HC Deb 12 April 1922 vol 153 cc491-509

2.0 P.M.


I rather regret that the exigencies of Parliamentary time bring to an end an interesting discussion and that some of my hon. Friends are thereby excluded, but it is not my fault. The House will not be surprised that the subject to which I wish to call attention is the Near East. I have been compelled to address the House on many occasions on this subject, but really I have done so because somebody must do it, and, with the exception of the very cordial support that I have received from my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Aneurin Williams) and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord E. Cecil), I have been left unsupported. At the same time, I am perfectly sure that the opinions that I have expressed with regard to the protection of the Christians in the Near East are shared by the overwhelming majority of the people of the country, and, I believe, by the overwhelming majority of this House. When last I addressed the House, I was dealing with this subject at the very moment when the Conference that was to decide upon it was sitting at Paris. It was rather late to intervene. It is still later now, because to a certain extent the Foreign Ministers of the different countries have come to some form of proposed agreement. Therefore, I shall to-day confine myself to a criticism, not altogether unfriendly, of the proposed terms as reported in the papers.

The first point that I must raise is the reported demand of the Kemalist authorities that the evacuation of the Greek troops from Smyrna should begin immediately and continue regularly until all the Greek troops have left Asia Minor. I trust that I am not too sanguine when I express the hope that these proposals of the Turkish Government will be indignantly refused by the Allied Powers. I suppose my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is kept informed of the movements of opinion in Greece and in Smyrna, and I think he will confirm the statement that these proposals of the Kemalists for the beginning of the immediate evacuation of Asia Minor by the Greek troops has been received with resentment and stupefaction, and that all Greeks have risen in revolt against it. The indication of this unanimity of Greek resistance to these demands is very strong. We all know how the Greeks have been strongly divided by party feeling during the last few years, but it is only those who are acquainted with the Greek character that realise how bitter these party conflicts can be among Greeks, with the result that very often when, from the point of view of a detached foreigner like myself, the unification of their forces, and the oblivion for the moment of their party differences, are required in the national interest, they still continue. They have, up to the announcement of these terms. Now my information is that the differences between the Venizelists and the Royalists are forgotten, and there has been a national committee representative of Greeks all over the world formed for the purpose of common national effort. We have this remarkable symptom, that a large number of Venizelist officers, who unwillingly found themselves in Constantinople, have now left there and gone to Asia Minor, in order that they may add their arms and swords to the army of their country. In Smyrna we have the very remarkable symptom that a committee has been formed for the purpose of resisting to the utmost the evacuation of the city, and that this committee has given a very strong demonstration of the sincerity and purity of its feelings by passing a resolution that one-fifth of their property shall be at the disposal of the Greek-Smyrna Government for the purpose of supplying the necessary funds for the continuance of this movement.

I am confining myself for the moment to Asia Minor, and I ask, is not this attitude of the Greeks natural? I may give three or four reasons for suggesting that it is. In the first place, they were sent by the Allies to Asia Minor. I do not know that they specially wanted to go, but they were requested to go by their powerful Allies, and such a request, under the circumstances, amounted to a command. They have carried on a very long and difficult campaign. In the greater part of that campaign they have been quite successful. They did not get to Angora, and I do not know that they had any great desire to do so, but by a series of real victories they got to the very gates of the place. Here is the tragic point of the situation for them. They have left altogether, from first to last, the bodies of 40,000 of their gallant men on the battlefields of Asia Minor, and they would have been more than human if, having been sent by the Allies to carry on this campaign, and having lost 40,000 of their gallant soldiers, and expended millions of money, they should not have resented the cool proposal to leave their co-religionists and compatriots at the mercy of the Turks. I do not believe that if all the Powers to-morrow demanded acceptance of the terms of Angora, the Greeks would accept them. They will not take all their men immediately out of Asia Minor. Even if this country, whom they have looked upon absolutely as a loyal and faithful friend, demanded the immediate evacuation of it, they would not, I believe, obey. I do not believe that if the civil Government at Athens called upon the soldiers to come away, they would get them out of Asia Minor. It would be necessary to drive them out by force, and I would ask, is there any European statesman who would propose to send one man or to spend one shilling in order to force the Greeks out of Asia Minor?

Why should the Greeks object to the' immediate evacuation of Asia Minor and the surrender of Smyrna? The reason is quite plain. Assume that the Greek troops begin to retire, everyone knows that there are large scattered bodies of Greeks and Armenians in that territory, and the question is, what would be their fate if they were deserted by the Greek bayonets? Does anyone acquainted with the monotonous history of Turkish authorities in dealing with the Greeks not realise that they would be at once exposed to massacre by the triumphant Turks? Then I come to Smyrna itself. It is, and always has been, a Greek city. There are large bodies of Armenians there, and I have never spoken to an Armenian who was not convinced that the expulsion of the Greeks from Smyrna territory would mean not merely the possible massacre of Greeks, but also the possible massacre of Armenians there. I sometimes find it difficult to restrain my indignation when, remembering how this country has advocated the protection of the Christians in the Near East from the habitual butchery of the Turks—I find men in this House ready to defend perpetually the sanguinary rule of the Turks over Christian populations. I am glad to think that some of my hon. Friends opposite will join with me in making a strenuous demand that not only our Government but that the Governments of France and Italy shall provide, if the evacuation does take place at all, that it shall only take place when men of our own race are there to see that the Turks carry out their promises, or, bearing in mind that they have so often broken their promises in the past, to see that they shall abstain from their periodical butcheries of Christians. That is all I can say at present, for I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House.

I now come to the European part of these proposals of the Government I have heard that the new frontiers of Thrace were drawn, not by Ministers, but by soldiers, and I understand that the chief soldier taking part in the task was Marshal Foch. With all due respect for great warriors, I do not think any frontier could have been imagined out of Bedlam which was more unsuitable to the conditions obtaining in this part of the world. What is the result I will not go into the details, but under the Treaty of Sevres there was one tremendous advantage in the frontier, and that was that there was no common frontier between Bulgaria and Turkey. That was right. I do not want Bulgaria, or any country, to be subjected to harsh or unfair terms. Heaven forbid that I should say any word that would prevent facilities being given for the future development of Bulgaria. But I do not want Bulgaria to get any encouragement to enter into a new Balkan war, and I say that, when you put the Bulgarian and the Turkish frontiers together, you are putting in the way of Bulgaria and Turkey, both of whom regard the Serbians as common enemies, a temptation which, in my opinion, threatens an early and a worse war in the Near East. These are not only the opinions of the Greeks. I abstained from asking my hon. Friend any question upon this, because my information was not sufficiently adequate to justify me in doing so, but I may say that I have strong reason to believe that this rearrangement of the Thracian frontier excites as much alarm and indignation among the peoples of Rumania and Serbia as it does among the people of Thrace. The Rumanians and the Serbians regard this new frontier as opening the very portals of the temple of war against both them and the Greeks. For these reasons I hope that, before this new Treaty reaches its final form, representations on the part of our own Government with regard to the dangers I have pointed out will be made, and will be adhered to, and that we may not, at the end of a war for the liberation of mankind, see all that work undone by exposing once more the Christians to misgovernment and to massacre.

Sir J. D. REES

The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has entirely forgotten the reputation of the Greeks for guile. It is not for nothing that they are the compatriots of the wily Ulysses, of whom it was written: But the reputation of the Greek for guile, which in Homer's time had reached high Heaven, has not yet penetrated the 20th Century House of Commons. It is very easy—nothing is simpler—for one hon. Member to claim the finer feelings of humanity and to think that others are lacking in that attribute. But it may not be entirely more humanity—it may be greater credulity, or larger unacquaintance with the people of the country concerned—which may make it so easy for an hon. Member to adopt that line. There must be Members present besides myself who have, at times in their lives, been placed in the position of a judge. Nothing is easier, when you have heard the prosecution, than to deliver judgment and say the man shall be hanged; and, when you have heard the defence, it is equally easy to find that he is innocent. It is then that the trouble of finding out what are the facts begins. But the friends of the Greek, owing to the guile which reached high Heaven 3,000 years ago, have induced the people of this country to regard this, of all subjects, as the only subject to which there are not two sides.

I doubt very much if anyone present knows, or if it is known at all in this country, how extremely difficult it is to combat the position which was established when Mr. Gladstone conducted what was known as the Turko-Bulgarian atrocity agitation. Since that time the truth of that agitation has been regarded as an article of faith, and I think that the hon. Member the other day attached particular importance to some report of a Greek atrocity because it came from a patriarch to an Archbishop. I wonder whether in his life he has found that ecclesiastics are less keen in controversy than lay professors of that art. Is that his experience? All these things go absolutely by default, and it is a most disastrous fact for this country that that is so. It was an ecclesiastic, Canon McCall, who "devilled" for Mr. Gladstone on that occasion, and, when all the harm had been done, it was subsequently found that he had taken scarecrows in fields for impaled Bulgarians.

Mr. O'CONNOR indicated dissent.

Sir J. D. REES

Surely, now that my hon. Friend is in possession of the sympathies of the House and the whole world in regard to these butcheries, he can allow me for a few moments, without interruption, to represent what I assert to be the truth. The results of the establishment of this position have been most disastrous for the British Empire. It was owing to that that we had the Turks against us in the War, and it is owing to the fact that the Turks were against us in the War that we have thrown the two branches of the great Mahommedan religion in Asia—the Shiahs and the Sunnis—into one another's arms, have caused the disaffected among the Hindoos to join the Mahommedans who were previously our friends, and have united against us the Mahommedans in every country and every clime. I presume that those who preach this are satisfied with their handiwork. I heard the hon. Member say that when this long overdue evacuation of the Turkish city of Smyrna takes place, our own troops must be there. For how long are our troops going to stay in Asia Minor? As long as this age-long quarrel continues to exist? What of the British taxpayer? Are we to keep an army of British troops in Asia Minor?


I never said that.

Sir J. D. REES

I took down my hon. Friend's words, but I do not want to misrepresent him, and should be very sorry to do so.


The hon. Baronet will forgive me for interrupting him, but he had better know what I really said, so that his case may not be on a false foundation. I did not propose to keep an army of troops in Asia Minor; I proposed that representatives of ours should be there, which is quite a different thing.

Sir J. D. REES

I understood the hon. Member to mean troops. I do not know what would happen to one representative between the lion and the lamb—which of these animals each side represents I do not say. I say that this has become a fixed idea in England, just like the wickedness of Czarism in Russia, which everyone now wishes we could see restored. I do protest with all my heart—and I wish that this matter had some Member of greater weight in this House to deal with it instead of myself—I do protest strongly against this whole attitude, which, I say, is founded entirely upon sentiment and not upon knowledge. The hon. Gentleman considers all the oppressions that are done upon the earth and asks us to behold the tears of such as are oppressed and have no comforter, who, according to him, are the Greeks and Armenians. I say they are the Turks. It is they who lack money, ability, friends, and intrigue to place their case before the public of this country. I do not call in question the good faith of the hon. Member in taking that line; I merely deplore his credulity, and regret that he should not study both sides before falling in with the dominant anti-Turkish attitude.

The other day the Under-Secretary of State said that the Greek Government had accepted the armistice proposal. I gather that it is a very qualified acceptance, and that they will accept it, but that they will not go away, or will leave behind them a certain number of officers or of troops. I do not know if that is so, and I should like the Under-Secretary to enlarge upon that question a little, and tell us whether Marshal Foch will decide whether any troops, and if so what numbers, are to remain during the evacuation when that evacuation begins. I am asking for information, and not by way of teaching the House. There has not yet been an actual acceptance of the armistice by both sides. While matters were in this critical situation, and when the friends of each side are naturally on the alert, the case was brought before this House of an alleged massacre at Kerassunde, in the Pontus, as we must now again learn to call it. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, dealing with its alleged massacre. I must say abstained carefully from allowing that any such massacre had taken place, and I trust that he will allow me to congratulate him upon that correct attitude.


Because I had no evidence that it had happened.

Sir J. D. REES

But my hon. Friend, unlike others, does not regret it. He sees no object in crediting a massacre irrespective of information. The fact is that the information so carefully supplied came a little too late. It was intended to come in time for the Paris Conference. I have seen something of Eastern ecclesiastics, and have sat at the same table with them and, owing, I suppose, to some idiosyncrasy on the part of the ecclesiastics or, probably, as I should judge, to some confusion between the Greek and the Gregorian calendars, it arrived a day or two too late to produce its desired effect upon the Paris Conference, and therefore it was burst upon an astonished and credulous House of Commons. It is not unusual in a matter like this to quote outside opinions and as I am a sort of Athanasius contra mundum, on this occasion, though I am not indulging in any of the forms of condemnation which were habitual with Athanasius, I would like to read, if I am allowed, the opinion of the beet champion of the Mahommedans after the Aga Khan, who is away in India but whose powerful voice would, I believe, reinforce what I say were he here to speak for his coreligionists. Mr. Amir Ali, late Judge of the High Court of Calcutta and at present a member of His Majesty's Privy Council, writes to me: These incessant attacks in the House of Commons on the Anatolian Government are not calculated to placate Moslem opinion in India or restore peace in that country. From the Imperial point of view I deplore the fanaticism and ignorance which are at the bottom of this extraordinary attitude. For many years it has been said about the Turks that they were great diplomatists. It was said that they were terrible men to meet in diplomacy. Granted that they were sufficiently wicked, would such people be sufficiently foolish to commit this massacre just at the moment when the terms of the new treaty, which are very much in their favour, thank God, as compared with the old one, were under consideration, when the evacuation of Smyrna was certain to arouse bitter anti-Turkish feeling? At that moment would they be so foolish as to indulge in their sanguinary instincts, if they had them, at a moment so supremely convenient to their own bitter age-long enemies? I do not think that the House can believe it. In the history of this long quarrel there have been many massacres invented, exaggerated, post-dated and ante-dated.

I recall such a case which was proven up to the hilt. Something was necessary to justify a resumption of hostilities in September, and there was the ready report of a massacre. But it happened that there was an English prisoner in the place, and he upset the whole fiction which had been arranged. He was a Mr. Medlicott, a gentleman of good character, and he upset this fiction by saying that he had no evidence of any massacre. I could produce many such cases. I brought before the House a case of a massacre of Turks which was very serious, as I thought, but I will not repeat it now. The Under-Secretary did not show any excessive sympathy with the Turks, but he did say that he had heard of this massacre, but that his information was to a different effect altogether. That particular massacre, if I may use the word, was reported by the London Moslem League, a League consisting of Mahommedans in this country. They ascribed it to a thoroughly reliable and authentic source, and described it in terms which I gave, to show that the men, women, and children were shut up in a mosque, to which the Greeks set fire, and out of 400 only a few escaped. I was very careful in my question to describe this as an alleged massacre, nor will I quote this particular paper which I have in my hand from the London Moslem Society, because under the great provocation which they have received it is couched in strong terms. But it is not only societies of this sort that give such evidence. Take the chairman of the Ottoman Railway, Lord St. Davids. He says that in the Smyrna district he knew that since the Greeks occupied that zone they burned 50 or 60 Turkish villages and that there has been loss of life, and that in another railway zone some 300 or 400 Turkish villages have been burned, and he asks: If the Greeks do this when they occupy a country peacefully, what will they do when they evacuate it? That is a business testimony. I know that at present the Greeks are moving heaven and earth to diminish the power which remained to the Turks after the Paris Conference, and in the effort to retain Smyrna. Of course Smyrna is everything; it means the whole hinterland of Asia Minor; it is the great port of Asia Minor. To offer the Turks independence without Smyrna would be perfectly absurd. Now we are to have a movement in London. There is to be a great meeting at the Albert Hall. I with my own eyes have seen emissaries of the Greek Government permeating social, economical and commercial society with the intention of keeping up that view of this question which it has become almost high treason to question in this country. To-day at Question Time the Financial Secretary to the Treasury could not answer me when I asked why so exceptional a favour was granted to the Greeks as the release of securities in the possession of the British Government for the purpose of allowing the Greeks to raise a loan. Neither could he say that there was any condition as to the spending of the money, except the condition that it should be spent in this country. That is another favour to the Greeks.

What is to be done I No doubt when this evacuation takes place there will be killing on one side and massacre on the other—I hardly know what words to use-There will be killings on both sides. Who is to be present to report to us? I Shall we have anyone there but a missionary? I do not disparage missionaries—God forbid—but their profession makes them inclined to take the side of the Christians against the Turk. Whom shall we have there? There is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Wrekin Division (Sir C. Townshend), a persona grata with both Greeks and Turks. Will he be there, or someone like him? There is my hon. Friend the Member for the Yeovil Division (Mr. A. Herbert), a man of great ability and high courage, who is respected by every one who knows him. Will he be there? Will men not already infected with the anti-Turkish virus that prevails all over this country be there I Are any of these likely to be sent as Commissioners, or, if they desire to go, will they be furnished with the necessary passports? I hope, with all my heart, seeing that this is the greatest Mahommedan power in the world, that the French will not be allowed to deal with this alone, not because they would not deal well with it, not because we do not welcome their co-operation in every possible field and consider agreement with them as the Iode-star of our policy, but because, since their Mahommedan subjects are about 50,000,000 and ours are about 120,000,000, it is indeed desirable that we should be associated in some unequivocal manner in the friendly protection of the Turks at this time, and not of the Greeks, who are amply represented in this country.

I hope I have not spoken with any undue warmth on this subject. In the subjects of the British Empire Mahom-medans are larger in number than Christians. Next to Hindus come the Mahommedans and after them the Christians, numerically. When I remember the disastrous and deplorable results that have ensued—it may not be true, I do not know—from the impression created—I myself shared it—that not only the Government, but the House of Commons reflected the English feeling that they are pro-Greek and therefore anti-Turk; when I reflected on the mischief that this has done and upon the fact that 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 of Mahommedans who were our friends to a man in India, were men on whom we could count to be our truest friends, had now joined with the seditious section of the Hindus; when I reflect that that has been the result of this deplorable impression, that it has spread also with disastrous results into Egypt, so that we have banded against us one of the greatest religions of the world—when I see that that is the result of the policy pursued I am full of alarm and apprehension, and on no occasion will I omit to lift my voice against this policy and to speak on behalf of the oppressed Turks and their cousins the Indian Mahommedans.

Captain COOTE

The hon. Member who has just spoken is doing no good service to the Empire or to the cause of the Moslems in India by making the sort of speech he has just delivered, for all of what he has said to-day will be assiduously reported to the Khilafat agitation in India, and will be used as an efficient instrument of propaganda. The proof of the importance of this question lies in the reflection that speeches such as those of the two hon. Members who have just spoken have been made in this House for at least a quarter of a century, and that the Near Eastern question still remains in the same position of acute danger as when they first raised it in this House. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and the hon. Baronet who has just spoken said one thing with which I heartily agree. That was the suggestion that Allied officers should be sent out at once to supervise whatever arrangements may result from the Armistice, which apparently is to be accepted by both sides in these regions. It is most unwise for people in this country to take sides on this question. We should realise the limitation of our powers in relation to this question. We should not exalt it into either a religious or a colour question. Otherwise we shall only intensify those evils which we are seeking to cure. The reports of disturbances which have already reached this country only confirm the impression which must be held by every intelligent observer in this country, that if we are to prevent a recurrence of the appalling cycle of reciprocal massacres which have disgraced the Near East for so long, we must take steps at once.

Unfortunately the mental processes of those who are in charge of the Foreign Office seem to be rather slow. In an answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs last month he said that arrangements for assuring order during the evacuation tad been elaborated by the Allied military authorities under Marshal Foch, and he added that he could not at present describe them in detail. Those of us who feel sincerely upon this subject insist upon having in detail now what those arrangements are, if it is possible to state the details, because we are convinced, from all the information that reaches us and from hints which appear in the Press, that if this question is to be settled satisfactorily there is no time to be lost in sending out people who, though it is true they cannot prevent the massacres if such are to occur, will at least give that publicity to the details which will be worth a good deal both in informing the public outside those regions and in preventing this sort of behaviour continuing with impunity. If we are to arrive at a sincerely peaceful solution of this question; nay, more, if we are to give that body which, under the Paris decisions, is to be entrusted with the permanent pacification of those regions—if we are to give the League of Nations a chance to carry out the duties with which it is to be entrusted, we ought to give them a task which is possible and not impossible. That is why I say it is incumbent upon us at this moment to send out men to those districts who will be neither Turkophil or Turko-phobe or Grecophil or Grecophobe, but men who will have the confidence of both sides, who can speak the language of both sides, and who will be able to have a proper appreciation of affairs on the spot.

I have said enough to show the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs that, in my opinion, the conduct of affairs by his Department in those regions has not been such as to justify confidence in his Department. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division is right in his statement about the betrayal of the Greeks, but whatever may have been our conduct towards the Greeks in the past, we have no power to remedy the situation at tins moment. Whatever you may think of the past, you must adjust your present policy to what you can do with the resources you possess at the present time. An alternative would only have been' possible if we had adopted the suggestion of M. Zimmern in his latest book and had kept the British Army mobilised. Then we might have solved all the problems in various parts of the world. But we must adjust our policy to what it is possible for us to do. What we are asking the hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench to do is not only wise but imperative, if he and all of us who desire to see a solution of this question are not, three or four months hence, to be told it is too late. Affairs have reached such a pass in that part of the world that the whole of the miserable business is to do over again. Let us confine ourselves for the moment to this point, that we are anxious, so far as the Smyrna Villayet is concerned, that the arrangements made— and there must be, as the hon. Member for Scotland Division said, arrangements made for some evacuation in those regions—shall be so conducted that there shall be no avoidable scandal attaching to the Turkish or Greek operations in those districts. We have a very great load of responsibility on us, which is due to our past policy regarding affaire in those regions. If we can do anything—on the principle that one lamp-post is better than 10 policemen—if we can do anything to shed light on what is being done there during these critical times, when steps are being taken that may affect permanently or for many years the peoples in that part of the world, we should do it. It is a possible step, a practicable step, a wise step. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary can lay his hand on emissaries who are fully competent to do what they would be asked to do, and I implore him to communicate, not only with the Angora and Hellenic Governments, but with the French and Italian Governments, and ask them to co-operate so that at least no avoidable responsibility may rest on us for anything that may happen in the future.


I shall not attempt in the few words I shall say to the House to go into any matter that is in the slightest degrees controversial. It is not difficult for my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) to advocate with his usual eloquence and fervour the cause of Greece, nor for the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) to advocate, with wit, the cause of the Turks. I am in a position where I have no desire whatever to enter into any controversy on the one side or the other, more especially because we are now sitting at a time when this subject is peculiarly delicate. The Powers at Paris have made certain proposals to the belligerent Governments. They are only proposals and advanced as recommendations to those countries. The Greek Government has accepted the proposals with only a slight technical proviso. The Turkish Government has accepted the Armistice with a proviso of a very serious character. That is the situation, and it behoves us to deal with it in a very serious way indeed. I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division was under some misapprehension as to exactly what will take place, supposing the Armistice terms are to be carried out. As I understand it, there will be an Armistice period of shorter or greater length. It may be three months or even longer. It might, if peace negotiations proceed prosperously and quickly, be less. Then there is the period of evacuation, and for that period the Powers in Paris have made important provisions. There will be men of our own race and of other Allied races in charge and in superintendence of the evacuation.


When are they to go?


After the Armistice.They can go at any time they like.

Captain COOTE

Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is true or not that the evacuation will be prior to the Armistice?


The information that reaches me is that the danger is actually acute at this moment. The moment the statement was made in public that those territories were to be evacuated, the danger began quite as much to the Turks there as to the Greeks who are resident there.


After the evacuation period, which will be a peaceful period, as I hope, the nations will appoint commissioners for the more permanent supervision of the welfare of the minorities in those districts. All I have to say to my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Captain Coote) is this: I do not understand why these apprehensions that this pre-Armistice and Armistice period shall be one of such exceptional danger have arisen, because it must be apparent that until evacuation takes place there will be Greek armies in control of territory at present occupied by the Greeks and Turkish armies in control of the territories they occupy. I can only say to my Noble Friend and my hon. Friend, that I will bring these points before the proper quarter, but I cannot quite appreciate what is the point of danger to which my Noble Friend and my other hon. Friends have been referring. As to the subsequent stages I think the arrangements made do meet the demand of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division. There will be an Allied Commission on the spot very anxiously watching and superintending the business of evacuation. I hope that later it will be agreed that the good offices of the League of Nations should be invoked. I appreciate the point of view that hon. Members have put forward. They do not want a situation created now that will make it impossible of management by the League of Nations later. I fully share their anxiety with regard to this, and I will put forward their views in the proper quarter.


I think the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office does not realise what is going on at this moment in Asia Minor. We may have a very large number of Greek officers who say: "Oh, if the Government of Athens tell us to evacuate, we will not evacuate, and we will massacre the Mahommedan population." On the other hand, you have independent bands of all kinds likely to seize the opportunity of an evacuation, or a threatened evacuation, to loot promiscuously; and you have the decision of the Allied Governments that that country, sooner or later, is to be evacuated, and handed back to the Turks. To anybody who knows what has been going on in the last five or six years it is clear there is every chance of atrocities and enormous trouble and difficulty. It is no use for distinguished foreign Ministers sitting around a table in Paris, protected by policemen, to imagine that they can put forth edicts which will be carried out as if the whole of these countries were organised on a civilised basis. Unless the Allies who are responsible—and nobody is more responsible than the British Government for sending the Greeks to Smyrna—unless they do something now, both Greeks and Mahommedans are going to be in a welter of bloodshed in that country. Something must be done. I resent very much the talk of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), who pretends that he is the only person who stands up for the Mahommedans. He says the whole atmosphere of this House is anti-Moslem. It is not. The hon. Baronet said this afternoon Turkey came into the War against us because of that atmosphere. That is perfectly untrue. German power and influence, and the fact that Russia was our ally, brought Turkey into the War against us. The language of the hon. Baronet will be used as a stick to beat the British Empire, both in India and elsewhere. He merely added fuel to the fire. He talked about the oppressed Turk. It is being said in India to-day that it is the British who are oppressing the Turk, and the hon. Baronet will be quoted in India as saying that the Turk is being oppressed. It is impossible for some of us who desire to press for a revision of the Treaty of Sevres to support him when he uses language so dangerous to the British Empire. He does nothing to help the Turk. He is only stirring up further trouble in the Near East for many years to come.

3.0 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman representing the Foreign Office said he hoped the League of Nations was going to see these minorities are protected. That is to say, it is going to be thrown upon the League of Nations, and if they cannot do it, what then? What is the League of Nations? The League of Nations has no funds or arms of its own. The principal consti tuent of the League is the British Empire. Unless the British Government summon the League and unless the British Government are active in the Council of the League, nothing will be done for the protection of these minorities. The Government cannot wash their hands of responsibility by saying that the League of Nations will get us out of the trouble; and the Foreign Office need do nothing. The mere fact there is no proper liaison between our Foreign Office and the League of Nations is the first guarantee that the League of Nations is bound to fail in protecting any one of these minorities. A word as to Thrace. I agree that the immediate need is to take off the embargo which the Foreign Office has placed upon passports. The possibility of a critical situation arising there is not so immediate, but the same sort of thing will arise. In that case the Allied Ministers have proposed what anyone who has studied the country knows is bound to prove a gloomy and miserable failure. It is not merely going to result in the renewal, sooner or later, of hostilities between the Turks and the Greeks; it will inevitably result in a Balkan war. We shall have another Balkan war if that frontier is to remain as proposed by the Ministers in Paris. After all, Rumania, Jugo-Slavia and Bulgaria are vitally affected by whatever is done in regard to Eastern Thrace. When the terms proposed by the Allied Conference were published, I asked why had Bulgaria been ignored, and I received an answer from the Government Bench to the effect that Bulgaria was concerned with Western Thrace and not with Eastern Thrace. Whoever prepared that answer and said that Bulgaria has no interest in Eastern Thrace, but was only interested in Western Thrace, could have had no knowledge whatever of Balkan history and Balkin politics. The Foreign Office had better get a new man to answer questions of that kind. To say that Bulgaria has no interest in the problem of dealing with Adrianople is a travesty of the truth to anybody who remembers the first and second Balkan wars in this century. It is perfectly certain that these proposals of the Allied Ministers will fail. They are admittedly a revision of the Treaty of Sèvres, and the first of a series of revisions of the Peace Treaties made in Paris. This is the beginning of an attempt to rectify the many mistakes made in 1919. The Foreign Office does not seem to realise that when we start to revise these Treaties, things will happen and happen on the spot, quickly, and they are taking no steps to protect people to whom we have undertaken moral obligations, by sending proper officers and a suitable number of observers to see what is going on, and to keep the Foreign Office and the House informed on these matters.

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