The Question of Meghri’s Exchange – Armenian-Turkish Negotiations in 1918

The Question of Meghri’s ExchangeThe town of Meghri in Syunik Province is the southern gate of Armenia that provides a direct connection with our friendly neighbor Iran. It is undeniable that Meghri’s position for the security of our country is of strategic importance.

It is widely known that in the early 2000s, dubious proposals were made regarding the status of Meghri, which undoubtedly was unacceptable for Armenia.

In connection with this, let us present a noteworthy century-old historical fact, from which it becomes clear that the question of the so-called “exchange” of Meghri has also been raised in the early 20th century.

On May 28, 1918, after the declaration of independence of Armenia and its recognition by Ottoman Turkey, official bilateral Armenian-Turkish negotiations commenced, during which the borders of Armenia were also being negotiated.

The situation of the young Armenian Republic – which at the time was in a complete blockade – was very difficult. The country was filled with thousands of refugees from Western Armenia who needed shelter, food, and medicine.

At a time when most of the country was occupied by Turkish troops and the problem of the Armenian people’s survival was awaiting its resolution, the young authorities of Armenia had to develop a careful and rational foreign policy. They also needed to be ready for negotiations with the enemies of Armenia.

Already in June 1918, in order to negotiate with the Turkish authorities, the official government delegation of the young independent republic arrived in the capital of Ottoman Turkey Constantinople.

At the end of August of the same year, Halil Pasha, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish troops in the Caucasian Front, arrived in Yerevan to negotiate with the Armenian leaders, including the Minister of Internal Affairs of that time Aram Manukyan, with whom he had already been familiar back from the events of Van.

The statesman of the First Republic Ruben Ter-Minasyan in his memoirs presents one fragment of these negotiations:

“Aram (Aram Manukyan) demanded the expansion of borders and guarantees for existence from his former victorious friend. Halil Pasha was not fundamentally opposed to the expansion of the territory of Armenia. He proposed in advance that Armenians liberate the Meghri district in Zangezur so that the Turks have a direct connection with Baku.

Instead, at the expense of Azerbaijan, he was ready to expand the borders of Armenia in the direction of Dzhevanshir and Varanda. He also proposed to conclude a military alliance against the Allies of WWI. These negotiations have come to nothing. “

It should be noted that at that time, WWI hasn’t yet ended, and the government of the Young Turks ruling in Turkey still pursued the nationalist idea of creating the Great Turan.

Arshak Jamalyan, the Armenian ambassador to Georgia at that time and also a participant of the Armenian-Turkish negotiations in Yerevan, described the confession made by Halil Pasha during these negotiations.

“We, the Turks, do not intend to enslave any people, but we have an important idea and we want to implement it. We want to restore the connection with our old homeland, Turan. And for this, we want the routes connecting our two homelands to be free from foreign rule,” said Halil Pasha.

This difficult situation for Armenia changed dramatically after the conclusion of the Armistice of Mudros on October 30, 1918, between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire. As a result, Turkey was forced to accept its defeat in WWI, after which began the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Armenia, which provided Armenia with a real opportunity to expand its borders.

Ruben Shukhyan

This is Meghri
Ancient Meghri Fortress Photo by Grigor Narinyan

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