HC Deb 29 June 1842 vol 64 cc750-2
Dr. Bowring

said, he rose to put the questions to the right hon. Baronet of which he had given notice, relative to the state of Syria, and the performance of promises made by the Porte to the British Government. The right hon. Baronet was probably aware that great anxiety prevailed as to the present state of the- population of that country, and he must also be aware of the promises held out to that population by the Sultan, and he should like to know how far they had been fulfilled? It appeared that Omar Pacha, an individual who was once a Christian, but had become a Mussulman, had been armed with the utmost authority in the district of Mount Lebanon, greatly to the dissatisfaction of the Christian population. A strong representation had, he understood, been made as to the great uneasiness which that nomi- nation had caused, and that representation, he hoped, had been attended with the effect of causing the removal of the obnoxious individual, as the right hon. Baronet on a former occasion trusted that it would. It appeared also that a number of Albanians had been again introduced into the interior of Syria, notwithstanding the assurance given by the Turkish government that they would be employed only on the coasts. It could not be forgotten that these irregular hordes had committed frightful excesses when they were employed on the last occasion, and had spread through the whole country the utmost terror and alarm. Of this the British Government were well aware, and had made a representation to the Porte, and the answer was, that those troops would be withdrawn from the inland districts, and would only be employed on the coast and in garrison. But these irregular hordes would be useless in garrison. He feared very much that the promises made at Constantinople had not been fulfilled; and he begged leave to ask whether Omar Pacha had been removed from Mount Lebanon, and whether the Albanian troops were withdrawn from that district and stationed on the coast?

Sir R. Peel

apprehended the object of the interference of this country and its allies in the affairs of Syria was to restore the dominion of Turkey over that portion of its territory on the eastern shores of the Levant, and to place the Ottoman government in the position of an independent power. Now, such being the object, he did not think that a British Minister was called on to interfere with respect to the affairs of Lebanon. By such interference they would, probably, be open to the censure of undertaking too much. For his own part, he should be excessively sorry to interfere with the sultan's government, and he, as a British Minister, declined any responsibility as to what might be done by that government. At the same time, with reference to every thing that formed a bonâ fide part of the sultan's engagements, the British Government would use all its influence to have them carried into effect. He had the satisfaction to say that the five powers were acting unitedly, and with the same views, respecting the independence of Turkey. They were all of opinion that the best policy for Turkey herself to adopt was to administer the affairs of Syria with a lenient and indulgent hand. The five powers took precisely the same views as to the course of policy which the Porte ought to pursue, and they were at present tendering their advice to the Turkish government in the most perfect harmony. He remained of the same opinion with respect to that policy. As to Omar Pacha, he could not abandon the hope that some arrangement with respect to the appointment of a governor of Lebanon would be made more satisfactory to all parties. As to the other question, he had reason to believe that the assurances which had been given that the Albanian troops would be employed on the coast, and not in the interior, would be fulfilled. In his opinion the Turkish government would best consult its own interest by refraining from the employment of those troops altogether. He confidently hoped that the expectation entertained by the English Government would be fully realized. He had thus answered the questions of the hon. Member; but he entreated the House to bear in mind the general principle on which this Government acted with respect to foreign powers. The Government of this country was not answerable for the acts of other governments, and of course, could not be deemed responsible for any acts of the Turkish government in the management of its internal affairs. The hon. Member, with all his observation and experience, ought to be aware of this. The English Government would do the utmost they could to insure confidence and to obtain the fulfilment of all engagements positively entered into with them; but they could not answer for the acts of the government of Turkey, or of any other government, in the administration of its own internal affairs.

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