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Historical Observations: Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Politis’ Statements

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Celebration in 1920 at the Athens Panathenaic Stadium with Eleftherios Venizelos, King Alexander I of Greece, and Themistoklis Sofoulis following the signing of the Treaty of Sevres. Photo: Enosi Demokratikou Kentrou (Democratic Center Union), via Wikimedia Commons

On November 4, 1919, the National Herald published an article under the headline ‘The Duty of France in the East. Turkey Must Leave Constantinople. Paris, September 27, 1919.’ The article, which took up three columns, was originally published in the Paris newspaper Éclair which reported on the statements made by the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikolaos Politis. At the start of the interview, Éclair warmly praised Politis for his patriotism and regarded him as a friend of France. At one time, he was a law professor at the Universities of Paris and Aix in France. One can understand his pro-French position. The Athens newspaper Patridos responded to his statements. I searched various university and public libraries to locate the original articles in Éclair and Patridos without success. I translated the original National Herald piece from Greek into English and any translation errors are my own. 

The article is reproduced in full below:

“Greece says M. Politis is already going through a period of anxiety. It was the common action of Tittoni and Venizelos who restored excellent relations between Italy and Greece. However, we are obliged to give up all our outstanding issues that remain on hold. And that adds a heavy burden for us.

The other forces demobilized while we are obliged to continue our mobilization, and, without prejudice to friendly advice, to increase our force from the time of the ceasefire. We landed in Smyrna at the behest of the allies, but we are the only ones who suffer the consequences of the occupation. On the other hand, our entire army is located on the Bulgarian border.

The daily expenses for the army amount to four million. We have spent about one billion on the army alone, the attitude of the allied forces towards Turkey has changed significantly in recent months. And they wonder if they should liberate the peoples under Turkish rule. However, the expulsion of the Turks from Europe is only a means of pacifying the east.

And, sadly, the allies in France are favoring Turkey. It seems that the allies will repeat the same mistakes in the east, as they did in the 19th century. But they must be careful. Germany will colonize Russia and I fear that it will start its imperialist policy in Turkey.

Politis doubts whether America will accept the mandate for Constantinople. America’s decision is one of indecision. The allies should throw out the Sultan the day after the signing of the peace treaty and trust Constantinople to a temporary international commission.

If tomorrow Venizelos and I returned to Greece announcing to the Greek people the retention of the Sultan in Constantinople is a done deal, your position would be very difficult.

And our words would not be appreciated when we try to justify to our nation the stance of France. After all, our ties and connections with France stretch over a very long time.

Fortunately, he adds, French officials have not yet given a definitive opinion on Eastern issues. The Greeks of the east did not lose hope. We expect a lot from the friendship and the broad perspective of Mr. Clemenceau, that many times they provided us with indications of his stable friendship.

Mr. Politis advised the French industrialists to turn their gaze to the east, instead of Germany. Commenting on his statement, Eclair expresses the hope that France would not jeopardize Greece's influence respectively for the sake of satisfying private interests.

Eclair continues to write that she will not fail to return to pushing the French government to a solution favorable to the aspirations of our Greek friends and the development of France's prestige and material prosperity.

According to official information, it is said that keeping Turkey in Europe would be a mistake if not irreparable. If the eastern issue is not resolved now, world peace will be jeopardized. The rise of the neo-Turkish party prevails again, making it difficult for Turkey to compromise.

Politis, referring to this week’s events in Constantinople says: but we cannot stop worrying about the fate of 300,000 Greeks in Constantinople and the surrounding area. Maintaining the old doctrine of Turkey’s integrity would be, in our view, a further denial of hope and a serious consequence.

This policy will not serve to protect private interests and does not have the common interest of France in the East. The interests of France go hand in hand with the Greeks’. Greece freely and strongly cannot contribute to France’s prosperity.

M. Politis stressed that the solution to the Turkish issue requires a long period, due to the stagnation of trade in the East.