HL Deb 13 March 1871 vol 204 cc1844-5

Seeing the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place, I wish to inquire whether he can give the House any information respecting the Conference on the Black Sea Question, which I understand has met to-day, and whether the sittings of the Conference are likely to extend over any lengthened period?


In answer to the Question of the noble Duke, I have to state that the Conference met to-day really for the last time, though it will meet again to-morrow for matters of form. It will, no doubt, be satisfactory to your Lordships to know the general character of the conclusions at which it has arrived. A Treaty has been signed to day at the Foreign Office by which, while the clauses of the Treaty of 1856 respecting the neutralization of the Black Sea are abrogated, the restrictions imposed by previously existing treaties upon the Porte in regard to the closing of the Straits of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus when the Porte is at peace, are so far modified as to admit of its opening of them even in time of peace to the ships of war of friendly and allied Powers, in case the Porte should deem it necessary to do so, in order to insure the execution of the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris of March 30, 1856. The Treaty just signed also provides for the prolongation of the European Commission of the Danube for 12 years; and, further, for the continued neutrality of the works already created or to be created by the Commission; with a saving, however, of the right of the Porte, as a territorial Power, to send ships of war into the Danube. At the first meeting of the Conference, on the 17th of January, a special Protocol was signed, recording that it was an essential principle of the Law of Nations that no Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a Treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the contracting Powers by means of an amicable arrangement. The French Plenipotentiary has this day signed the Protocol together with the Treaty. The Protocols of the Conference will be presented to Parliament with as little delay as possible.

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