HL Deb 23 July 1913 vol 14 cc1309-13

*LORD HAVERSHAM rose to ask the Lord President of the Council whether the European Powers, having exercised pressure upon Montenegro to accept the frontier of Albania decided upon by the Concert, would exercise similar pressure upon Turkey to maintain the recognition of the Enos-Midia agreed to in the Treaty of London, with the sanction of Europe.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not intend to offer any suggestions or observations of my own to the House on this subject, because I feel that I should place myself entirely in the hands of my noble friend and leave him to decide what information he will vouchsafe to us on the question. I am sure, however, that all whatever to the word "annual" being omitted. No doubt, if that is done, next year we may, as the noble Earl has said, be able to obtain a good deal more information under a different form. I beg to move.

Moved, That there be laid before the House a Return from the 1st of January to the 31st of December 1913, from all Public Museums, including the Tower of London, Picture Galleries and Botanical Gardens, in or near London, and in Edinburgh, and in Dublin, in the following form, viz.:—

noble Lords will feel in what a terrible position the inhabitants of Thrace would be if the Turkish yoke, removed by the late war, is reimposed upon them. I also wish to state that in my opinion no more violent and outrageous infraction of a Treaty could be made than when the Turks, who assented to their representatives here signing the Treaty of London, gave orders to their Cavalry and Infantry to cross the Enos-Midia line and re-enter Adrianople.


My Lords, before a reply is given from the Front Bench opposite I should like to observe that we may regard it as an act of foolishness or a great mistake on the part of the Turks to make this forward move. But the noble Lord opposite has referred to this advance by the Turks as a great infraction of the Treaty that was signed in London. No doubt it is an infraction of that Treaty; but it is really more essential to consider the action of the other party to the Treaty—that is, Bulgaria. We must remember that Bulgaria, at any rate so far as I am aware of the facts, never evacuated that territory as she ought to have done under that Treaty. She has never made good the Treaty, and she was still in possession of the land inside the Enos-Midia line. What has happened seems to me to be a matter of the fortune of war. We know that there has in the last few weeks been an extraordinary turn of events, and that Bulgaria has not only had to retire from that strip of territory reserved to Turkey, but has gone back right into Bulgaria itself, leaving vacant the district in which Adrianople is situated.

The noble Lord opposite referred to the terrible state to which things would come if the Turkish Government were again acknowledged in that portion of the territory. Presuming that it is not the intention of the Turkish Government that the Turkish Army shall advance further than Adrianople, the amount of territory which would be brought again under Turkish rule would be, as far as I can make out from looking at the map, only about double the amount of territory reserved to Turkey under the Treaty signed in London. Although it includes Adrianople, which has mosques and shrines of bygone importance in Turkish history, the area, as I have said, is small, and this is a fact that we should bear in mind in considering the present situation. Seeing that the whole war has produced such an extraordinary series of events, you cannot altogether blame the Turkish Government, who have been harassed and maltreated by the Bulgarian, because they take advantage of the chance of reoccupying a certain portion—as I have said, a very small portion—of the territory over which they formerly held sway.

I wish to add another word or two in regard to the effect of the present situation on our Indian Mahomedan subjects. I received a cable from India protesting in the following terms against interference with Turkey— On behalf of Indian Moslems pray you to persuade Government observe strict neutrality towards Turkey as observed when Bulgaria was victorious. Empire and common honesty both demand it. I do not know what pressure the noble Lord opposite thinks should be applied— he did not explain—but I think it would be unfortunate if we applied any very drastic pressure, because we do not desire to see the Treaty of London broken into. The idea of taking drastic steps ought to be reserved, and the line of action adopted should rather be to see what can be accomplished by the aid of diplomacy. Perhaps it might, when the whole situation is considered, be desirable to ask the Turkish Government to retire within the frontier fixed by the Treaty of London, and to see what compensation could be given her if she did so. I do not think we should adopt a strong partisan attitude and say that, because the Great Powers got the Treaty signed in London fixing the limits of Turkey's European territory, the Turkish Government will have to adhere to that Treaty to the very letter, when the fortunes of war have given them a chance to reestablish their position in some degree.


My Lords, I am sure my noble friend and the noble Lord opposite will not take it amiss if I decline to follow them into the discussion upon which they have this evening embarked. I am sure that they and the rest of the House will perceive that the situation, both diplomatic and military, is far too critical and delicate a one for any advantage whatever to be gained by any discussion in your Lordships' House. I will not discuss with my noble friend the analogy which he implies between Montenegro and Turkey, nor the analogy between the frontier of Albania and the Enos-Midia frontier. I can only say that the conditions of the two frontiers and the two States are not identical. By the Treaty of London the Turkish frontier was fixed to be the Enos-Midia line. That line was to be delimitated by an International Commission. To that International Commission all the Great Powers have sent representatives, and they will begin the process of delimitation in a very short time. By the same Treaty Constantinople and all else within that frontier east of the Enos-Midia line, and all the Asiatic possessions of Turkey, were secured to Turkey. The policy of His Majesty's Government—I may say this without provoking discussion—has been, and is, to support the Ottoman Government in putting their finance on a sound basis, in improving the administration, and in setting up a definite position. We still desire to pursue this policy; but, of course, as your Lordships well know, that desire must be given effect to in co-operation and in agreement with the other Great Powers, If, to come nearer to my noble friend's Question, Turkey reopened the question of the Enos-Midia frontier, such action may be very likely to act most unfavourably on those questions in which Turkey is closely interested which were not raised during the war between Turkey and the Balkan States, and which we hoped had been closed by the Treaty which was signed in London. I can, in reply to my noble friend, make no statement as to what action the Powers may be compelled to take as to pressure—to use my noble friend's own word—if Turkey should unhappily disregard the advice which they have all given her.