Friday, 30 September 2016

Lausanne revisited

Turkish premier Recep Erdogan told a gathering of provincial governors yesterday that the 1923 Lausanne Treaty was a defeat for Turkey. The Treaty was a compromise following the rout of Greek forces in Asia Minor, which had been trying to carve out a Greater Greece that included Smyrna and ultimately, it was hoped, Constantinople. Lausanne is essentially the founding document of the post-Ottoman Turkish state because it gave Turkey all the territories the Greeks had been fighting for in Asia, plus Eastern Thrace. In return, Eleftherios Venizelos secured Greek possession of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Ikaria. Turkish officials have been lamenting the Treaty openly ever since 1974. The invasion of Cyprus in that year proved that Turkey a) could invade a neighbour with impunity, and b) that Greece was militarily powerless to stop her. In the time-honoured tradition of might being right, officials of the Kemalist state believed that they should be legally unshackled to continue a policy of regional domination. It is worrying in the extreme that Erdogan has now picked up this Kemalist narrative. The islands of the east Aegean have already been separated from the rest of Europe in legal terms to act as a buffer zone receiving migrants. This is a differentiation Germany insists upon, putting these islands in Turkey's power, essentially, since lax enforcement of the EU-Turkey deal by Turkish authorities will readily flood them with refugees they cannot legally confer upon anyone else. Some people will no doubt see a conspiracy. I would call it a disastrous perquisite for Turkey, and another failure at the negotiating table of the Tsipras government. How far we have fallen from Venizelos.

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