HL Deb 03 May 1869 vol 196 cc1-4

rose to ask—

  1. 1. Whether the negotiation carried on at St. Peters burgh between the British and Russian Governments respecting the Turco-Persian Boundary Line has come or is likely soon to come to a conclusion:
  2. 2. Whether the map of that frontier, undertaken by the two mediating governments with a view to the demarcation as settled by treaty, is so far completed that the identical copies of it may be forthwith delivered and used for the intended purpose:
  3. 2
  4. 3. Whether it be true that the Turkish and Persian Governments have agreed to submit the settlement of their frontier question to a mixed commission:
  5. 4. Whether it be intended, if such commission be appointed, to include among its members any person or persons hitherto employed in the construction of the map?
The noble Viscount said, he felt some diffidence in raising the question, because at this moment the attention of the Government and of the country was so much directed towards the West that the affairs of the East excited little interest. The subject of his question was, however, one of great interest and importance, and he hoped he should receive an assurance from his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) that these negotiations, which had involved so much time and expense, were approaching a satisfactory issue. These negotiations, as stated four years ago, when calling their Lordships' attention to the subject, came under his notice as long ago as 1842 or 1844, when, after a good deal of bickering between the two Mahomedan Governments, a war broke out on the frontier. The Russian Ambassador acceded to his request that they should jointly mediate, and a Commission was appointed by the English and Russian Governments, the result being the conclusion in 1847 of the Treaty of Erzeroum. When, however, the question came to be considered how' that treaty should be carried out, great difficulties arose; and it was at length decided by England and Russia to send their Commissioners to the disputed territory, that with the assistance of Engineer and other officers nominated by the two Mahomedan Governments, they might prepare a map of the whole frontier, between the Turkish and Persian Empires, from Mount Ararat to the head of the Persian Gulf. The Crimean War led to a suspension of the undertaking; but it had since been resumed, and at this moment there existed, or ought to exist, a complete map of the district, which was one of great political and commercial importance. He had been informed, and should be glad to know whether it was true, that the two Mahomedan Powers had agreed to the appointment of a Mixed Commission. If some person or persons who had taken part in the construction of the map were placed on such a Commission, there would, he thought, be a reasonable prospect of the early settlement of this long-pending question.


said, that his noble Friend's long experience and distinguished services in the East eminently entitled him to call the attention of the House to any Eastern question. He could assure him that the subject had engaged the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and, indeed, he might say that Eastern affairs generally were receiving a very largo portion of the attention of the Foreign Office. With regard to the particular subject referred to by his noble Friend, he need not remind him that, at the time the present Government came into power, the peace of Europe was endangered by a quarrel between Turkey and Greece, and the manner in which that quarrel had been settled had opened the way, he thought, to a better understanding between those two Powers; and it was equally desirable that the question which his noble Friend had brought forward, and on which so much time and money had been expended, should be brought to a satisfactory issue. It was agreed by the Treaty of Erzeroum that the two Mahomedan Powers should lay down a frontier line, which both of them should engage to respect, and England and Russia undertook as mediating Powers to assist in the work. It was suspended for several years on account of the Crimean War, although the English Government were willing that it should have been continued; and it was finally agreed that maps should be prepared by the two mediating Powers—maps not exactly defining the boundary, but marking out the district that was in dispute, and through which the boundary line should run. The English map was ready in 1865, and his noble Friend (Earl Russell) proposed that the two maps should be handed over to the two Mahomedan Governments, it being agreed that they should trace a line of frontier. The Russian map was ready in 1866, and both were sent to Constantinople. But, unfortunately, on comparison, there were such discrepancies between the two maps that they were practically useless. It was then thought best that one standard map should be prepared by England. Instructions were accordingly sent out, and the Foreign Office were informed that the map would be ready by December, 1868; but he had lately made inquiries, and had ascertained that it was not likely to be ready before July or August next. It had not yet been definitely arranged how it should be used, and in what manner it should be binding upon the two Mahomedan Governments; but as soon as the map was prepared a proposition on the subject would be made; and he could assure his noble Friend that, as far as the Government was concerned, there should be no delay in urging a settlement. There was no understanding between Turkey and Persia that the matter should be settled by a Mixed Commission; but there was every reason to believe that they were desirous of effecting an early settlement of the question.