By Prof. Vahakn Dadrian
There are three elements in the new Turkish initiative calling for Attention:
1. The protocol on establishing diplomatic relations stipulates “commitment…for the principles of…territorial integrity and inviolability of frontiers.” It also requires “the mutual recognition of the existing border between the two countries as defined by the relevant treaties of international law.” In other words the stipulation is based on the latter part of the paragraph whose basis is a misconstrued, if not faulty, interpretation of a definition of what it calls “relevant treaties of international law.”
The fact is, however, that “international law” was seriously encroached upon by the signing of these “relevant treaties.” Involved are here: 1. The Treaty of Moscow, signed in Moscow on March 16, 1921 between RSFSR (Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic) on the one hand, and (Kemalist) Turkey, on the other. The other, no. 2, the Treaty of Kars, was signed some seven months later, i.e., on October 13, 1921, between (Kemalist) Turkey, on the one hand, and the three Soviet Republics of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, on the other, with the participation of RSFSR. The cardinal fact is that Ankara’s Kemalist Turkey, the signatory of these twin Treaties, at that time, was not a legitimate, functioning government; rather, it was a rebel, improvised governmental set-up in contest with a then legitimately functioning government in Istanbul, then the official capital of the Empire, and ruled by a legitimate Sultan.
Consistent with this fact, in a series of governmental as well as court-martial decisions, this legitimate authority on May 24, 1920, issued a death verdict against Mustafa Kemal (Takyimi Vekay-i no. 3864), and 12 days later, June 6, 1920, six of the latter’s cohorts, including Ismet (Inonu), were likewise court-martialed in absentia and were condemned to death. Whether or not Sultan’s government was popular, or its policies were deemed prudent or wise at the time, are issues that are irrelevant here. What is paramount and incontestable, however, is the fact that the Sultan was then the sole legitimate and superordinate authority of the Ottoman Empire — in contrast to the rebel character
of the Kemalist government. Accordingly, any agreement, convention or treaty signed with such a government is under international law illegitimate, hence invalid.
Thus, from the vantage point of “international law,” the Treaties of Moscow and Kars are bereft of legality and can, therefore, not be treated as legitimate instruments of negotiations. Moreover, the Moscow Treaty is additionally illegitimate by any standard of international law, for the reason that the RSFSR (Soviet Russia) was then not recognized by any nation-state, it then had almost the same status as the revolutionary, rebellious Kemalist regime. (It was only in 1922 when Germany, as the first nation-state, granted de-jure recognition of the Union at Prapallo). As if these legal deficiencies were not enough, Soviet Armenia, on the insistence of the Ankara government’s representatives,
was excluded from the negotiations in Moscow that culminated in the Treaty of Moscow on March 16, 1921, these Turkish representatives had adamantly objected to inclusion in
these negotiations of any Armenian representative. As a result, the lack of evidence of Armenian participation is one of the most signal features in the protocols of this Treaty. It should be noted in this connection that one of the three Turkish delegates, who prevailed in Moscow for the final drafting of this Treaty, was Colonel, later in the Turkish Republic, Major-General, Sevket Seyfi (Duzgoreu).