Investigation“1920-2020: living memory of the treaties of the Great War” (2/4). The carving up of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War remains a deep humiliation for the Turkish people. President Erdogan, by deploying his troops from the Syrian conflict to the Libyan front, intends more than ever to restore the power of his country.
A pact of this importance could not be sealed just anywhere. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his new Libyan ally, Faïez Sarraj, the head of the National Accord Government (GAN), needed a solemn and historic place to sign a memorable agreement, an alliance that could change the strategic situation in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The Dolmabahçe Palace, on the European side of Istanbul, the residence of six sultans once and the last home of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who died there on November 10, 1938, was the place to be. In the old palace cradled by the waters of the Bosphorus, the two men have, on four occasions, between November 2019 and February 2020, shaped the double agreement – security and maritime – that unites them.
It all started on November 27, 2019 under the heavy red velvet curtains in Dolmabahçe. Between Erdogan and Sarraj, meeting behind closed doors, maps have been deployed, those of Libya and the Mediterranean, with new dividing lines. At this precise moment, Faïez Sarraj is in bad shape. Cornered in Libya by the offensive launched by dissident Marshal Khalifa Haftar on his stronghold of Tripolitania, abandoned by the West, he has no other way out than to hang on to the lifeline offered to him by his new ally. .
In return for military and logistical aid in Libya, the government of Tripoli accepts the principle of a maritime delimitation supposed to satisfy Ankara’s ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean. Once his host is gone, Erdogan relishes his victory. “Thanks to this military and energy cooperation, we overturned the Treaty of Sèvres”, he will say during a televised intervention just after Dolmabahçe’s second meeting with Sarraj, on December 16. Erdogan is inhabited by history. He thinks he has revenge to take on her.
Why else mention Sèvres? Signed a hundred years ago, on August 10, 1920, this treaty supposed to organize the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, although null and void, has remained like a plague in the Turkish collective unconscious. The humiliation of Sèvres will quickly serve as a leaven to the resistance movement led by Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, a dissident general in the Ottoman army who organized a national government in Ankara.
Soon, the victories won by the Kemalist forces against the French, Greeks and Italians during the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 will force the occupiers to negotiate a new treaty, signed in Lausanne on July 24, 1923. In opposition to Sèvres, Lausanne symbolizes victory over Western forces, regained honor, national combat. A secular Turkish state then succeeds the multinational Muslim empire.
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