Treaty of Sèvres

Treaty of Sèvres
The Treaty of Peace Between the Allied Powers and the Ottoman Empire
The Treaty of Sèvres 1920 - English.png
Partition of Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Sèvres
Signed 10 August 1920
Location Sèvres, France
Condition Ratification by Ottoman Empire and the four principal Allied Powers.
Signatories 1. Principal Allied Powers[1]
Other Allied Powers

2. Central Powers
 Ottoman Empire
Depositary French Government
Languages French (primary), English, Italian[2]
Treaty of Sèvres at Wikisource
The Ottoman delegation at Sèvres comprising the three signatories of the treaty. Left to right: Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı, Grand Vizier Damat Ferid Pasha, the Ottoman education minister Mehmed Hâdî Pasha and ambassador Reşad Halis.
Mehmed Hâdî Pasha signs the Treaty of Sèvres.

The Treaty of Sèvres (French: Traité de Sèvres) was a 1920 treaty signed between the Allies of World War I and the Ottoman Empire. The treaty ceded large parts of Ottoman territory to France, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Italy, as well as creating large occupation zones within the Ottoman Empire. It was one of a series of treaties[3] that the Central Powers signed with the Allied Powers after their defeat in World War I. Hostilities had already ended with the Armistice of Mudros.

The treaty was signed on 10 August 1920 in an exhibition room at the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres porcelain factory[4] in Sèvres, France.[5]

The Treaty of Sèvres marked the beginning of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire and the dismemberment of the empire. The treaty's stipulations included the renunciation of some territory not inhabited by Turkish people and their cession to the Allied administration.[6]

The ceding of Eastern Mediterranean lands saw the introduction of novel polities, including the British Mandate for Palestine and the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon.[7]

The terms stirred hostility and Turkish nationalism. The treaty's signatories were stripped of their citizenship by the Grand National Assembly, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,[8] which ignited the Turkish War of Independence. Atatürk led the Turkish nationalists in the war to defeat the combined armies of the signatories of the Treaty of Sèvres. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which superseded the Treaty of Sèvres, ended the conflict and saw the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.


The attack of Britain and France on Gallipoli at the beginning of 1915, although they were allies, aroused concern in Russia. Therefore, Russia took action in March-April 1915, when the Dardanelles War continued, and sat at the table with Britain and France to negotiate its demands on Istanbul and the Straits. The Straits of Istanbul and Dardanelles, including Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, were left to Russia in accordance with the "Agreement of the Straits", a secret treaty signed between the Triple Entente.

Later, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, another secret treaty between Britain and France on 16 May 1916 and ratified by Russia in October of the same year, envisaging the sharing of the Ottoman Empire's lands in the Middle East, was signed. According to this agreement, it was decided to leave the Straits and Armenia Zone to Russia.

In this way, the Allied powers thought of attracting Italy to their side, and Italy accepted this on April 19, 1917 and approved it with the Treaty of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

However, the treaty was never put into effect as the administration was overthrown by the Bolsheviks with the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. In addition, with the British overthrow of Constantine I, who was pro-German and son-in-law of the German king, and Elefterios Venizelos came to power, in June 1917, Greece participated in the First World War in favor of the Allied states.

However, in accordance with the principles announced by the US President Woodrow Wilson on January 8, 1918, it was decided that the victorious states would not demand land from the defeated states and these principles made the Sykes-Picot project inapplicable. In line with these principles, in order to meet the urgent need of soldiers for France, the British, whose empire had a Muslim population of one fourth, persuaded the people in January 1918 that in their colonies in the Middle East and India, if they were victorious, the territorial integrity of the Turks would not be touched and that the Turks and the Caliph would not be touched. They promised that they would not be expelled from Istanbul, and in this way they provided more than 1 million soldiers.

After the war, Greece entered the war on the side of the British; Claiming that the Greek population was in the majority in Izmir (Smyrna) and Thrace, Wilson demanded the legitimate annexation of the region to Greece in accordance with his principles. The developments at the Paris peace conference angered the Italians, who had the historical ideal of Mediterranean domination, and in March 1919, when the Orthodox Greek patriarch demanded the annexation of Antalya (Adalia) to Orthodox Greece, Catholic Italians acted quickly to prevent the expansion of Greece throughout Western Anatolia and landed troops in Antalya (Adalia). At the same time, the Italians, who sought to establish good relations with the Turks and gain commercial privileges, in this way tried to prevent the anti-Italian opposition in Tripoli, which was under the Ottoman Empire until 1912, to wear down Greece in Anatolia and reduce its influence in the Balkans, and to fight against the British-controlled Greece. They aimed to organize the Turkish resistance. The arrival of Italy in Anatolia was not for the purpose of occupation. Italy's main territorial claims are on Croatia (Fiume) and Albania along the Adriatic coast.

Despite the opposition of the Italians, Lloyd George persuaded Wilson to allow Greek soldiers to go to Izmir (Smyrna). On the same date, the French demanded that the lands throughout Syria and Palestine be left to Syria under the French mandate and asked the British to evacuate the region. When Britain demanded an independent Syria instead of the French mandate, the Anglo-French division emerged and France thought that British spy propaganda was behind the resistance and opposition activities it encountered throughout Syria-Cilicia. Thereupon, the British put forward the idea of an American mandate along the Straits, Turkey and Armenia in order to ensure the complete removal of the Italians and French from the region for their own political interests. The USA did not evaluate this request after the reports prepared, so it was requested to establish an international committee for the Straits. Thus, Turkey -on condition that Istanbul is left to the Turks- is an independent Asian state, the Straits commission is established, the capitulations continue, Izmir (Smyrna) is left to Turkey, but the sovereignty rights are administered by a governor appointed by Greece for a period of 5 years. it was decided to hold a plebiscite at the end, and to recognize an independent Armenia by the Turkish government in Eastern Anatolia, with the borders drawn by the US President Wilson as an arbitrator.

There is no sphere of influence in favor of Italy and France in the Treaty of Sèvres, which was signed on August 10, 1920 and consists of 433 articles. In this context, Sevres is mistakenly confused with the Sykes-Picot project. Sevres, which was not approved by any country, including Greece, remained a dead letter only 3 months later, with the overthrow of the pro-British Elefterios Venizelos in the Greek elections and the return of the exiled pro-German king Constantine I. England and France cut the loan of 850,000,000 gold francs allocated to Greece. Moreover, Italy and France openly demanded the complete withdrawal of Greece from Izmir (Smyrna) and Thrace at the London Conference in March 1921, using the return of the king, who had hostile attitudes in the First World War, as an excuse, and supported the Turks against Greece. England, on the other hand, tried to appear more neutral on this sudden change. On the other hand, after the Turkish army entered Alexandropol on November 7, 1920, the defeated Armenians demanded peace. US President Woodrow Wilson, as an arbitrator, drew the Armenian border on November 22, 1920, 15 days after the Armenians were defeated, and only 10 days later. On December 2, 1920, Armenians left Batum, Sarıkamış, Kars, Ağrı, Erzurum, Artvin, Oltu and their surroundings to Turkey with the Treaty of Alexandropol.


Signed between Allied and Associated Powers and Ottoman Empire at Sèvres [9]
Parts Articles
I The Covenant of the League of Nations 1-26
II Frontiers of Turkey 27-35
III Political Clauses 36-139
IV Protection of Minorities 140-151
V Military, Naval and Air Clauses 152-207
VI Prisoners of War and Graves 208-225
VII Penalties 226-230
VIII Financial Clauses 231-260
IX Economic Clauses 261-317
X Aerial Navigation 318-327
XI Ports, Waterways and Railways 328-373
XII Labour (Part XIII of Versailles Treaty) 374-414
XIII Miscellaneous Provisions 415-433


George Dixon Grahame signed for the United Kingdom, Alexandre Millerand for France and Count Lelio Longare for Italy. One Allied power, Greece, did not accept the borders as drawn, mainly because of the political change after the 1920 Greek legislative election and so never ratified the treaty.[10] There were three signatories for the Ottoman Empire:

  1. Ex-Ambassador Hadi Pasha,
  2. Ex-Minister of Education Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı,
  3. Second secretary of the Ottoman embassy in Bern, Reşad Halis.

The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was not a party to the treaty because it had negotiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed with the German Empire before the Treaty of Sèvres and annulled German concessions in the Ottoman sphere, including economic rights and enterprises.

Also, France, Britain, and Italy signed a Tripartite Agreement on the same date.[11][12] It confirmed Britain's oil and commercial concessions and turned the former German enterprises in the Ottoman Empire over to a tripartite corporation.

The United States, having refused in the Senate to assume a League of Nations mandate over Armenia, decided not to participate in the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.[13] The US wanted a permanent peace as quickly as possible, with financial compensation for its military expenditure. However, after the Senate rejected the Armenian mandate, the only US hope was its inclusion in the treaty by the influential Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos.[14]


Original map from 1920 illustrating the Treaty of Sèvres region

The treaty imposed a number of territorial losses on Turkey and had a number of provisions that applied to the territory recognised as belonging to Turkey.


The Allies were to control the Ottoman Empire's finances, such as approving and supervising the national budget, implementing financial laws and regulations and totally controlling the Ottoman Bank. The Ottoman Public Debt Administration, instituted in 1881, was redesigned to include only British, French, and Italian bondholders. The Ottoman debt problem had dated back to the time of the Crimean War (1854–1856) during which the Ottoman Empire had borrowed money from abroad, mainly from France. Also the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire, which had been abolished in 1914 by Talaat Pasha, were restored.

The empire was required to grant freedom of transit to people, goods, vessels etc. passing through its territory, and goods in transit were to be free of all customs duties. Future changes to the tax system, the customs system, internal and external loans, import and export duties and concessions would need the consent of the financial commission of the Allied Powers to be implemented. To forestall the economic repenetration of Germany, Austria, Hungary or Bulgaria, the treaty demanded the empire to liquidate the property of citizens of those countries living within its territories. The public liquidation was to be organized by the Reparations Commission. Property rights of the Baghdad Railway were to pass from German control.

The Ottoman Army was to be restricted to 50,700 men, and the Ottoman Navy could maintain only seven sloops and six torpedo boats. The Ottoman Empire was prohibited from creating an air force. The treaty included an interallied commission of control and organisation to supervise the execution of the military clauses.

The treaty required determination of those responsible for the Armenian genocide. Article 230 of the Treaty of Sèvres required the Ottoman Empire to "hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914". However, the inter-allied tribunal attempt to prosecute war criminals as demanded by the Treaty of Sèvres was eventually suspended, and the men who orchestrated the genocide escaped prosecution and traveled relatively freely throughout Europe and Central Asia.[15]

Foreign zones of influence

The division of middle eastern lands according to the 1916 Sykes-Picot project. Italian zone (Green), French zone (Blue), English zone (Pink), Russian zone (Yellow)

There is no zone of influence in favor of France and Italy in the Treaty of Sèvres, which consists of 433 articles. The Treaty of Sevres is mistakenly confused with the Sykes-Picot project.

In accordance with the principles declared by the US President Wilson in 1918, the victorious states will not be able to demand land from the defeated states. In line with these principles, in order to meet the urgent need of soldiers for France, the British, whose empire had a Muslim population of one fourth, persuaded the people in January 1918 that in their colonies in the Middle East and India, if they were victorious, the territorial integrity of the Turks would not be touched and that the Turks and the Caliph would not be touched. They promised that they would not be expelled from Istanbul, and in this way they provided more than 1 million soldiers. For this reason, the British put forward the idea of an American mandate throughout the region to ensure the expulsion of the French and Italians from Turkey. However, the USA did not accept this proposal as a result of its evaluation. Thus, it was decided to establish Turkey as an independent Asian-centered state. In the Treaty of Sèvres, no region was given in favor of France and Italy.

The arrival of Catholic Italy, which has the ideal of historical Mediterranean domination, came to Anatolia in March 1919 when the Orthodox patriarch of Istanbul demanded the annexation of Antalya (Adalia) to Greece. Thus, Italy is to prevent the spread of the Greeks, to prevent the Italian opposition in Tripoli, which was dependent on the Ottoman state until 1912, to reduce the influence of Greece in the Balkans by wearing down Greece, and to obtain economic privileges from the Turks in return for their assistance and support to the Turks. The areas to which Italy claims land are along the Adriatic coast (Fiume and Albania).

Italy supported the Turks during the Turkish War of Independence. France, on the other hand, stopped supporting Greece in November 1920, with the return of its former enemy, the pro-German king Constantine, in the Greek elections and decided to support the Turks. At the London conference in March 1921, Italy and France argued that Izmir (Smyrna) and Thrace should be given to Turkey and followed a pro-Turkish policy.

The expansion of Greece from 1832 to 1947 showing in yellow territories awarded to Greece by the Treaty of Sèvres but lost in 1923

The Greek government administered the occupation of Smyrna from 21 May 1919. A protectorate was established on 30 July 1922. The treaty transferred "the exercise of her rights of sovereignty to a local parliament" but left the region within the Ottoman Empire. The treaty had Smyrna to be administered by a local parliament, with a plebiscite overseen by the League of Nations after five years to decide if Smyrna's citizens wished to join Greece or to remain in the Ottoman Empire. The treaty accepted Greek administration of the Smyrna enclave, but the area remained under Turkish sovereignty. To protect the Christian population from attacks by the Turkish irregulars, the Greek army expanded its jurisdiction also to nearby cities creating the so called "Smyrna Zone".

Territorial provisions

Date States
Square miles (km²)
1914 Ottoman Empire 1,589,540 km2 (613,724 sq mi)
1918 (Sèvres Treaty)
Ottoman Empire
453,000 km2 (174,900 sq mi)
Wilsonian Armenia
160,000 km2 (60,000 sq mi)
350,000 km2 (136,000 sq mi)
370,000 km2 (143,000 sq mi)
260,000 km2 (100,000 sq mi)
91,000 km2 (35,000 sq mi)
190,000 km2 (75,000 sq mi)
1920 map of Western Turkey, showing the Zone of the Straits in the Treaty of Sèvres

A Zone of the Straits was proposed to include the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara. Navigation would be open in the Dardanelles in times of peace and war alike to all vessels of commerce and war, regardless of flag. That would effectively lead to the internationalisation of the waters, which were not to be subject to blockade, and no act of war could be committed there except to enforce decisions of the League of Nations.

Certain ports were to be declared to be of international importance. The League of Nations insisted on the complete freedom and the absolute equality in treatment at such ports, particularly regarding charges and facilities, to ensure that economic provisions in commercially-strategic places were carried out. The regions were to be called "free zones". The ports were Constantinople from San Stefano to Dolmabahçe, Haidar-Pasha, Smyrna, Alexandretta, Haifa, Basra, Trabzon and Batum.

Eastern Thrace (up to the Chatalja line), the islands of Imbros and Tenedos and the islands of the Sea of Marmara were ceded to Greece. The waters surrounding the islands were declared international territory and left to the administration of the "Zone of the Straits".

The Kurdistan region, including Mosul Province, was scheduled to have a referendum to decide its fate.

There was no general agreement among Kurds on what the borders of Kurdistan should be because of the disparity between the areas of Kurdish settlement and the political and administrative boundaries of the region.[16] The outlines of Kurdistan as an entity had been proposed in 1919 by Şerif Pasha, who represented the Society for the Elevation of Kurdistan (Kürdistan Teali Cemiyeti) at the Paris Peace Conference. He defined the region's boundaries as follows:

The frontiers of Turkish Kurdistan, from an ethnographical point of view, begin in the north at Ziven, on the Caucasian frontier, and continue westwards to Erzurum, Erzincan, Kemah, Arapgir, Besni and Divick (Divrik?); in the south they follow the line from Harran, Sinjar Mountains, Tel Asfar, Erbil, Süleymaniye, Akk-el-man, Sinne; in the east, Ravandiz, Başkale, Vezirkale, that is to say the frontier of Persia as far as Mount Ararat.[17]

That caused controversy among other Kurdish nationalists, as it excluded the Van Region (possibly as a sop to Armenian claims to that region). Emin Ali Bedir Khan proposed an alternative map that included Van and an outlet to the sea via what is now Turkey's Hatay Province.[18] Amid a joint declaration by Kurdish and Armenian delegations, Kurdish claims concerning Erzurum vilayet and Sassoun (Sason) were dropped, but arguments for sovereignty over Ağrı and Muş remained.[19]

Neither proposal was endorsed by the treaty of Sèvres, which outlined a truncated Kurdistan on what is now Turkish territory (leaving out the Kurds of Iran, British-controlled Iraq and French-controlled Syria).[20] The current Iraqi–Turkish border was agreed upon in July 1926.

Article 63 explicitly granted the full safeguard and protection to the Assyro-Chaldean minority, but that provision was dropped in the Treaty of Lausanne.

The First Republic of Armenia, with the western borders defined by US President Woodrow Wilson

Armenia was recognised as an established state in Section VI "Armenia", Articles 88-93. By Article 89, "Turkey and Armenia, as well as the other High Contracting Parties agree to submit to the arbitration of the President of the United States of America the question of the frontier to be fixed between Turkey and Armenia in the vilayets of Erzerum, Trebizond, Van and Bitlis, and to accept his decision thereupon, as well as any stipulations he may prescribe as to access for Armenia to the sea, and as to the demilitarisation of any portion of Turkish territory adjacent to the said frontier".

The details in the treaty regarding the British Mandate of Iraq were completed on 25 April 1920 at the San Remo Conference. The oil concession in the region was given to the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), which had held concessionary rights to Mosul Province. British and Iraqi negotiators held acrimonious discussions over the new oil concession. The League of Nations voted on the disposition of Mosul, and the Iraqis feared that without British support, Iraq would lose the area. In March 1925, the TPC was renamed the "Iraq Petroleum Company" (IPC) and granted a full and complete concession for 75 years.

The three principles of the British Balfour Declaration of 1917 regarding Palestine were adopted in the Treaty of Sèvres:

Article 95: The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on 2 November 1917 by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The French Mandate was settled at the San Remo Conference and comprised the region between the Euphrates River and the Syrian Desert on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and it extended from the Nur Mountains in the north to Egypt in the south, an area of about 60,000 sq mi (160,000 km2) with a population of about 3,000,000, including the Lebanon and an enlarged Syria, both of which were later reassigned under a League of Nations Mandate. The region was divided under the French into four governments as follows: Government of Aleppo, from the Euphrates region to the Mediterranean; Great Lebanon, extending from Tripoli to Palestine; Damascus, including Damascus, Hama, Hems and the Hauran; and the country of Mount Arisarieh. Faisal ibn Husayn, who had been proclaimed king of Syria by a Syrian National Congress in Damascus in March 1920, was ejected by the French in July the same year. The next year, he became king of Iraq.

The Kingdom of Hejaz, on the Arabian Peninsula, was granted international recognition and had an estimated area of 100,000 sq mi (260,000 km2) and a population of about 750,000. The main cities were the Holy Places of Makka, with a population of 80,000, and Medina, with a population of 40,000. Under the Ottomans, it had been the vilayet of Hejaz, but during the war, it became an independent kingdom under British influence.


The Treaty of Sèvres imposed terms on the Ottoman Empire that were far more severe than those imposed on the German Empire by the Treaty of Versailles.[21][22] France, Italy and Britain had secretly begun planning the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as early as 1915. The open negotiations covered a period of more than 15 months, started at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, continued at the Conference of London of February 1920 and took definite shape only after the San Remo Conference in April 1920. The delay occurred because the powers could not come to an agreement, which, in turn, hinged on the outcome of the Turkish National Movement. The Treaty of Sèvres was never ratified, and after the Turkish War of Independence, most of the Treaty of Sèvres's signatories signed and ratified the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and 1924.

While the Treaty of Sèvres was still under discussion, the Turkish national movement under Mustafa Kemal Pasha split with the monarchy, based in Constantinople,[23] and set up a Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara in April 1920. He demanded for the Turks to fight against the Greeks, who were trying to take the land that had been held by the Ottoman Empire and given to Greece in the treaty. That started the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), which resulted in a Turkish victory.

On 18 October, the government of Damat Ferid Pasha was replaced by a provisional one under Ahmed Tevfik Pasha as Grand Vizier, who announced an intention to convene the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Sèvres if national unity was achieved. That required seeking the co-operation of Mustafa Kemal, who expressed disdain for the treaty and started a military assault. As a result, the Turkish government issued a note to the Entente that the ratification of the treaty was impossible at the time.[24]

Eventually, Mustafa Kemal succeeded in his War of Independence and forced most of the former wartime Allies to return to the negotiating table.

Aside from Mustafa Kemal's armed opposition to the treaty in Anatolia, Arabs in Syria were unwilling to accept French rule, the Turks around Mosul attacked the British and Arabs were up in arms against British rule in Baghdad. There was also disorder in Egypt.

Subsequent treaties

During the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish Army successfully fought Greek, Armenian and French forces and secured the independence of a territory similar to that of present-day Turkey, as was aimed at by the Misak-ı Milli.

The Turkish national movement developed its own international relations with the Treaty of Moscow with Soviet Russia on 16 March 1921, the Accord of Ankara with France putting an end to the Franco-Turkish War, the Treaty of Alexandropol with the Armenians and the Treaty of Kars to fix the eastern borders.

Hostilities with Britain over the neutral zone of the Straits were narrowly avoided in the Chanak Crisis of September 1922, when the Armistice of Mudanya was concluded on 11 October, leading the former Allies of World War I to return to the negotiating table with the Turks in November 1922. That culminated in 1923 in the Treaty of Lausanne, which replaced the Treaty of Sèvres and restored a large territory in Anatolia and Thrace to the Turks. Under the Treaty of Lausanne, France and Italy had only areas of economic interaction, rather than zones of influence. Constantinople was not made an international city, and a demilitarised zone between Turkey and Bulgaria was established.[25]

See also