HC Deb 04 March 1920 vol 126 cc632-5

asked the Prime Minister whether he can give any further information with regard to the treatment of the Armenians by the Turks; and what steps are being taken by His Majesty's Government or the French Government for the protection of the Armenians from further massacre and outrage?


asked the Prime Minister whether, in the event of further massacres of the Armenians or other peoples still subject to the domination of the Turks, it is proposed to give effect to the warning conveyed by Admiral de Robeck to the Grand Vizier that the Treaty with Turkey will be altered to the disadvantage of the Turks; and whether in this case the Supreme Council will consider the advisability of making Constantinople a free city under the League of Nations?


These matters are under discussion by the Allied Governments and between the Governments and their representatives in Constantinople, and I hope my hon. Friend will recognize the inadvisability of making an announcement on the subject at present.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government will take steps to keep the House and the public, so far as they can, fully informed of the course of events in that part of the world in order to relieve the grave and general anxiety on the matter which prevails in this country?


I can assure my right hon. Friend that his anxiety is shared to the full by the Government and by all the representatives of the Allies. Since we received that very serious news about the massacres in Armenia it has been the subject of very anxious consideration by the Allied Conference, and they came to a decision which was communicated to their representatives at Constantinople. It would be inadvisable at the present moment to communicate to the public the character of that decision, because it is subject to the advice they give in return, and we are awaiting that advice at the present moment. I can assure the House that we are fully alive to the gravity of the position and the need for taking very strong action to protect the minorities, in so far as we can, in a country of this kind. I hope to be able to make a statement in a very short time, but at the present time we are awaiting the advice of the representatives of all the Allies at Constantinople upon the suggestions we have put before them.


While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his very interesting and satisfactory reply, may I ask whether he could make a fuller statement next Monday, or whether he would rather rather not make any statement?


My Noble Friend will realise that it depends very largely upon the replies and upon the action that is taken. It may be inadvisable if action is being taken to make any answer at all until it becomes quite manifest to the whole world.


In view of the fact that lives are in danger in Cicilia every day and have been for many days past, may we take it that such prompt measures as are possible are being taken to protect those lives?


The protection of minorities in Cicilia is not the sole concern, but it is the charge of the French Government, and they fully recognise that. The Allies are prepared to give such support as is within their power to-ensure that the minorities will be protected.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Adana is not many miles from the coast and that British subjects, including the agents of the Lord Mayor of London's Fund are there and that their lives may be in danger at any time?


It is a very difficult question, which depends upon the advice we get from our naval and military advisers as to whether it is better that the naval force should be at Constantinople or down on the coast there. Perhaps I had better not express any opinion upon it. It is obviously a matter where we must get the advice of our representatives on the spot.

63. Brigadier-General SURTEES

asked the Prime Minister if he has any information to the effect that a concerted effort is being made by certain individuals opposed to the retention of Constantinople by the Turks to prejudice the latter in the eyes of the Allies and to still further complicate the Eastern situation by circulating false reports as to massacres in Asia Minor and Turkish plotting in Egypt, Persia, India, Mesopotamia, and elsewhere; and what steps he proposes to take to contradict baseless reports which do so much to unsettle the native mind and make the peaceful work of the Supreme Council increasingly difficult?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative; the second, therefore, does not arise. There is unfortunately reason to suppose that the reports as to the massacres in Asia Minor are well founded.