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The below transcripts from the Minutes of the San Remo conference contain the original spelling, wording, and punctuation. Note the typographical errors have been preserved as they appear in the original as an historic record and reference.
MINUTES OF PALESTINE MEETING OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE
ALLIED POWERS HELD IN SAN REMO AT THE VILLA DEVACHAN -
APRIL 24, 1920
(Minutes prepared by the British Secretary)
Present: United States of America: Mr. Robert Underwood Johnson, American Ambassador in
Rome; Mr. Leland Harrison, Mr. T. Hart Anderson, Jr. (The United States representatives joined the Supreme Council shortly after the commencement of Minute 2.)
British Empire: The Right Hon. D. Lloyd George, Prime Minister; The Right Hon. the Earl Curzon of Kedleston, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Mr. R. Vansittart, Colonel Gribbon; SECRETARIES, Sir M. Hankey, Lieutenant-Colonel L. Storr.
France: M. Millerand, President of the French Council; M. Bertlielot, M. Kammerer.
Italy: Signor Nitti, Prime Minister (in the Chair); Signor Scialoja; SECRETARIES, Signor Garbasso, Signor Galli, Signor Trombetti, Lieutenant Zanchi.
Japan: Mr. Matsui; SECRETARIES, Mr. Saito, Mr. Sawada.
INTERPRETER: M. Camerlynck.
I. The Frontiers of Turkev, Armenia SIGNGR NITTI said that the first question before the Supreme Council that afternoon was the resumption of the discussion in regard to Erzerum and the boundaries of Armenia. The previous day Armenia Mr. Lloyd George had suggested that a telegram should be sent to President Wilson. He understood, however, that since then there had been some modification in the situation. He himself was personally quite inclined to agree in substance with the proposal put for ward by Mr. Lloyd George.
MR. LLOYD GEORGE said that he had had an opportunity that morning of discussing the question with M. Millerand, who had a suggestion to put before the Supreme Council.
M. MILLERAND said that in the course of the conversation which he had had with Mr. Lloyd George that morning, the British Prime Minister had indicated a solution which he would now put before the council, and to which the president of the council had just alluded. He himself
doubted whether the United States would consent to act in the matter. The last thing they wanted, however, was to revert to the position in which they were left the previous day. He had suggested to Mr. Lloyd George that morning that they should appeal to the United States to take charge of
Armenia. If she refused to do this, to ask her to act as arbitrator and to decide in that capacity whether Erzerum was to be left to the Turks or whether it was to be regarded as neutral or whether it should be handed over to the new Armenian State.
SIGNOR NITTI said that he himself had no objection to raise against this proposal. The Turks, however, had been invited to Paris on the 10th of the following month, and it was therefore necessary that the treaty should, before that date, be in a form in which it could be presented to
the Turkish representatives.
MR. LLOYD GEORGE said that his proposal was that the United States should be asked to accept the mandate for Armenia. If they consented, as he thought the council hoped they would, all that was necessary was to make the necessary provision in the treaty. If they refused, then the
Washington Government should be asked to arbitrate. It might be stated in the text of the treaty that the fate of Erzerum was to be left for the decision of the President of the United States, who would act as arbitrator, and that all the parties would agree to abide by his decision. This, he understood, was the proposal of M. Millerand...
2. Mandates. SIGNOR NITTI said that the next matter before the Supreme Council was the question of mandates for those territories which had been Mandates formerly under Turkish
domination and which it was proposed should, in the future, be administered by the various Principal Allied Powers (A.J. 170).
LORD CURZDN said that the question of mandates over territories which, under the terms of the treaty, were to be severed from Turkish dominion had been under discussion
between the French and the British delegations. Both delegations were in agreement that at this stage it was impossible to introduce into the treaty any clauses defining the exact form of the said mandates, if the treaty was to be presented to the Turks by the 10th May. Further, in the course of the past months the situation in each of the said territories had changed; that is to say, in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria. It was desirable that the forms of mandate for Syria and Mesopotamia should be drawn up by the French and British Governments in mutual consultation and co-operation, and they would then be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations.
Palestine, As regards Palestine, His Britannic Majesty's Government had, two years previously, promulgated a formal declaration which had been accepted by the Allied Powers,
that Palestine was in future to be the National Home of the Jews throughout the world. His information was to the effect that the Jews themselves attached a passionate importance to the terms of this declaration, and that they would not only be disappointed, but deeply incensed if the
pledge given in Mr. Balfour's declaration were not renewed in the terms of the treaty. The Supreme Council had now to consider what should be the exact form that the repetition of this pledge should take. He thought that the only safe plan was to repeat the pledge in the precise form in which it had been originally given. The British Foreign Office had been pressed very closely by the Zionists in order to have the terms of that pledge expanded and improved. He
himself as head of the British Foreign Office, had absolutely refused to go beyond the original declaration, and had said that the fairest thing was to adhere strictly to the original terms. Beyond this the British Government were not prepared to go. He sincerely hoped that the French
delegation would not refuse to adhere to the terms as originally drafted. He understood the French delegation had an alternative draft of the article relating to mandates which they proposed to submit to the council, but he sincerely trusted they would not press its acceptance.
M. BERTHELOT said that he confessed that he was not in entire agreement with all that Lord Curzon had said. It seemed to him the safest plan to adopt was to accept the proposal to submit the question to the League of Nations. In regard to the Zionists he was not again in entire agreement with Lord Curzon, but he thought is [it] was especially important that the council should not go beyond the present proposals. Were they to grant to the Jews all facilities to settle in Palestine and to organise there a theoretical Jewish home? He thought that the whole world
was sympathetic to the aspiration of the Jews to establish a national home in Palestine, and they would be prepared to do their utmost to satisfy their legitimate desires. Nor did the French Government desire at all to stand in the way of Great Britain's wish to give the Jews due opportunity to achieve those passionate aspirations. So far as these were concerned, the French delegation had no objection to offer, and they were prepared to recognise the responsibilities of
the country accepting the mandate. It was essential, however, that there should be no misunderstanding on this question. Was this new projected State, however, to have an entirely different administration from other States? If so, a great difficulty would be created, both with the Mussulman and the Christian world. He could not think that this was intended by His Majesty's Government. As regards Mr. Ba1four's declaration on behalf of the Zionists, had it
been generally accepted by the Allied Powers? He had not the text in front of him, but, so far as his recollection went, it was framed in general terms. But he could not recall that general acceptance had even [ever] been given to Mr. Balfour's declaration by the Allied Powers. He had
no desire at all to embarrass the British Government, but he must state that, so far as his recollection went, there had never been any official acceptance of Mr. Balfour's declaration by the Allies of the British Government.
LORD CURZON thought that M. Berthelot was possibly not fully acquainted with the history of the question. In November 1917 Mr. Balfour had made a declaration on behalf of the Zionists. The terms of this declaration had been communicated by M. Sokolov, in February 1918 to M.
Pichon, who, at that time, was head of the French Foreign Office. He had before him a copy of a letter from M. Pichon, which had been published in the French press, which he would ask the interpreter presently to read out to the Supreme Council. Further, the Italian Government had also expressed its approval of the terms of the declaration, which had, further, been accepted by the President of the United States, and also by Greece, China, Serbia and Siam. He thought, therefore, he was quite justified in saying that Mr. Balfour's declaration had been accepted by a large number of the Allied Powers. Secondly, M. Berthelot had laid stress upon the fact that it was desirable that there should be no misunderstanding at all upon the subject. He quite agreed, but he did not see how any such misunderstanding could arise. He thought it was impossible for the Supreme Council to determine, that day, exactly what form the future administration of Palestine would take. All they could do was to repeat the declaration which had been made in November 1917. That declaration contemplated, first, the creation of national home for the Jews, whose privileges and rights were to be safeguarded under a military Power. Secondly, it was of the highest importance to safeguard the rights of minorities; first, the rights of the Arabs, and then of the Christian communities. Provision was made for this in the second part of the declaration. He submitted, therefore, that, in the interests of those communities to which M. Berthelot had alluded, it was unwise to suppress the second part of the declaration. The position of the British Government was this, that they simply could not exclude it, and they sincerely hoped that in view of the explanation which he had submitted to the Supreme Council, the French Government would not press their objections.
M. BERTHELGT said that he would like to hear Mr. Balfour's declaration read out. As he understood the matter, it appeared that hitherto all M. Pichon had agreed to was to establish the traditional home of the Jews, and it was not in any way evident that M. Pichon had accepted the whole declaration in its entirety.
(The official interpreter then read out the text of Mr. Balfour's declaration.)
SIGNOR NITTI expressed the view that it was useless to go into past history. It appeared to him that in principle the Powers were generally in agreement as to the desirability of instituting a national home for the Jews. The discussion had disclosed the fact that there was a divergence of opinion between the British and French delegations as to exactly what rights were to be reserved for the non-Jewish communities in Palestine. The subject, moreover, raised the whole question of the position of Roman Catholics in the East, which he did not think required a very elaborate solution. It was agreed that Palestine was to be under British control, and on behalf of the Italian delegation he begged leave to submit the following addition to the British text of the mandates:--
'Tout privilège, et toute prérogative vis-à-vis des communautés religieuses prendra fin. La Puissance mandataire s'engage à nommer dans le plus bref délai une commission special pour étudier toute question et toute réclamation concernant les différentes communautés religieuses et en établir le règlement. Il sera tenu compte dans la composition de cette commission des intérêts religieux en jeu. Le président de la commission sera nommé par le Conseil de la Société des Nations.'
He was quite sure that all the members of the Supreme Council present shared the full confidence that he himself felt in the British Government in regard to the safeguarding of the rights and privileges of non-Jewish communities. He himself would like to see the president of the commission, which was proposed by the Italian delegation, to be appointed by the League of
Nations, in order to ensure complete impartiality.
M. MILLERAND said that, as regards Palestine, there were really three questions. The first was that there should be a national home for the Jews. Upon that they were all agreed. The second point was the safeguarding of the rights of non-Jewish communities. That again, he thought, offered no insuperable difficulties. The third was the question of existing traditional rights of non-Jewish bodies, and on that he would like to offer certain observations. He was not precisely informed as to what had transpired during the discussions which Mr. Lloyd George had held with M. Clemenceau on this subject, and no doubt Mr. Lloyd George would give precise information to the Supreme Council. He himself had no objection to the mandate which he understood Great Britain desired to exercise in Palestine. He was quite sure that England would faithfully discharge that duty, and he was equally sure that M. Clemenceau had not contemplated that this mandate should carry with it the renunciation of the traditional rights of the inhabitants of Palestine. What was the question before the Supreme Council that after noon? He understood that in undertaking a mandate for Palestine Great Britain undertook, first, to establish a national home for the Jews in that country, and also not to neglect the traditional rights of the habitants generally.
SIGNOR NITTI said that they were all agreed on the question of establishing a Jewish home there.
SIGNOR NITTI said he wished to interpose for a moment in the discussion in order to inform the council that he had information to the effect that the United States Ambassador at Rome was in the ante-chamber, and had asked to be admitted to the meeting. Hitherto, the representative of the Washington Government in Rome had not received any instructions from his Government to attend meetings of the Supreme Council. He understood that if he attended it would be as an observer only, and not as a representative participant in their deliberations.
MR. LLOYD GEORGE suggested that the United States Ambassador should be admitted to the Council Chamber and that the president of the Supreme Council should ask him exactly what his instructions were.
(At this point the United States Ambassador to Rome and his secretaries entered the Council Chamber.)
SIGNOR NITTI said that he desired, on behalf of the Supreme Council, of which he was president, to offer a cordial welcome to the representative of the United States. He was particularly glad that the United States should be represented at a moment when the Supreme Council was about to take many decisions of very great importance. The Supreme Council were now engaged in discussing the terms of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey, which they hoped shortly would be presented to the Turkish representatives for signature. The trend of their discussions would be gathered by Mr. Johnson from the minutes of the meetings which would be furnished to him. The Supreme Council had just concluded their discussion upon Armenia, and they had agreed that the matter should be referred to President Wilson as arbitrator. The question now occupying the attention of the Supreme Council was the subject of mandates, and their present pre-occupation in the future of Palestine and the Zionists.
M. BERTHELOT, referring to Mr. Balfour's original declaration, quoted the words: 'The mandatory Power will assume the responsibility of establishing a home for the Jews on the understanding that the rights of other communities will be safeguarded.' This, he said, guaranteed the two points referred to by Lord Curzon. He suggested that it might be as well to have Mr. Balfour's statement in its original form translated for the benefit of the Supreme Council. As he had already pointed out, the French Government had never taken official cognisance of Mr.
Balfour's declaration, and M. Pichon's connection with that declaration was, he submitted, somewhat vague.
LORD CURZON said that M. Berthelot could hardly say that M. Pichon was unaware of the significance of the declaration. M. Pichon, in his reply to M. Sokolov, had not only endorsed, on behalf of his own Government, Mr. Balfour's declaration, but had added in his letter: 'Besides, I am happy to affirm that the understanding between the French and British Governments on this question is complete.' With regard to M. Berthelot's second point, where he had suggested words beginning 'Sous réserve des droits politiques . . . . ,' the question of political and existing traditional rights raised an infinite field of discussion. He quite agreed that it was desirable to raise this point, but he thought it was most unwise, and, indeed, quite unnecessary, to raise the question now. It has been agreed by the Supreme Council that the mandate should be submitted to the League of Nations, and he thought that the council should be content at present with merely repeating the terms of Mr. Balfour's original declaration, which had been accepted by the French Government at the time of its promulgation.
M. BERTHELOT said he accepted this, but he disputed the necessity of referring to Mr. Balfour's declaration, which had long been a dead letter.
LORD CURZON indicated his dissent.