Το ζήτημα των νησιών του βορειοανατολικού Αιγαίου στις παραμονές του Α ' Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου : το ελληνικό διπλωματικό δίλημμα

Ιωάννης Δ. Στεφανίδης

Abstract


The conclusion of the Balkan Wars left a number of territorial issues
unsettled. One of these issues concerned the string of the sizeable and fertile
islands which are strewn along the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. In February
1914, the Ottoman government refused to accept the verdict of the European
Great Powers in favour of Greece. Within months, this issue combined with
the persecution of Greek populations in Ottoman territory threatened to
escalate into open conflict. The spectre of war was staved off as the Venizelos
government and the Young Turk regime opted for negotiations, discretely
prodded by London and Berlin. A summit between the Greek Prime Minister
and the Ottoman Grand Vizier failed to take place due to the Austrian attack
on Serbia. As the Great War broke out, Athens and the Sublime Porte resumed their
diplomatic contacts, albeit with widely divergent aims. Venizelos opted for
negotiations after he had failed to secure Serbian and Romanian support, in
case of war over the islands; he had equally failed in his effort to associate
Greece with the Entente Powers. Above all, the Greek Premier wished to avoid exposing his country to the risks of having to fight the Ottoman Empire
unaided. Thus, he was prepared to go as far as recognising Ottoman sovereignty
over the islands of Mytilene and Chios, provided that Greece continued
to occupy them on bail for a number of years. In return, he looked forward
to a satisfactory settlement of all outstanding Greek-Turkish questions,
including a limited exchange of populations, which might even pave the way to
a regional defensive arrangement. Yet the Young Turk regime, having already
allied itself with Berlin, was not particularly interested in a compromise
solution. The Porte demanded outright the return of all the islands to
Ottoman sovereignty and then tried to use the negotiations in order to extract
Greece's unconditional commitment to neutrality in the European conflagration.
As Venizelos steadfastly rejected both propositions, the Young Turks lost
interest and broke off the talks which were taking place in Bucharest. Within
weeks, the Porte joined the war on the side of the Central Powers and the
Greek Prime Minister resumed his efforts to align Greece with the Entente.

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