At the three conferences, the Jews were represented by Theodor Herzel (founder of the World Zionist Organization) and Chaim Weizmann (the first president of Israel and the World Zionist Organization). Armenians were represented by Boghos Nubar (Պօղոս Նուպար) and Avetis Aharonian (Ավետիս Ահարոնեան).
The London conference was convened in October 1918 for the discussion of the issue of dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in order to agree on some of the most important and fundamental questions in preparation for the later peaceful parley.
At the conference, the UK was represented by Lloyd George, Lord Nathaniel Curzon, and Arthur Balfour, France was represented by Georges Clemenceau, Ferdinand Foch, and Maxime Weygand, and the US by Woodrow Wilson and Edward House.
The conference at Downing Street would decide the post-war fate of Germany and Turkey. When debate on the fate of Constantinople began, none of those present “offered to return the ancient capital of the Byzantine Empire to the Turks.”
“The Armenian and Jewish issues received great attention during the conference. The question of creating the state of Greater Armenia is related to a problem,” Lord Curzon argued, “It is related to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Besides, the Supreme Council had to consider various future opportunities.
Particularly important was the possibility of a broad Pan-Muslim or Pan-Turkic movement, and therefore, it would be beneficial to draw a line between the Muslims of Turkey and the Muslims of other eastern countries. Such a line could be the Christian community in the form of a new Armenian state.” Another line drawn between Africa and the Muslims of the Middle East would be a Jewish state in Palestine.
At the same time, the leaders of the Entente believed that “the historical Armenian problem was similar to the Zionist problem. The Zionists did not try to substantiate their claims by the numbers of the Jewish population in Palestine.”
In Palestine, the 65,300 Jews were only the 10 percent of the population, while there were 515,000 Muslims and 62,000 Christians. In addition, there were 150 Samaritans and 4,900 people of other nationalities.
Some of the assurances given to the Armenians were, in fact, obligations. Lord Curzon and Alexandre Millerand suggested to include Erzurum in Armenia. However, Lloyd George and Francesco Nitti were against it. Supporters of Curzon believed that before the war in the region of Erzurum, there were 360 thousand Turks and 160 thousand Armenians and that “there once was widely spread Greater Armenia”, and leaving the city “in the hands of the Turks was rendering the independent existence of Armenia impossible.”
Taking into account all these circumstances, the Allies included the city of Erzurum in the planned state of Greater Armenia and provided for access to the Mediterranean Sea via Armenian Cilicia.
The UK, as the most experienced colonial power, foresaw the further course of events much better than others. On the one hand, it acted as the initiator of the creation of the state of Greater Armenia in order to chain Armenia to the West, and on the other, according to Lloyd George, didn’t want to take care of the newly born state itself. They planned to transfer the “concern” for the new state to another power, primarily, the United States.
After Armistice of Mudros and until the first half of 1919, the UK wanted to seize control over Armenia. They abandoned this idea since the second half of 1919 and withdrew their troops the state.
According to Lloyd George, the UK couldn’t allocate funds for the maintenance of the British garrison in Armenia, but spent millions for the same purposes in Palestine. According to the Zionist Eder, in 1922, the UK spent 2 million 24 thousand pounds on the British garrison and gendarmerie in Palestine. By this period, the Zionists planned to move 5 of the 13 million Jews scattered around the world to there.
At the London conference, the leaders of the states of Entente received both Armenian and Jewish leaders. On February 19, Wilson received Duryan, Hakobyan, and on April 18, Boghos Nubar and Avetis Aharonian. They were also received by the leaders of the UK, France, Italy.
Boghos Nubar and Avetis Aharonian represented the Armenians at the London conference while the Zionists were represented by P. Sokolov. On February 27, 1919, Sokolov read out excerpts from a preliminary memorandum sent to him, “The Zionist organization respectfully proposes the following draft for the consideration by the Conference. The parties recognized the historical right of Jewish people to Palestine and the right of Jews to create their own national center in Palestine.”
In his speech, Dr. Weizmann said that the Zionists wanted to establish in Palestine under the mandate of a great power, such an administration, not necessarily Jewish, that would give the possibility of relocating thousands of Jews to Palestine. They also wanted to tell their fellows in Ukraine, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe that Palestine offers promising prospects.
After long discussions, the British Mandate over Palestine was finally formulated.
In order to implement political article 22 of the League of Nations, the Council of the League of Nations, taking into account that the main Powers have agreed on this issue, decided to transfer the mandate over administering the territory belonging to the Ottoman Empire to the elected mandate-holders within the possible established boundaries. The pact included 28 articles.
From January 12, 1919, to January 21, 1920, in Versailles and during the Paris Peace Conference, the victorious powers summed up their activity. To facilitate the solution of their problems, the Allied Supreme Council was replaced by the Council of Ten and then Four – the UK, the US, France, and Italy. These powers decided the fate of Germany and Turkey.
Leading the US delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, US President Woodrow Wilson proposed the creation of the League of Nations and the transfer of the former colonial possessions of the defeated countries to its disposal for equal use by all world powers.
A compromise decision to transfer the German colonies and Turkish possessions to the League of Nations was made. However, those possessions would be transferred to the “leading nations” as mandated territories (i.e., with a right of temporary possession established by the mandate of the League).
Thus, France received Syria, the UK gained control over Palestine. Other Arab countries were declared independent states. US President Woodrow Wilson sought to take a mandate over Armenia. Greece, with the support of the UK, claimed its ancient capital, Constantinople, Smyrna, and a number of other lands. The Issues of Armenia and the Jewish state were subject to further consideration at the conference in San Remo.
So, the leaders of the Entente reconstructed the map of the world and laid the foundation of the Israeli state in the Middle East on one hand and the creation of an Armenian state on the other. It was yet only on paper, which left it to the mercy of fate.
In the peace treaty Allies developed, Armenia, as one European diplomat said, was put under a “question mark”. Nobody wanted to take the state under their guardianship and protection from the aggression of Atatürk and Lenin.
In April 1920, the Allies gathered again, this time in San Remo. Lloyd George said “about the desertion” of the US as the Senate rejected the request of the US president to take a mandate over Armenia. But the first “deserter”, of course, was Lloyd George himself, and only then the others.
The US Senate determined that tens of thousands of American soldiers would be needed to protect Armenia from the combined forces of Turkey and Soviet Russia, which wasn’t appropriate for the Senate. For the same reason, the UK withdrew its troops from Transcaucasia. No power of the Entente took on the role of the defender of Armenia.
They, on one hand, made it clear to the representatives of Armenia who attended the conference that the Allies cannot allocate a single soldier for the defense of Armenia. On the other hand, they continued to discuss the plan for the creation of the state. This time, a discussion on whether or not to include the city of Erzurum into the future Armenian state started.
Boghos Nubar Pasha gave a speech at one of the meetings. Aharonian’s turn was on the next day. They did not demand the Allies to sign an agreement like the Zionists. They also did not ask for law-enforced shelter and military assistance. They only asked for weapons, ammunition, and uniform in hopes of liberation of Erzurum and defense of the country located in a hostile region and cut off from its allies.
The situation of the Zionists was completely different. They had the Balfour Declaration. On April 25, 1920, in San Remo, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers decided to submit a mandate of the UK on Palestine to fulfill the Balfour Declaration. Here is the text of this resolution:
“To execute the § 22 pact of the League of Nations, the administration of Palestine is also entrusted to the mandator. The choice of the mandator and the establishment of the borders of Palestine will be determined by the leading allied powers.
The application regarding the establishment of a state of Jews in Palestine, which was originally presented on November 8, 1917, by the British government and recognized by other allied governments, was accepted.
A special commission with the chairman appointed by the League of Nations will be instructed to study and resolve all issues and all claims from various religious communities in Palestine. The terms of the mandates will be established by the allied powers and submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for approval.”
As for Armenia, the Council could not ignore one circumstance. The fact is that the Entente waged war under the slogan of “the liberation of small nations.” And in this game, the Armenian card was a trump designed to create a favorable public opinion in Europe and the US.
The conference in San Remo solved the issue politically by recognizing the necessity of the joining of the Armenian regions of the vilayets of Erzurum, Trebizond, Van, and Bitlis to Armenia ethnographically.
At the same time, the council asked the US president to establish the borders of the four vilayets to be transferred. The Council also decided to internationalize the Batumi port and make it a common maritime outlet for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
The decision to transfer this territory to Armenia was included in the Treaty of Sevres with Turkey, and its government agreed to the recognition of any decision of President Wilson.
However, the Council did not support the resolution with international legal norms that could ensure its implementation. The Armenian question, unlike the Jewish question, remained hanging in the air, like a big question mark. And they still are waiting for the decision.