northern Zone (Cilicia), administered by the French military authorities. (ii) The Western Zone (Lebanon, the Ansarieh country, district of Iskenderun), administered by the French military authorities. (iii) The Southern Zone (Palestine), administered by the British forces. (iv) The Eastern Zone (Syrian hinterland, including Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo), administered by the forces of Emir Faisal. This was to be without prejudice to the final political settlement by the Peace Conference.
On the other hand, it is to be particularly emphasised here that since Cilicia was part of the land which was held by the Turkish armies on 30 October 1918 when the Armistice of Moudros was signed, it was included in the territorial definition of the Turkish National Pact whose principles were adopted at the end of the Sivas Congress on 11 September 1919. At the conclusion of the armistice the units of the Turkish 7th Army were entrenched at Deir el Jemal, about twenty kilometers to the northwest of Aleppo. Turkish line of defense stretched from the mouth of Asi river, went south of Antakya, passed eastwards to Tel Rifat and ended upon the Euphrates at Deyrizor. The armistice, in general, demanded the retention of all forces on both sides behind the line of contact as of noon 31 October 1918. Therefore the Allied troops had no right to advance beyond the line which they actually occupied at midday on that date. However, the armistice contained certain Articles which could be easily exploited and misapplied by the Allies. The most notorious Article was the 7th, giving the Allies the right to occupy any strategic part of the Ottoman Empire in the event of any situation arising which threatened their security. British forces, taking advantage of these obscure provisions of the armistice, or interpreting the armistice terms in their favour, began to occupy the towns of Cilicia from 17 December 1918 onwards.
As of 1 November 1919, the British forces, which then provided the military garrisons for Cilicia and Syria were replaced by the French troops of what was afterwards called “The Army of the Levant”, in accordance with the agreement arrived at between Lloyd George and Clemenceau on 5 September 1919. No French troops penetrated into the Eastern Zone, which was left under the authority of Emir Faisal; but the British forces, which had up to then been stationed in Faisal’s area, were withdrawn. This arrangement, too, was to be provisional without prejudicing the final question of the mandates and the frontiers of the respective zones. In November 1919, General Henri Gouraud, one of France’s most famous colonial soldiers who was later to serve as French High Commissioner for Syria between 1920 and 1923, arrived in Beirut as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Levant. The main civilian appointment was that of Robert de Caix as Gouraud’s secretary-general and effectively France’s chief political representative in Syria. De Caix, an economist and editor who was intensely critical of British foreign policy, was nominated much to the delight of French colonial and commercial circles.
That Cilicia should have been allotted to France rather than any of the other Allied Powers was due immediately to the wartime Sykes-Picot Accord, but more fundamentally to the recognition of the French interest in the geopolitical location and natural resources of this region before and during the First World War. By July 1915 the Comité de l'Asie Française was calling openly for the annexation of Cilicia. The Comité was supported by the Lyons and Marseilles Chambers of Commerce and, in late August, by the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies. France wanted Cilicia, because that province meant cotton. In addition the French demanded Cilicia as a part of its plan of defence for Syria. Within the general framework of French Levantine policy, Cilicia occupied a particular place. The area was the gateway to Syria and a vital link in France's strategy to dominate the eastern Mediterranean. The French occupation of Cilicia in the wake of the Armistice of Moudros was therefore mainly strategic and economic in character.
In the Levant, the war aims of the French colonial party and its many supporters at the Quai d’Orsay centred from the start on the entire eastern Mediterranean coast and hinterlands from the Sinai to the Taurus barrier of southeastern Anatolia. This area, of course, took in all of Cilicia and the lowlands to the east thereof. Colonialists of all stripes saw the Taurus barrier as the natural northern frontier for the latifundium which they hoped to establish in the Levant. Military and naval authorities among them, moreover, seized on the potential value of Cilicia, with its harbour at Mersin, its relatively well-developed system of land transportation, and its easy avenues of approach into Syria and Mesopotamia, as a major base for the projection of French power in the eastern Mediterranean basin. Mersin was the busiest port on the southern Anatolian coast, being the terminus of the railway from Tarsus and Adana, by which (but still more by road) the produce of the rich Adana plain came down. Imports and exports passed through Mersin. There was, however, no enclosed harbour, but only a good jetty. The making of a breakwater had long been under consideration. The anchorage in the roadstead was good, sheltered from winds and capable of important development.
Faced with the British firmly entrenched at Cyprus and the Egyptian ports – and with Italy newly established at Tripoli and the Dodecanese Islands, Paris felt an urgent need for an equivalent French position in the region. A strong base at Adana, the largest city of Cilicia, standing athwart the Istanbul-Baghdad railway, offered the geopolitical advantages of a pressure point on British lines of communication, an obstacle to possible Turkish onslaught from the north, and a means of quick access to the Syrian interior. Having yielded the right to direct administration of that area, again by the terms of the Sykes-Picot Accord, the Quai d’Orsay remained very sensitive to the ability of Syrian nationalists to foment trouble in French North Africa. Control of Cilicia was therefore expected to help France in the maintaining of its Syrian mandate. Cilicia would allow Paris to thwart growing opposition movements in Syria and enable it to squelch the potentially disruptive currents before they spread successfully to the Maghreb. After consolidating its North African empire in 1912, France became a serious competitor of Britain in the quest for strategic domination of the Mediterranean. The possession of Cilicia was an asset in the race for power against Britain. The strategic needs to counterbalance British insuence in the Near East were intertwined with the beliefs held in insuential French colonial circles that France would never be a true Mediterranean power until it acquired Cilicia to go with its Syrian mandate. Control over Adana, one of the wealthy and historic centres of the Asia Minor, was an important sign of distinction for France as well. In the post1918 rush for international power, prestige was particularly valuable.
The mountain districts of the Province of Adana were rich in unexploited mineral wealth, and the fertile coast-plain, which produced cotton, rice, cereals, sugar-beet and much fruit, and afforded abundant pasturage, was well watered by the rivers that descended from the Taurus range. Adana plain was the centre of the cotton growing belt. France had imported Cilician cotton since medieval times, and its entrepreneurs had been active in setting up the first powered gins and mills at Adana in 1864. Through German capital and management before the Great War Cilician production of raw cotton had almost quadrupled to 105,000 bales between 1899 and 1913 without any increase of the area under cultivation. Moreover, a survey of the region by irrigation experts predicted that the Adana plain alone could rival all of Egypt in agricultural yield. So great were expectations for the development of Cilicia that Paris encouraged French capital to join British interests in funding and building a railway from Adana to Tarsus and Mersin, the main port of Cilicia, during the 1880s. With an eye on Turkish cotton, silk, cereals, fuels, and copper, French colonialists proceeded to rival the German rail concession in Anatolia by carving out an immense domain for themselves, stretching from the Black Sea coast to the trace of the Baghdad railway in southeastern Anatolia, while negotiating a loan to the Ottoman government in 1913-1914. Thus, the French had staked out a significant economic interest in Cilicia by the advent of the war.
A large mission of scholars, led by Professor Paul Huvelin of the University of Lyons, was sent by the Quai d’Orsay and the Chambers of Commerce of Marseilles and Lyons to Cilicia and Syria from May to September 1919 to conduct a socio-economic survey of the region in order to determine how France and the region could benefit from one another. Three of the exhaustive reports rendered by the mission upon its return to France were published by the Comité de l’Asie Française. They contain highly detailed, glowing forecasts of the region’s potential yields in cotton, silk, and cereals, as well as other, less important commodities. One of these reports, prepared by the noted agronomist E. C. Achard on the outlook for agricultural development in general for the region, predicted exportable cereals from Cilicia alone at almost 1,500,000 tons. This sum plus 350,000 tons of raw cotton and an additional 600,000 tons of cotton seed, all added to equally rosy estimates of exportable wool, olives, and fruits could not have escaped the attention of French industrial and transport interests. Like raw cotton and cereals, wool had long figured among major French imports; and insuential French periodicals, under the guidance of their colonialist masters, had been heralding a postwar scramble for raw materials among industrial nations since the summer of 1918. In fact, this was not mere colonialist propaganda. Etienne Clémentel, Minister of Commerce from 1915 to 1919 and not noted for colonialist sympathies, took the matter of Allied postwar control and sharing of certain commodities very seriously. He even convened an international conference at Paris on this issue during the fall of 1916.
Post-1918 France was the second largest consumer of cotton in Europe behind only Britain. The First World War had spawned world-wide shortage of cotton and France, as a major producer of textiles and garments, urgently needed immediate sources of cheap raw materials for economic recovery and quantities available within its overseas empire were insignificant. The largest French industry, textiles, remained almost dependent on foreign imports. It was therefore clear that raw cotton, followed closely by cereals, lay at the bottom of the major French interest in Cilicia. And it was Cilicia that was calculated to produce two-thirds of France's cotton needs.
Syria, as a country with political boundaries, had never existed before, although its existence was foreseen in the Sykes-Picot Accord. It was not possible to follow the existing limits of the Ottoman provinces. For instance, the Province of Aleppo ran deep into the Turkish regions. Therefore, it was one of France’s first moves to take action to define just exactly what these boundaries were and to consolidate its control therein. The Turkish Nationalists, on the other hand, had established a base of power in the Anatolian interior and were beginning to organise armed resistance in the Turkish territories under Allied occupation.
The nationalist challenge was strongest in Cilicia. The reoccupation of Cilicia by the French forces following its evacuation by the British caused deep resentment among its Turkish inhabitants. A tense situation was steadily developing in the region. Society for the Defence of the Rights of Cilicia organised meetings and condemned the French aggression. It sent protests to the Allied High Commissioners declaring that the acts of the Entente Powers were inhumane and such as to be an offence against justice and right, against the principles proclaimed with all pomp and ceremony in the Peace Conference, and against the promises made to Turkey before all the world by Article 12 of the Fourteen Points of the American President Woodrow Wilson which stipulated that the Turkish portions of the Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty. The protest further stated that the Entente Powers were working to establish an equilibrium of interests among themselves by dismembering Turkey and invited the Powers to return to more humane and equitable sentiments towards the Turkish people who were determined to defend their existence and lawful rights rather consent to dismemberment and slavery. Cilicia was a purely Turkish territory inhabited overwhelmingly by Turkish people. Therefore France would reap nothing but trouble in endeavouring to hold that district and administer it. The Turkish National Forces were determined to throw the French out of Cilicia and were making preparations for guerrilla warfare on a large scale.
Paris had provided only about 20,000 troops to maintain order throughout Cilicia and Syria. These troops included, incidentally, the remnants of the Armenian and Syrian Legions and the French units which had preceded General Gouraud during the spring and summer of 1919. Thus, the French Commander-in-Chief found himself armed with only two skeletal divisions upon his arrival at Beirut: the 1st Division, formerly the 156th Infantry Division, sent from Istanbul and the 2nd Division, assembled from a mixture of metropolitan and colonial units. The former was commanded by General Julien Dufieux, with headquarters at Adana. The latter was led by General Marie de Lamothe, with headquarters at Zahle in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The core of the fighting strength of each of these divisions consisted of a single metropolitan regiment – the 412th Infantry and the 415th Infantry respectively. Moslems from African colonies filled all other combat elements.
The newly-started Turkish Nationalist movement, with Mustafa Kemal Pasha (later to be known as Atatürk) at its head, began to take effect in the form of attacks on the French posts established between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates, and those situated east of that river. The Turkish National Forces set their activities in motion through hit-and-run band fights. In apparent anticipation of early troubles with Faisal’s forces in Damascus, General Gouraud had retained much important equipment at Beirut. Perhaps most significant was the very wide dispersion of French troops in small garrisons from Mersin to Resulayn, east of Urfa. The French found it increasingly difficult to consolidate control over this area.
Cilician Turks were the subject of increasing persecution. The occupation authorities were proud, narrow-minded, inept, condescendingly paternalistic and harsh. Through police agents and gendarmes they distributed French sags among the whole population of the city of Adana and forced the inhabitants to hoist them not only over private houses, imposing heavy pecuniary fines in case of non-compliance, but also over official buildings. French occupation administration of the district was consistently bad and this particular incident brought the matter to a head. French functionaries administering the region were either army officers with previous experience in North Africa whose most characteristic attitude was a contempt for the indigenous populace or else low-grade state employees, ignorant of local customs. They committed and emphasised all the errors and unpleasant characteristics of wicked military occupation. French commanders and petty officials thus acted ruthlessly against the Turks by arming the native Armenians to attack innocent people and by sending punitive expeditions into the interior and setting Turkish villages on fire after massacring the inhabitants. In Cilicia French forces committed massacres, oppression and atrocities and they carried out the policy of extermination, using Armenians as instruments. France had raised large forces of Armenians in Cilicia in order to fight against the Turks in those quarters. The first significant blows of the active phase of the Turco-French consict for control of Cilicia and vicinity fell at Maraş and Turkish resistance soon assumed the proportions of a full-scale war.
On 21 January 1920, the French garrison of Maraş was besieged by the Turkish National Forces. A French relief column was sent from Adana on 9 February to endeavour to disengage the town; but although the relief was effected the situation became so serious, and the difficulty of keeping up the supply service to the town became so acute, that it was decided to evacuate the place. During the march south from Maraş the French troops were attacked and almost wiped out by the Turks. On 10 February 1920, three weeks of fighting with the Turkish Nationalists claimed over 500 French lives, Turks having been armed with machine guns. The Turks had insicted upon French forces a humiliating reverse and driven them out of Maraş. Although the French had held a tight rein on their Moslem troops in Cilicia, even to the point of blocking their intercourse with the local populace, some of them deserted, out of sympathy for fellow Moslem Turks. Paris had to devote increasing amount of units and ammunition to maintain order in the area. In March 1920, 25,000 - 30,000 forces under French direction were in Cilicia. Two months later the French had increased the number of troops under their command to approximately 40,000.
Maraş, for the French in the north, was merely the beginning of their difficulties, and one must not forget the awkwardness of the situation which was gradually developing around them. They had replaced the British forces by their Army of the Levant, which was infinitely inferior in numbers and equipment. Almost before they had time to look around and size up the position they found themselves embroiled with the Turks in the north and with the Arabs in the south. At the same time as the French faced increasing difficulties with Faisal’s forces in Syria, consict with Turkish Nationalists rose to uncontrollable levels.
It must be remembered that with the Turks the French were dealing with a very different type of soldier from that of the so-called Arab army. As all those who fought the Turks during the Great War knew, the Turkish private was an extraordinarily courageous and strong-willed fighter. The Turkish soldier had an ability to withstand hardship, to accept losses and to recover quickly from defeat – endurance, sacrifice and determination. All Europe and Asia knew the qualities of the Turkish soldier. Foreign military experts were generous in their estimation of the qualities of the average Turkish soldier. They noted the fine physique and the sober, earnest, simple character of the Turkish soldier, his innate bravery and patient undergoing of misery and discomfort and his coolness under fire; the troops were capable of enduring great fatigue and privation. They were unanimous in their view that, for sheer courage, doggedness, physical toughness and fighting ability, the Turkish soldier had hardly no equal. They were also of the opinion that no other army could possibly have survived, let alone fought, in the appalling conditions under which the Turkish army served during the First World War. The French units were no match for the Turkish National Forces in any of these respects.
The Turks were quick to take advantage of the French military weakness. General Gouraud at Beirut followed the progress of hostilities in Cilicia with rapidly growing alarm. Sheer surprise and the wide dispersion of forceful Turkish operations alone sufficed to plunge French morale both in the Levant and in Paris. This is obvious from the study of a host of messages exchanged between Beirut and Paris during the period February-June 1920. By May 1920 the military weakness of the French had compelled them to surrender Maraş, Urfa and the large French outpost at Pozantı, near the Cilician Gates. Pozantı was an important town as the key to north-south entry into Cilicia. Despite the continued fighting in Cilicia, contacts between the Turkish Nationalists and the French had never been completely broken off. A Turkish emissary, Mazhar Müfit (Kansu), had visited General Gouraud in March 1920 and on 20 May a French delegation led by Robert de Caix arrived in Ankara for talks with Mustafa Kemal himself. Defeat on battleground forced de Caix to conclude an armistice with the Turkish Nationalists on 23 May. According to the truce convention, prisoners of war were to be exchanged and France was to withdraw all of its forces south of the Mersin-Tarsus-Adana-Islahiye rail line and pull out of Antep. The two sides agreed to cease-fire at midnight on 29-30 May for a period of 20 days. Both parties retained the right to request extension of the truce during that interim.
On 17 June, Turks denounced the truce due to French debarkation of reinforcement at Zonguldak Ereğli on 8 June. Convinced that the French were exploiting the armistice against it, the Ankara government ordered that hostilities be resumed at midnight on 18-19 June. This produced considerable alarm at Paris. For the French people had become critical and restive under the growing cost in money and blood required to maintain the French position in Cilicia.
This armistice had a hostile reception in British circles which considered it as a serious blow to the prestige of the Allies and as the first big step towards the recognition of the Turkish Nationalists as a government controlling Asia Minor with whom the French would eventually sign a peace agreement. Lloyd George observed that the defeat of the French by Mustafa Kemal at Cilicia enhanced the Turkish leader’s prestige; encouraged the Turkish Nationalists to fresh attacks on other occupied territories and shattered all fear of the invincible might of the conquerors of the Great War.
On 10 August 1920 the Ottoman Empire and the Allied Powers had culminated their peace negotiations in the Treaty of Sèvres. The treaty ordained that the Turkish homeland be divided among foreign powers. Its most valuable and productive regions were apportioned to Greece, Italy, France and Armenia. French were granted extensive zones of insuence in central and southern Turkey including Cilicia and they obtained the right of occupying a large part of the southeastern Anatolia up to the north of the city of Urfa. To enforce the Treaty of Sèvres against the Turkish Nationalists was not, however, easy. The treaty, imposed on the dying Ottoman Empire, set off a burst of patriotic outrage among the Turks. The treaty was stillborn. It had been signed by the delegates of the Imperial Government of Istanbul, but was rejected by the Nationalist Government of Ankara which totally disapproved of its provisions. It was never ratified.
At the time that the Turkish Nationalists were harassing the French in Cilicia, the latter were also having difficulties in Syria, where an Arab rebellion had necessitated a considerable extension of French lines. The French military was, therefore, unable to reinforce its Cilician troops from those in Syria, nor was it able to get more troops from home. Demobilisation demands deterred Premier Alexandre Millerand, Georges Clemenceau’s successor from sending reinforcements. To honour Gouraud’s continuous appeals for more and more troops, France soon had to reduce its presence in Istanbul and the Balkans – and its unsteady hold on Morocco. Both the French people and the Chamber were opposed to further bloodshed and expenditure, especially in the East. In France of 40 million inhabitants, as many as eight million had served with the colours between 1914 and 1918. Of those, a million and half had been killed, another three million wounded: nearly five million casualties, most of whom had relatives who had discovered in their grief what war was like. Altogether, the direct and indirect casualties, it was estimated that one out of every six French citizens in 1921 had personal links to the Great War. The material and psychological costs of the First World War had been great. The war had decimated France’s male population and had destroyed or absorbed a large share of fixed capital. The Turks in the meantime were increasingly successful in their Cilician campaign, which reached serious proportions in the autumn of 1920. By the end of 1920, the French position in Cilicia had become untenable; one town after another had been surrendered to the Turkish Nationalists.
The war in the south was going well for the Turks, and they knew that the French found themselves in a desperate position there. Total surprise and rapidity in the spread of Turkish resistance to the French throughout the south had contributed much to Turkish successes there. As mentioned earlier, the wide dispersion of General Dufieux’s skeletal division from Mersin in the west to Urfa in the east, a span of 400 kilometers, had also played a role in French failure to regain control in the region. Utterly dependent on the railroad for communications and logistical support in general, the many small garrisons scattered along the right of way quickly became a collective liability when the Turks launched their campaign of massive damage there.
Finally, the French concluded that the costs of controlling Cilicia outweighed the benefits of this venture. It required increasing effort to control the territory and made it difficult to dominate Syria as well. Questions were asked in the French Chamber of Deputies and articles criticising the government began to appear in the press. It was true that many individual Frenchmen, including persons of high standing, sympathised with the Turkish national movement, and would welcome a solution of the Turkish question based on the main plank in the Nationalists’ programme, namely, the maintenance of an undivided Turkey proper. In late 1920 French journalists and statesmen argued that “… if we were wise enough to conclude a real peace, a French peace with the Turks; if we took their legitimate demands into account; if we realised that having confined Turks into Anatolia, we cannot allow them to be menaced; if we had the sense not to treat the men as insurgents who are simple patriots, the problem of Syria would, in our opinion, be solved quickly enough.”
By 1921 the situation for the Allies had become difficult. The Turkish forces were driving hard on a two-pronged offensive: one in a direct western thrust and the other in a southwestern movement. The Italian forces in the vicinity of Konya and the French units around Maraş were in disorder and in retreat. The Italians signed an agreement with the Ankara government on 13 March 1921. The agreement provided for Italian military withdrawal from Turkey, as well as awarding an Italian firm a concession to work the Zonguldak Ereğli coal mine. The French situation in Cilicia had become critical. They could either continue the war by pouring in more men and equipment or withdraw and hope for an agreeable settlement with the Turkish leadership. France chose the latter alternative and, by doing so, scrapped the Treaty of Sèvres. The French government knew that the Treaty of Sèvres was dead and that it was time to make terms with the Turkish Nationalists. The French believed that they could best achieve their goals through co-operation with Turkey and sought a separate peace. If in so doing it gained the friendship of the Ankara government ahead of other European powers (especially Britain), then so much the better. Keeping 80,000 troops in the region cost 500 million francs a year. Fears that the Soviet Russia, in order to gain the Straits, would reach agreement with Turkey strengthened the case for withdrawal.
When the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers met in London in January 1921, its agenda included, among other things, modifications of the Treaty of Sèvres. On 9 March, during the 21 February to 12 March meeting of the Council, the French Prime Minister, Aristide Briand, unbeknownst to other Allied Powers, signed an accord with Bekir Sami (Kunduk), the Foreign Minister of the Ankara government. They agreed to: a complete cessation of hostilities within one week; an exchange of all prisoners not under criminal charges; complete disarmament of all elements of the populace and the National Forces by both Turkish and French military authorities; the establishment of a mixed administration in areas where Christians formed a majority of the population; the creation of a mixed gendarmerie under both Turkish and French officers; and the gradual withdrawal of all French forces to the Sanjak of Iskenderun. Also stipulated were: a general amnesty to all linguistic-religious elements of the populace regardless of affiliation during the French occupation; mutual guarantees of protection of all those elements under condition of absolute equality of rights; the joint economic development of the entire area assigned to French rule by the Sykes-Picot Accord; French concessions over the Baghdad railway from Pozantı to Nusaybin and the Ergani copper mines; a Turco-Syrian customs union; the maintenance of French charitable works in all areas to be evacuated by French forces; and a special administration for the Sanjak of Iskenderun in recognition of the preponderant Turkish inhabitants there. The new frontier between Turkey and the mandated territory of Syria was to start from a point to be chosen on the Gulf of Iskenderun, immediately south of Payas and extended due east, along the Baghdad railway line, to Cizre.
Without apparent concern for Turkish compliance with the first of these conditions, much less ratification of the entire document at Ankara, Louis Barthou, the War Minister at Paris, wired General Noel Garnier-Duplessis at Beirut early on 12 March to stop all offensive operations in Cilicia and vicinity. The Quai d’Orsay simultaneously sent a similar message to de Caix, who was holding General Gouraud’s chair at the High Commission. Two days later, General Garnier-Duplessis sent three cables to Barthou, requesting cancellation of shipments of troops and materiel to the Levant. Similarly de Caix lost no time in conferring with General Garnier-Duplessis and General Dufieux on the modalities of executing the new agreement. The military strength actually at the disposal of the French government was not commensurate with the political desires that its concern for Cilicia imposed upon it. In other words, Paris did not have the armed might sufficient to back up its policies in the region. Therefore French were in an obvious rush to leave Cilicia as soon as possible. However, a deep shock awaited them, but it took several months to sink in.
Bekir Sami dallied at Paris, Rome and Istanbul on his return to Ankara. He had departed London on 17 March, after unsuccessfully offering Turkey to Lloyd George as a barrier to Bolshevik penetration into the Levant. Bekir Sami had remained in telegraphic contact with Mustafa Kemal during his negotiations with the French. The full text of the London compact reached Ankara via telegram from the French liaison officer at Zonguldak on 13 March. Ahmet Muhtar, Acting Foreign Minister of the Ankara government, read it before the Grand National Assembly on 17 March, the very date of Bekir Sami’s departure from London. The Assembly rejected the accord out of hand. Contrary to his usual practice in those days, Mustafa Kemal chaired this session. The general tenor of discussion attacked Bekir Sami’s agreement as a violation of the National Pact. The clauses on a mixed gendarmerie, mixed administrations in heavily Christian areas, and French economic activity throughout a huge sector of central Anatolia drew the most fire as symbols of past foreign domination in Turkey. In short, they smacked of zones of insuence and capitulations. However, the accord showed the direction in which French policy in this theatre was turning. Turkey was confirmed in the opinion that the Entente Powers were no longer able to act in concert.
Bekir Sami had exceeded his authority at London and that several clauses of his accord consicted with the provisions of the National Pact. Although France had offered to withdraw its troops from Cilicia, it still expected to maintain there commercial monopoly, control of the gendarmerie and a pre-emptive right to supply advisers – in fact, a mandate in all but name. The entire Grand National Assembly had taken a solemn oath on 17 July 1920 to make peace with the Allies only on terms set forth in the National Pact, to settle for nothing less. This document which declared the guidelines of the Turkish national movement was the legitimate expression of the popular will and its minimum desiderata. The National Pact, forming the sacred foundation of the new national existence, clearly mentioned that the Turks would never be willing to agree to any limitation on their independence. No mandate or protectorate over Turkey would be considered. Foreign scientific or economic assistance would be accepted only if it were untainted with imperialism.
As for the counterproposals, the Turks eliminated all provisions interfering in domestic affairs: the mixed gendarmerie; mixed administrations in heavily Christian sectors; and the disarming of the National Forces. They also delayed the general amnesty until the arrival of Turkish forces in areas evacuated by the French, two days after evacuation. The frontier established at London was shifted about 20 kilometers south along its entire length. The Turks further removed all economic concessions from the text, but promised to incorporate them into letters of intent to be annexed to the text. Finally, they added two surprise provisions: that the revised accord would end the state of war between Turkey and France; and that France would engage to support Turkey’s legitimate territorial demands in its final settlement with the Allies. This last stipulation referred obliquely to the restoration of Izmir and eastern Thrace to the Turks. Moreover, in a general sense it also pledged French support to the complete sovereignty of Turkey over all territories that it demanded. In the latter instance, the French themselves would renounce all forms of control over the Turkish government envisioned to date at various peace conferences.
For a short time the abortive accord calmed the northern frontier of Syria. Soon, however, the particulars of the disastrous fighting in Cilicia began to leak out in the French press and cause discontent among the French public. Questions were asked in their Parliament, and unfavourable articles began to appear in a certain section of the press. At Paris the prestigious Le Temps took its stand openly for the Turkish national movement, supporting “the loyal endeavours of the Ankara government.” The most noted and famous French newspaper, with insuence rivalling The Times of London, was Le Temps. It was a quality newspaper and excelled in the sphere of foreign affairs. France’s 80,000 occupation troops were a drain on resources that could no longer be afforded; the French Parliament was unwilling to continue paying for them. A grave imbalance in French finances, which ultimately led to the great crisis of 1924 - 1926, began to raise cries in the Chamber for drastic economies. As a consequence, the French government was unable to reinforce the Army of the Levant to any further extent.
The overwhelming defeat of the Armenian forces in the Caucasian front by the Turkish army and the subsequent signature of the Treaty of Gümrü on 2 December 1920 had led the French government to start thinking about the possibility of an eventual victory of the Turkish national movement. The Treaty of Gümrü was the first international agreement the Nationalist Turkey made. The Treaty of Sèvres was nullified with this agreement; many eastern Anatolian towns, including Kars, which were granted to Armenia at Sèvres were returned to the motherland by it. The Turkish victories over the Greeks at the first and the second battles of Inönü on 9 January and 31 March 1921 further contributed to the strengthening of the French government’s conviction on the final triumph of the Turkish War of Liberation. A large segment of the French public, on its part, was also affected by these Turkish successes on the battlefield and soon afterwards, began to discern the capacity of the Turkish Nationalists to win the fight for independence against foreign invasion. The public opinion in France was therefore partially and gradually won in favour of the government of Ankara.
Businessmen who had been engaged in financial ventures in the Near East before the Great War, or who sought to obtain profitable concessions, spread the opinion in the political circles of Paris that the future belonged to the Turkish Nationalists and that if the government lent them its favour France would profit enormously. Cilicia proved to be an awkward location for a French army to occupy, caught as it was between Turkish Nationalists and troublesome Syria.
Moreover, serious developments in the Arab world began to disquiet the French. On 27 August 1921 the British had made Emir Faisal king of the newly-protected government of Iraq and his brother Emir Abdullah had been installed as leader of a native administration in Transjordan. Owing to what had happened the year previously in Damascus it was not to be expected that relations between the French in Syria and the governments of Iraq and Transjordan would be very cordial. Consequently General Gouraud found himself in this position – hostile Turks on his northern frontier, Iraq ruled over by the Emir Faisal on his eastern frontier, Transjordan with the Emir Abdullah on the south-east, and Palestine with its Zionist regime on the south. The French government was accordingly obliged to look for some way out of their difficult position. The alternatives were either to reinforce the Army of the Levant until it was strong enough effectively to defend each frontier simultaneously, or to make peace with either Turks and Arabs. The French chose to make peace with the Turks.
After the rejection by Ankara of the Briand-Sami Accord, the relations between the Turks and the French were strained and reached almost a crisis point prior to the Greek advance early in July 1921. But with the memory of the second Turkish victory four months ago at Inönü fresh in their minds, the French, who did not have the means to secure a final victory in Cilicia, which was becoming a fiscal and military gangrene in the body of France, decided to approach Ankara for a settlement. The Turks, for their part, did not wish to prolong hostilities on the Cilician front especially at the time of intensive Greek military preparations which would necessitate the use of every man available. Both sides were thus ready for talks. In the conversation between the Turkish and French delegates the Turks showed themselves past masters in the art of diplomacy. They knew full well the state of French public opinion at home, and the French military weakness on the spot, and they played their cards accordingly.
The principal French representative in these negotiations was Henri Franklin-Bouillon, an ambitious Radical Socialist politician and former President of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had served as minister before. He believed in the importance of obtaining the friendship of Turkey as a counterpoise and barrier to the Bolshevik menace, and as a compromise towards France's Moslem colonies where native opinion could not be estranged as one-third of the French army of the future would contain Moslems permanently garrisoned in France. The French semiofficial emissary of jovial demeanour and unorthodox outlook, whose mission could be explained away in terms of his journalistic and business interests, had arrived in Istanbul on 27 May 1921. There, posing as a war correspondent with no formal sponsorship whatever, he contacted with the representatives of the Ankara government. Having determined thus that he could expect a sympathetic reception at Ankara, Franklin-Bouillon slipped out of Istanbul amid great secrecy and sailed to Inebolu, 385 kilometres to the east, on the Anatolian coast of the Black Sea. Met there by Yusuf Kemal (Tengirşek), who had succeeded Bekir Sami as Foreign Minister, he accompanied the Turk to Ankara. Along the route, Yusuf Kemal, a jurist educated in France, managed to learn much of his companion’s mission and of the latest French position on peace. All of this he telegraphed ahead to Ankara at various rest stops. Thus, Mustafa Kemal and General Fevzi (Çakmak), who acted as Foreign Minister in the absence of Yusuf Kemal, were able to direct the Permanent Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Hikmet (Bayur), in the preparation of the Turkish case for discussion with the French envoy well in advance of his arrival.
Having arrived in Ankara on 9 June, Franklin-Bouillon rested for a few days lest he reveal to Mustafa Kemal the eagerness of Briand for an understanding. The interlocutors were soon on close terms with each other. They talked freely and at length, with much frank disagreement on either side. Although the emissary initially averred that he had no official status or powers to negotiate with his hosts, the Turkish leadership was quick to realise that he did indeed enjoy far more authority than he projected by his behaviour among them. This became quite clear when the Frenchman suggested the Treaty of Sèvres as the basis for discussions. Of course, the Ankara government would have none of it and countered with the National Pact as a basis. Since that document was completely foreign to FranklinBouillon, he asked for time to study it. Reassembled a day or so later, the negotiators – on the Turkish side: Mustafa Kemal, Fevzi and Yusuf Kemal – stood their respective grounds until the French envoy put forth the London Accord as a point of departure for talks.
Franklin-Bouillon wanted to end hostilities in Cilicia, but only in return for economic concessions and some remnant of capitulatory privileges to protect the great interests of France in Turkish finance, economic development and French schools and missions. The Capitulations represented a direct derogation of Turkish sovereignty. They restricted Turkey's trading rights, its right to impose customs and harbour dues and its right to export Turkish goods. They gave to foreign nationals a wide range of extra-territorial privileges, including immunity from taxation, and sequestration, and rights of consular jurisdiction. This Mustafa Kemal would not allow. The National Pact, the Turkish leader said, which emphasised “political, economic, legal, military and cultural independence”, must be the starting point. The French envoy was impressed by Mustafa Kemal’s strong will. In fact, Franklin-Bouillon had felt virtually forced into this choice by what he learned of the National Pact. Briesy, he found there several conditions in obvious consict with French aims – so much so that he despaired of a definitive agreement without considerable guidance from Briand.
Although Franklin-Bouillon recognised that a formidable gulf separated the positions taken by his chief and by his hosts, he nevertheless played the role of the good soldier by shuttling redrafts of the aborted agreement between Ankara and Istanbul for referral to Briand himself. The latter, in turn, replied with redrafts of his own. Moreover, in order to compose them, he found that he had, finally, to take Gouraud into his confidence. Since Briand despised paperwork, he needed – or thought he did – someone outside the Quai d’Orsay, someone with access to the background files for the London Accord, to assist in the process of casting new texts for peace in Cilicia. Thus, Franklin-Bouillon soon found himself almost constantly on the roads among Ankara, Istanbul, Beirut and Adana, acting as a courier than as an ambassador of peace. Moreover, the pondering process of recasting an agreement in concert with the Turks and transmitting its contents to Paris, Istanbul and Beirut for comments proved a great source of frustration as well as embarrassment before the Turks for the awkwardness of the process. Meanwhile, long delays caused by many imperfections in French communications techniques led to even more losses in time, which was fast becoming very precious in the face of British overtures to Ankara for an understanding.
On 28 July, Franklin-Bouillon advised Briand that progress under these conditions was impossible. He also proposed to return to Paris for detailed instructions. At the same time, he volunteered to retrace his steps for formal negotiations if the Premier so wished. At the very time, the final phase of the great Greek offensive towards Ankara was launched, a two-pronged advance to the east from the vicinities of Eskişehir and Afyon. Greek high command was extremely confident of its ability to push on to Ankara. So, Briand decided to await events on the battlefield before pursuing peace. Here, he took a calculated risk. If the Greeks prevailed, as it appeared to many observers that they would, France could dictate its own terms to the Turkish leadership. If, on the other hand, the Turkish line held fast before Ankara, or even drove the invaders back, the Turkish Nationalists’ attitude could be expected to harden against an amicable settlement with Briand. Meanwhile, General Maurice Pellé, the French High Commissioner at Istanbul repeatedly warned his chief of British attempts at a rapprochement with Ankara.
Briand thereupon seized the bit and sent Franklin-Bouillon back for new talks, this time with full powers to negotiate. However, by the time of the envoy’s arrival at Ankara, again amid great secrecy, on 19 September, the crucial engagement of the entire Greek advance had ended at Polatlı, 75 kilometres short of Ankara, with a general rout of the invaders towards the west. Franklin-Bouillon had long understood the aims of the Turkish nation and fully comprehended the tragedy of what was taking place before his eyes. However, Briand had been sceptical as to the final success of the Turkish national movement and hesitated to sign with the Ankara government an agreement that could be acceptable to the latter. His hesitation was ended by the concrete proof of Turkish power at the fightings of Sakarya. The French government was impressed by Turkish victory over the Greeks in the Sakarya battle, lasting day and night for 22 days from 23 August to 13 September, which repulsed the most serious military threat to Ankara.
The Sakarya triumph left no doubt in French mind that Turkish nationalism was the force to reckon with in Anatolia. Although the Turks were now very proud of their achievement and confident of further successes, and although in this temper their demands would be exorbitant, Briand decided to come to an agreement with them, wishing to withdraw the French garrison of 80,000 men in Cilicia. Parliament could not bear their expense any longer. Briand had lost his bet, and it was Mustafa Kemal who would set the tone to future negotiations. Realising that France could not enjoy a peaceful mandate in Syria without a friendly Turkey next door, the French steeled themselves for harsh terms. Their position in Cilicia had become untenable, and they knew it. With the Greeks in full retreat, Mustafa Kemal could turn all of his forces to the south, an event that had not occurred during the entire span of the struggle there. Negotiations were therefore entered into with the Turkish leadership. The Turkish victory on the banks of the Sakarya river radically changed the course of the TurcoFrench relations.
Briand authorised Franklin-Bouillon to negotiate for the evacuation of the French troops from Cilicia. He was promptly dispatched to Ankara for a second round of negotiations with Yusuf Kemal, who was assisted by Fethi (Okyar), recently released from detention in Malta. During the negotiations, which began on 24 September and which dragged on for more than three weeks, difficulties arose on issues connected with the southern frontier of Turkey, the Capitulations and the minorities.
Still in the interest of splitting the Entente Powers, the Turkish leadership proved generous to the point of yielding the Sanjak of Iskenderun to French rule, as provided for in the abortive Accord of London in March. On the other hand, the Ankara government continued to resist without compromise French appeals for capitulary concessions and special privileges to minorities as part of the principle of Turkish sovereignty put into the National Pact ever since its birth at the meeting of the nationalist leaders at Amasya between 18 to 22 June 1919. Thus, the most that the Ankara government could offer in this matter was Turkish adherence to the terms for the protection of minorities already framed within several European treaties of settlement for the late world war. The Turks also accepted the transfer of the Baghdad railway section between Pozantı and Nusaybin, as well as the branches in Adana, to a French group, with all rights, privileges and advantages attached to concessions on exploitation and traffic. In a covering letter, Yusuf Kemal informed Franklin-Bouillon that his government was disposed to grant concessions for iron, chrome and silver in the Harşut valley for ninety-nine years, with fifty percent Turkish participation. Turkey wanted French specialists and would view with favour other requests for concessions.
The French, in turn, again agreed to a special regime for the Sanjak of Iskenderun in which Turkish should be an official language and that every facility be accorded to its Turkish inhabitants for the development of their culture, as they had at London in March. In fact, they also granted Turkey complete access to and use of the port of Iskenderun at no cost beyond that paid by local clients, and without any customs fees whatsoever for goods in transit between the port and Turkish territory. In addition, Franklin-Bouillon agreed that the Sanjak should have its own sag (incorporating, moreover, the Turkish sag) and recognised the right of administration by officials of Turkish origin in districts with Turkish majorities.
Since historians, political scientists, international lawyers and others in principle accept sags as artefacts expressive of a country or other corresponding political entity, it can be said that the separateness or distinctness of the Sanjak of Iskenderun from the rest of Syria was recognised as such. The right of having its own şag might be considered as the first step in the direction of a form of local independence for the district. Ankara Agreement was to have a very significant bearing on the dispute which ultimately developed between Turkey and France over the Sanjak of Iskenderun.
Although the Ankara government yielded to French protestations on the frontier delineated by its counter-proposals to the London Accord and on the delay of two days fixed by the same document for the general amnesty, it stood its ground firmly on any additional compromises on matters of substance. Moreover, with the elimination of the Greek threat in the west, Mustafa Kemal felt no sense of urgency in ending the Cilician struggle. He and his close colleagues had identified France from the very start as exhausted, financially weak, and unwilling to prosecute a war abroad. They knew that there was no way that France should ever again go to war to protect anything which lay a centimeter outside its frontier. France had set its heart against war. Visions of war, memories of past cruel killings and fears of their recurrence dominated the minds of the French.
Throughout all of this process, Franklin-Bouillon remained fixed in Ankara. Although he enjoyed full powers to negotiate, as remarked before, the French envoy apparently confined himself to a role scarcely less pedestrian than that he had played during the previous June and July. In short, Franklin-Bouillon continuously received, and indeed seemed to desire, agreement drafts from Briand, which he routinely relayed without comment to Mustafa Kemal and vice versa. Perhaps Mustafa Kemal’s strong resolve on the issues of ending the state of war between Turkey and France and on the supporting role demanded of France in the settlement of territorial disputes during forthcoming negotiations for a general settlement with the Allies moved Briand to push his emissary into the background. The Premier knew, of course, that his Allied colleagues would learn the terms of his peace with Turkey sooner or later. Equally evident was the great embarrassment before Britain and Italy which these cessions would entail, once they became public.
Finally, on 19 October, Briand, still under heavy economic and parliamentary pressures at home, cabled Franklin-Bouillon to sign the latest draft of the agreement sent to Paris. Meanwhile, commencing on 4 October, the Grand National Assembly began to interrogate their peace-makers very intently, step by step through the entire contents of the main body of the agreement as it took shape. Deputies showed keen interest especially in the determination of the Turkish-Syrian boundary line and the cession of the Sanjak of Iskenderun. Sharp protests rang out against the Franklin-Bouillon line and many orators wished that the frontier should begin from Ras-Ibn Han, on the Mediterranean, at ten kilometers from the north of Latakia and cover Iskenderun, Antakya and their environs as well as a notable part of the Province of Aleppo. These hearings continued through 18 October, when Mustafa Kemal’s himself came forward to relieve his Foreign Minister in defending the agreement.
According to Franklin-Bouillon, who watched the proceedings from the gallery (with an interpreter at his side), Mustafa Kemal saved the day. Towards evening, the Assembly approved the agreement by vocal acclamation. Two days later, Franklin-Bouillon and Yusuf Kemal signed it on behalf of their respective governments. Then, in accordance with Article 1, orders for an immediate cease-fire were promptly wired to all warring commands in the south. All units complied forthwith. The war had ended. Thus, a controversy which had dragged on since the Armistice of Moudros was at last amicably settled between Ankara and Paris. Colonel Louis Mougin, known for his Turkish sympathies, was the principal colleague of Franklin-Bouillon during the negotiations at Ankara and he remained there until 1925 as a diplomatic agent.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs was extremely pleased over the signature of the agreement. “The signing of the agreement”, enthused Emmanuel Peretti de la Rocca, Director of Political Affairs, “has given us popularity not only in Turkey but throughout North Africa. The letters I get from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are enthusiastic. Today the Islamic world is for us. We have returned to the traditional policy of France, that of our kings, of the empire, of the Republic.”
Turkish Nationalists were greatly elated by the conclusion of this agreement. Ankara Agreement was the greatest Turkish Nationalist diplomatic victory so far due to the enhanced prestige of the Turkish armies and the now universal belief in an eventual Turkish victory. For the first time, one of the Entente Powers accorded legal recognition to the government of the Grand National Assembly and to its National Pact by signing a peace accord with it. In the words of Mustafa Kemal: “The fact that one of the most powerful of the states that had signed the Treaty of Sèvres, i.e., France, had come to a separate understanding with us, proved to the whole world that that treaty was merely a rag.”
Ankara Agreement gave the Turkish leader the impression that the Allies were not united, and that France would become the Turks’ amicus curiae by supporting them at the forthcoming peace conference. It promoted the Turkish leadership’s policy of splitting the Allies by dealing with each one severally. It freed a great part of Turkish territory under foreign occupation without considerable sacrifice. It enabled the Turkish military command to keep a small force in the south and to transfer the greater part of its forces to the western front where they were very much needed. Many thousands of Turkish troops were now free to move against the Greeks, while the French decided to turn over to Ankara all the arms, including Creusot guns, ammunition, and equipment of the French military forces then stationed in the country to be evacuated, and also to supply further consignments of arms and equipment from Syria. The final withdrawal of French forces from Cilicia was equivalent to the strengthening of Turkish army by about 80,000 troops, such being the number of French soldiers up to that time facing an equal number of Turkish forces in Cilicia. In addition, it was estimated that the French command left to the Turks enough supplies and ammunition to equip an army of 40,000 men. The French pull back gave the Turkish troops some approach to arms' parity with the Greeks thus considerably reducing the effect of the material aid supplied by Britain to the Greek forces. Ankara Agreement increased the prestige of Ankara in the eyes of the West and the East.
The prelude to the Ankara or, as it was sometimes called, the Franklin Bouillon Agreement, had been a long one. A separate Turco-French peace agreement had been foreshadowed not only by the abortive London Accord of 9 March 1921, but also by the negotiations between Mustafa Kemal and Georges-Picot at Sivas as early as 5 - 6 December 1919. Georges-Picot accompanied by two French officers was proceeding France via Asia Minor and had arranged to meet Mustafa Kemal on the way. The Turkish leader had demanded Cilicia and the Sanjak of Iskenderun, while the former had conditioned the French evacuation of Cilicia with its right to supervise the local administration and to protect the minorities and with Turco-French collaboration in Turkey’s economic development. Georges-Picot had insisted, too, that for economic reasons, French mandated territory of Syria’s frontier be drawn at some point to the north of Iskenderun on the assertion that this port was the natural outlet of Aleppo. The discussion, though reaching no agreement, revealed to Mustafa Kemal a certain French sexibility regarding Cilicia and other vital issues.
It was some two years after these initial efforts for a peace settlement that Turkey and France signed the Ankara Agreement. This agreement gave France at least a temporary security against the Turkish Nationalists and by removing French public alarm on the score of staggering credits, heavy casualties and an uncertain future in the Levant, may be said to have strengthened the French hold on Syria. Since French troops had already suffered defeat at the hands of the Turks, the agreement did not bring about a material change in the military situation. Moreover, France at that time, was not hesitant in embarrassing Britain. France viewed British policy in the Near and Middle East with suspicion. The experience of the First World War led many French policy-makers to resent Hashemite schemes in the post1918 period and to perceive them as no more than British plots in disguise. The fact that French-mandated territories were mainly surrounded by British-dominated lands highlighted French vulnerability in the Levant and added credibility to French apprehensions regarding British policy. The two former allies were gradually falling apart, especially in their Near Eastern policies and France was profoundly irritated by what seemed to it the adventurous British support of the Greeks. Greek victory in western Anatolia would mean British ascendancy in the Aegean Sea and consequent British domination of the Turkish Straits. This went counter to the French views. Under these circumstances, France was only too glad to reduce its inconvenient military commitments in Cilicia and thus render it easier for Turks to continue their war against the Greek invaders. The French reversal revived the nineteenth-century colonial competition between Britain and France. The British saw the French action as a severe betrayal and one more grievance was added to the list of Anglo-French antagonisms.
Amazingly, the French historian Marcel Homet, in his book L’Histoire secrète du Traité Franco-Syrien, Paris, 1936, p. 238 asserts that the Ankara Agreement seemed to have been concluded by France primarily to embarrass and even to spite its ally, Britain. That claim is obscure and open to speculation. There is no evidence in the material available to the present writer that this was so. The assumption was certainly a gross exaggeration. The truth is that France was unquestionably defeated at the battlefield by Turkish forces and was therefore obliged to make peace with the Ankara government. Such guesswork is dangerous for authors who rely almost exclusively on secondary sources, as Homet did.
The international situation following the First World War offered many opportunities to the Turkish Nationalists. As it has after each great war in modern history, the coalition of victorious powers split apart even before the peace treaties were drawn. British, French, Italian and American interests were in consict on many important questions. Russia had dropped out of the coalition at the point of Bolshevik revolution and, from 1918 on, was as suspect to the other powers as they were to it. Ankara government used these divisions to the full. The war-weariness of the Western powers and their reluctance to extend their military commitments, also helped Turks in these moves. The Turks understood the French mind thoroughly. The Turkish leadership read several major European newspapers faithfully and its representatives in Paris, London and Rome kept it posted of developments. Nationalist elements enjoyed great success in penetrating the Imperial Ottoman government and even the chancelleries of the Allies in Istanbul.
In addition to the immediate reasons, long-term varied and deep-rooted interests in the Levant had also dictated the French rapprochement with the Ankara government. In the realm of protecting French investments in Turkey, Paris faced formidable problems if Anatolia was to be divided among the Allies and their “Associated Powers” into various mandates, spheres of insuence, or outright annexations. Major French financial concessions or capital ventures spanned the very length and breadth of the country, from Izmir to Trabzon and from Istanbul to Adana. Turkey was the repository of substantial French interests and vested capital, notably the majority holding in the Ottoman Public Debt. French investors had shown so sustained an interest in Turkish securities that, by 1914, they held more than fifty percent of the Ottoman Debt. As a result of this large movement of capital, French bankers had come to occupy a predominant place in Ottoman financial affairs and in the administration of the Imperial Ottoman Bank, an institution of vital importance to the economic life of the Ottoman Empire. If the Turkish state was partitioned, France stood to lose both securities and insuence. These problems haunted Paris constantly throughout the entire Cilician episode and ultimately led the French to sue for peace.
Turkish hostility to France was incompatible with the success of the latter’s designs, which included succession to the pre-1914 German position of political and economic advantage in Turkey. The proper French utilisation of Turkish nationalism could thwart the political ambitions of other European powers. Arab nationalism, on the other hand, supported by British pledges, menaced France’s ambitions in the Levant, already complicated by Anglo-French rivalry in the Near East in general. There had been many manifestations of this rivalry in their controversies over the interpretation and implementation of the wartime secret agreements – notably the Sykes-Picot Accord, the Mosul oil problem and especially their 1921 quarrel over Anatolia and the Straits. In the last mentioned area the British actively supported the Greeks, while the French saw the Turks as a bulwark against Anglo-Greek insuence in the Aegean, the Dardanelles and Asia Minor. The Ankara government, by adroit diplomacy, had purposefully played off one ally against another.
The Ankara Agreement provided France not only to restore Cilicia to Turkish rule and evacuate the district, but surrender a part of the area placed in its keeping as mandated territory by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers. This territory running west to east, from the Gulf of Iskenderun to the left bend of the Tigris opposite Cizre, comprised about 16,000 square kilometers. France, in fact, abandoned the line laid down by the Treaty of Sèvres as the frontier between Turkey and territory mandated to France and substituted a new line. It began at a point south of Payas, fifteen kilometers north of Iskenderun, passed eastwards thence to a point on the Baghdad railway some forty-five kilometers north of Aleppo and thereafter followed the course of that railway to Nusaybin in such a way as to place the actual railway line in Turkish territory. The stations and sidings of the section between Çobanbey and Nusaybin belonged to Turkey as forming parts of the track of the railway. A large sector of the Baghdad railway on overland route to India thus lied within Turkish frontier. From Nusaybin the new frontier turned north-east to the Tigris at Cizre. With the exception of the border of the Sanjak of Iskenderun (Hatay) which was later to join the mother country in 1939, the new Turco-Syrian frontier for the most part followed the natural linguistic limits between the Turks on the north and Arabs in the south.
The British government, in the person of Lord Curzon, took vigorous exception to the notion of France making the Ankara Agreement with Turkey. It was a deal which aroused the intense indignation of London. Franklin-Bouillon’s agreement was considered as an example of unmitigated French treachery. It was put forward that the revision of the northern frontier of Syria was not the concern of France alone. Although the mandate had been awarded to France by the Allies, it constituted a collective Allied victory, and consequently retrocession of territory by France to Turkey, without previous notification to Britain and Italy, was in the contravention of the Treaty of Sèvres.
While the British Foreign Secretary contended that this separate peace with Ankara was contrary to the Franco-British Treaty of 14 September 1914 and to the London Pact of 30 November 1915, both of which had stipulated that no separate peace would be concluded by any of the Allies with Turkey, France replied that the agreement did not constitute a treaty of peace, but was only an arrangement of local significance made with a Power which was neither de jure and de facto recognised.
Nonetheless this French claim of a tractation locale resulted in fact in French recognition of the Grand National Assembly at Ankara as the sovereign authority in Turkey, directly breaching with Britain which was still supporting the defunct Imperial Government of Istanbul and for all practical purposes proved to be a separate Turco-French peace agreement.
The government of Ankara, however, had to render an account to Russia on the whole affair. Moscow was convinced that the Ankara Agreement had a secret provision directed against it. Lord Curzon also feared an additional clandestine agreement. It was thought on the part of Whitehall that Franklin-Bouillon – one of the leading Turcophiles of the French colonial party – was a person of very ebullient nature and not used to official negotiations, had done more than was expected of him and had placed matters in a light which was open to criticism. A letter from Yusuf Kemal to Franklin-Bouillon indicated understandings of a much more serious and far-reaching nature. The French made a categorical denial concerning the British fears of secret engagements with the Turks. The promises of concessions indicated in Yusuf Kemal's letter were "not connected with any secret engagement, either written or verbal, entered into by Franklin-Bouillon, relative to eventual co-operation on the part of France". The French government further stated that the views exchanged orally and in writing between Franklin-Bouillon and the representatives of the government of Ankara added nothing to the substance of the agreement, which included no secret arrangement.
The French views were firmly adhered to and the Quai d’Orsay refused to budge from its position. Britain and France remained bitterly divided over the Ankara Agreement and the effects of this bitterness were felt far beyond the Near East. The division between the Allies was made evident from the above-mentioned acrimonious correspondence that took place between Britain and France over the agreement and gave great encouragement to the Turks.
The terms of this agreement were also criticised by both the French colonial party and Syrian Arab nationalists on the grounds that special privileges were granted to the Turkish inhabitants in the Sanjak of Iskenderun and a special regime was established there. France was accused of break of promise in neglecting to protect Syria's northern frontiers and the economic and strategic importance to Syria of the ceded territory was emphasised. It was claimed that France, in an interest which was essentially its own, had abandoned to Turkey a portion of Syria's land, after having been entrusted with its defence. The Syro-Palestinian Congress further blamed Paris for the Ankara Agreement due to the reason that without consulting Syrians, it had ceded Cilicia to the Turks.
The French government, on the other hand, was convinced that the conclusion of the Ankara Agreement was in the interest of Syria as well. Thus, for instance, at the ninth session of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, when France's usually perceptive representative, de Caix, was asked directly about the Ankara Agreement and its importance for Syria, he replied that this was one of the greatest benefits which Syria had derived from the exercise of the French mandate. He went on to stress that this accord, in fact, guaranteed the northern frontiers of Syria, a matter which was of vital concern, as it was known that there were armed bands which engaged in continual raids. The French representative further said that Syria was perpetually in consict with Turkey and if, in the future, Syria gained independence, this accord would be a dead letter, since Turkey had signed the Ankara Agreement with France and not with Syria.
The Franklin-Bouillon Agreement was at the same time bitterly attacked by right-wing writers in France as an abandonment of the rich prize of Cilicia, of Christian friends and of the true defence line of Syria. Jérome and Jean Tharaud, the outstanding French publicist brothers, had called the Ankara Agreement "an unfortunate precedent". Two significantly prophetic French comments followed the Ankara Agreement. General Dufieux remarked that the "agreement augurs the speedy loss of Iskenderun and Antakya" and former French Foreign Minister, Henri Froidevaux, that it is "destined to facilitate new Turkish demands and abandonment by France of the district of Iskenderun".
To the ordinary Frenchman the word Cilicia did not conjure up much. He might suspect its economic importance, yet with its future he was not troubling himself. The French press published little on Cilicia. The great mass of the French people had no real interest in the region. As a matter of fact, French public was apathetic to the affairs of the Levant.
In keeping with the provisions of the Ankara Agreement, the military evacuation of Cilicia proceeded smoothly and on time. In fact, available documents show that the entire process elapsed without a single human casualty or even a serious incident. Thus, the general atmosphere of emotional stress and physical hardship marked by the years 1920-1921 ended for soldiers of both sides when the French sag was finally lowered at Adana, amid suitable honours from the Turks and the French alike, on 5 January 1922. Turco-French relations were henceforth close and Franklin-Bouillon continued to shuttle back and forth until the Armistice of Moudania on 11 October 1922.
As a result of the Ankara Agreement, the government of Ankara established a Diplomatic Mission at Paris in November 1921. This representative office headed by Ahmet Ferit (Tek) was the first official window of the government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey opening to the West. On his arrival the Turkish representative stated that his first task would be to deal with the questions arising out of the implementation of the Ankara Agreement, and that he would work to increase the sympathy between Turkey and France.
Ankara Agreement was not a conclusive peace treaty. It was a bilateral agreement between Turkey and France which had not been referred to their respective parliaments for ratification; but had only been approved by the two governments. At the close of 1921, however, the French Senate eagerly acquiesced in the agreement which lessened France's responsibilities in the Near East: being uninterested, they accepted any compromise that would end what was to them merely the tiring Cilician question. While it was meant to put an end to the hostilities in Cilicia, it was, nonetheless, an effective interim arrangement pending the conclusion of the final peace settlement. The definitive peace treaty between Turkey and all the Allied Powers was finally signed at Lausanne on 24 July 1923. A bilateral exchange of letters between the Turkish and French delegations, led respectively by General Ismet (Inönü) and General Maurice Pellé, put it specifically on record that nothing in the new treaty should be held to invalidate the stipulations of the Turco-French Agreement of 1921. The Ankara Agreement was therefore confirmed and included in the Treaty of Lausanne and became part of the general peace settlement with Turkey.
Before ending up the paper, however, one by-product of the struggle for Cilicia should also be mentioned. It was that the French evacuation of Cilicia was preceded by a mass, instantaneous sight of the Armenians, who had been employed as gendarmerie and militia by the occupying power and thus who were ashamed of their misdeeds from the incoming Turks. Although both the Turks and the French endeavoured throughout the whole month of November and much of December to convince Armenians of the benevolent intentions of the Turkish government, the advice was of no avail. The Armenians chose to run away with their former French masters.