Lord Curzon’s letter from Lausanne
24 July 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey commonly referred to as the Treaty of Lausanne which ended the war between the Allies and Turkey [now known officially as Türkiye/the Republic of Türkiye]. It was the final Treaty of the First World War.
Front cover of the Treaty of Lausanne 1923 Mss Eur F112/280/2
One of the issues on the table at the Lausanne conference was the question of Mosul – whether the city and its province should become part of the new Republic of Turkey or the British mandate of Iraq.
‘The Question of Mosul’ Mss Eur F112/294, f 237
Mosul had been occupied by the British at the end of the war. The head of the British delegation was the Foreign Secretary and former Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. He was adamant about the importance of retaining Mosul; the final decision to change the British Navy’s fuel from coal to oil was taken during the war.
The importance of controlling the development of the Mosul oil field Mss Eur F 112/294, f 10
Curzon resisted Turkish attempts to settle the matter at the Lausanne conference. He wrote from the Hotel Beau Rivage to General Mustafa İsmet İnönü Pasha, the leader of the Turkish delegation, that Mosul ‘is under a Mandate administered by Great Britain, which I have had the honour to inform you repeatedly that I am not in a position to surrender’.
Instead, the question of Mosul was pushed onto to the League of Nations whose committee ruled that Mosul should be part of the new British-controlled mandate of Iraq. In 1926, the ‘Brussels Line’ was drawn as the boundary of Iraq, and Iraq agreed to pay Turkey 10 per cent royalties on Mosul’s oil resources for 25 years.
Map of the Mosul area IOR/L/PS/20/C204, f 34 ‘Map No. 3’
Curzon’s instinct turned out to be prescient as oil in vast quantities was discovered in Kirkuk in 1927.
The Hotel Beau Rivage still welcomes international guests to the shores of Lake Geneva today.
Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen, The Middle East in the First World War (Hurst, 2014)
Jonathan Conlin and Ozan Ozavci (eds) They All Made Peace – What is Peace? The 1923 Lausanne Treaty and the New Imperial Order, (Ginko, 2023)
The Lausanne Project – the New Middle East, 1922-23
Francis Owtram, ‘Oil, the Kurds and the Drive for Independence: An Ace in the Hole or a Joker in the Pack’, in A. Danilovich (ed) Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle East Politics (Routledge, 2016)