The need for clarification
By Ara Papian*
The ninetieth anniversary of the Treaty of Sèvres is an important event for the Republic of Armenia, as well as for all Armenians. There is a widespread opinion, however, which needs to be clarified. Armenian territorial rights are not entirely based on the Treaty of Sèvres. The Treaty of Sèvres did not itself declare the border between Armenia and Turkey. By Article 89 of the Treaty of Sèvres, the parties to the treaty appealed to the US President, for him to carry out the arbitration which would decide that frontier.
Even if the Treaty of Sèvres were not to exist, it would not make any difference; Armenia would have still maintained unquestionable territorial rights, as, on behalf of the Allied Powers (the British Empire, France and Italy), the San Remo Conference had appealed to US President Woodrow Wilson on the 26th of April, 1920 to delimit the Armenia-Turkey frontier, a request which the US President accepted on the 17th of May, 1920. This took place almost three months before the Treaty of Sèvres was signed (The Treaty of Sèvres was signed on the 10th of August, 1920.)
The importance of the signing of the Treaty of Sèvres in terms of territorial rights lies in the fact that, by accepting the document, Turkey acceded to the arbitration compromise, and in so doing, the country reconfirmed its obligation to carry out any arbitral award by the US President.
I emphasize that it reconfirmed the obligation, as, by signing the Armistice of Moudros (on the 30th of October, 1918), which was without question a capitulation in legal terms, Turkey had handed over its sovereignty to the victorious powers and it was they who had the right to decide which part of the territory of the Ottoman Empire would form a new Turkish state.
Consequently, our struggle on the legal front must be based on two documents – the Treaty of Sèvres (of the 10th of August, 1920) and, in particular, the arbitral award of the US President Woodrow Wilson (of the 22nd of November, 1920) derived from that treaty. As to the first, it must be noted that, although it has not been ratified, it is nevertheless a binding document, as it has been signed ‘between the contracting parties’ (vide Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties, Article 2 (f)). As to the second, it is necessary to emphasise the following: (a) the arbitral award is inviolable, it has no time limits and it is a legally-binding decision; (b) although the arbitral award was carried out by the US President, it is nevertheless a binding document for 142 of the 192 current members of the United Nations (due to paucity of space, the details cannot be provided here, but this point has been fully discussed in my strategy paper for a solution to the Armenian Question).
In sum, the following conclusion can be drawn: The clauses of the Treaty of Sèvres having to do with the territorial rights of the Republic of Armenia are still absolutely valid due to the aforementioned documents and, with the corresponding efforts and in the right political climate, they can be put into effect.
*Head of the Modus Vivendi Centre
10 August, 2010