“Today is the happiest day of my life. My struggles, protests, suffering and 30 years of hope have been crowned with glory.” Avedis Aharonian – August 10, 1920
BY MICHAEL SOSIKIAN
The First World War ended on the eastern front when the government of the Ottoman Empire requested an armistice on October 29, 1918. The next day, the armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain on behalf of Allied Powers in order that a treaty of peace might thereby be concluded.
The Armistice of Mudros includes two important articles concerning Armenia and Armenians.
Article 11-Immediate withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Northwest Persia to behind the pre-war frontier has already been ordered and will be carried out. Part of trans-Caucasia has already been ordered to be evacuated by Turkish troops; the remainder is to be evacuated if required by the Allies after they have studied the situation there.
Article 24-In case of disorder in the six Armenian vilayets, the Allies reserve to themselves the right to occupy any part of them.
On January 19, 1919, an international meeting was started in Versailles (France) with the goal of putting an end to all wars and spreading peace around the world. A total of 32 countries and nationalities participated in the meeting. On February 12, 1919 two Armenian delegations arrived in Versailles. A delegation representing Mountainous Armenia was headed by Avedis Aharonian; while Boghos Nubar Pasha was representing Western Armenians. The pair presented their demands for Western Armenia to encompass territory from the Mediterranean to the Black sea, Javakhk, Artsakh and Nakhijevan. Upon hearing of the Armenian demands, the head of Great Britain’s delegation, Mr. Lloyd George, told the Armenian delegation that there were not enough Armenians to fill the demanded land.
On June 28, 1919 the covenant of the League of Nations was signed as part 1 of the treaty of Versailles.
On January 19,1920, the League of Nations recognized Armenian Government by documenting “It is agreed: (1) that the Government of the Armenia State shall be recognized as de facto government on the condition that this recognition in no way prejudges the question of the eventual frontier.”
In February of the same year, the League of Nations returned the region of Kars to Armenia, (Mudros Armistice Article 11). However, instead of withdrawing from the territory, the Ottomans refused to relinquish Kars and their military governor established the Provisional National Government led by Fahrettin Piroglu, which claimed Turkish sovereignty over Kars.
In April of 1920, joint forces of Armenia and Great Britain attacked Kars, captured the leaders of the provisional government members, sent them to Malta, and returned the Kars region under Armenia’s administration.
In February of 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers held a meeting in London where they decided that their next meeting would be held after Easter in San Remo (Italy). That meeting was called to order on April 18. Just days after, on April 23, the United State recognized the Republic of Armenia with the following communication sent from Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby to the Representative of the Armenia Republic in Washington DC, Dr. Garegin Pasdermadjian:
“Sir: Referring to communications heretofore received from you on the subject of the proposed recognition of your Government by the Government of the United States, I am pleased to inform you, and through you, your Government, that, by direction of the President, the Government of the United States recognizes, as of this date, the de facto Government of the Armenian Republic. This action is taken however, with the understanding that this recognition in no way predetermines the territorial frontiers. Sir, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
On April 26, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers requested that the United States assume mandate over Armenia and President Woodrow Wilson act as arbitrator in the question of the boundary between Turkey and Armenia.
On May 17, 1920 President Wilson conveyed his acceptance of this request via telegraph to the American Ambassador in Paris, to then be conveyed to the Powers represented on the Supreme Council.
Article 89 of the Peace Treaty of Sevres Turkey and Armenia as well as the other High Contracting Parties agree to submit to the arbitration of the President of the United States of America the question of the frontier to be fixed between Turkey and Armenia in the vilayets of Erzrum, Trabizon, Van and Bitlis, and to accept his decision thereupon, as well as any stipulations he may prescribe as to access for Armenia to the sea, and as to the demilitarization of any portion of Turkish territory adjacent to the said frontier.
On May 11, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers and their associates sent a draft of the Sevres Treaty to Sultan Mehmed VI for acceptance. The sultan consulted with his ministers, lawyers and politicians for nearly two months before conveying his decision.
Then on July 22, 1920, acting as the legitimate ruler and representative of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet VI agreed to grant President Woodrow Wilson the arbitration to draw the frontier between Armenia and Turkey (In accordance with the Ottoman Empire Constitution’s of 1876 and 1909, Article 3 and 7).
In mid-July of 1920 the US State Department appointed Professor William Westermann to head the committee that would furnish guidelines for drawing the boundaries between Armenia and Turkey.
On August 10, 1920 the Treaty of Sevres was signed in an exhibition room at the “Manufacture nationale de Sevres,” one of the principle European porcelain manufactories. The High Contracting parties were Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, France, Italy, Japan, Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Hedjaz, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serb-Croat-Slovenia, Checho – Slovak and Turkey.
According to Part 1, Article 2, Section “f” of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (concluded in Vienna on May 23, 1969) “Contracting States” are those which have consented to be bound by the treaty, whether or not the treaty has entered into force.
On September 28, 1920 the committee headed by Westermann submitted to the State Department the report that defined the border between Armenia and Turkey-guaranteeing Armenia access to the Black sea via Trabizon as well as 103,600 square kilometers of land (including Bitlis, Van and Erzrum).
The committee report was received by President Woodrow Wilson on November 12, 1920. Ten days later President Wilson signed the report and issued his Arbitration Award on November 22, 1920. The award bore the great seal of the United States and was sent to the US ambassador in Paris, Hugh Campbell Wallace on November 24, 1920. On December 6, 1920 Wallace delivered the document to the secretary general of the peace conference for submission the Allied Supreme Council.
Under Article 81 of the 1907 Hague Convention and Article 54 of the 1899 Hague Convention, an arbitral award, duly pronounced and notified to the agents of the parties in dispute, settles the dispute definitely and without opportunity for an appeal.