The Treaty of Lausanne shattered the Ottoman Empire and gave birth to modern Turkey, both in terms of geography and development, while laying the foundations for the Middle East as we know it. Signed between Turkey and its adversaries, the British, the Greeks and their allies, the Treaty of Lausanne will soon celebrate its centenary. Many conspiracy theorists and common people believe there is a secret clause in the Lausanne Treaty, which is due to expire next year, that allows Turkey to return to its former glory. One thing is sure; Turkey strives to revive and export its neo-Ottoman identity through its public diplomacy using Islam as a central instrument. Whether there is a secret clause or not, Turkey desires some semblance of global prestige from the Ottoman Empire. The tools to achieve this feat include exporting neo-Ottoman identity and accelerating economic growth.
The Treaty of Lausanne was negotiated after the failure of the Treaty of Sèvres. The Treaty of Sèvres was later rejected by the Turkish national movement which fought against the previous terms as well as the substantial loss of Anatolia and adjacent territory. On July 24, 1923, the peace treaty, commonly known as the Treaty of Lausanne, was signed in Lausanne, Switzerland. This treaty ended the war between Turkey and the allied British Empire, the Kingdom of Greece, the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Romania and the Serbo-Croatian-Slovene State and the French Republic, at loggerheads against each other. since the start of the First World War.
The Treaty of Lausanne was an achievement because, with the exception of the Iraqi border, it succeeded in defining all the other borders of the modern Turkish state. This treaty forced Turkey to renounce all claims to the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and in response, the Allies accepted Turkish sovereignty within its final borders. Europe occupied the former Ottoman territories while the French took control of Syria and Lebanon. The British Empire took control of Egypt, Sudan and Iraq. Before handing over to the newborn state of Israel, control of Palestine was handed over to the British authorities. Italy occupied Libya and finally, the Cyprus issue also resurfaced.
The Bosphorus Strait is considered a crucial sea route for transporting oil from Russia and the expanse of the Caspian Sea to regions such as Asia, Western and Southern Europe. The strait is the main oil export course for Eurasian countries. Additionally, this strait is a source of supply for the Greco-Turkish population exchange which allowed unimpeded civilian passage through the Turkish strait. Due to this treaty, Turkey faced more restrictions that prevented it from drilling for gas or oil and diverting its resources from its international routes. Furthermore, it officially declared the demise of the former Ottoman Empire and affirmed the birth of Turkey and reshaped the current borders of the Middle East as well as Arab countries.
This treaty also paved the way for secularism in Turkey. In 1928, Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, amended the 1924 Constitution and introduced secularism/secularism (or secularism), removing the condition that the “state religion is Islam”. Recently, Turkey has been striving to reclaim its heritage and has used several public diplomacy strategies; “Islam” is used as a tool of public diplomacy. Turkey’s foreign policy strategy is a faithful reflection of its Ottoman fantasy. Turkey is expanding its geopolitical options by creating Turkish zones of influence in Central Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East and the Caucasus to gain regional control, support from the Muslim world and make its strong presence felt.
The Ottoman dream aims to create a common individuality among the subjects of the empire and easily endure national and global conflicts caused by both colonization and nationalism. It is not practical for Turkey to regain the Ottoman Empire as it would be a utopian idea. The end of the Treaty of Lausanne could open the way to the Caliphate. But that does not mean that another Ottoman Empire will emerge; instead, the Muslim community will be able to gain a common voice.
A Turkish adage summarizes Turkish history as winning battles but losing at the tables. Turkish armies are believed to be skilled and brave enough to win wars, but their inadequate diplomatic skills have caused them to lose talks, such as international treaties. Turkish public diplomacy is enriched in actors, but not in coordination. No cooperation is observed between academia and practice, mainly because of the domestic element attributed to PD and because of the scarcity of incentives that can help develop research in this field of study. Examining this case study is critical enough to better understand that Turkey’s foreign policy is tilted towards national interests and regional issues. However, some Turkish institutions have been carrying out DP functions for almost a century, which raises apprehensions, especially in the West, where Turkey is reportedly returning to its Islamic roots.
In September 2010, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unveiled a plan during a telephone conversation with a columnist working for the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah. The project he called a “crazy project” is the last 45-kilometer ship canal that passes just west of the two airports; Istanbul on the outskirts of the city, from the Black Sea in the north to the Sea of Marmara in the south. The Istanbul Canal will turn the entire European part of the Turkish city into an island. The Istanbul Canal has the potential to emerge as one of the world’s leading navigation channels as it has a maximum depth for vessels of 17 meters, a length of 45 kilometers and a width of 275 meters.
However, the $15 billion megaprojects are likely to displace millions of people residing on the outskirts of Istanbul to create space for engineering projects. Controversies created by environmentalists, Turkish banks and the opposition are hampering its construction and labeling it an environmental calamity, a total scam that could spark a dispute with Russia. Nonetheless, construction resumed on the planned Istanbul Canal route on June 26, fanning the flames of protest against the project. The Turkish government dismissed the criticism as it believes the Istanbul Canal would be a faster substitute for the Bosphorus Strait, where it currently takes nearly 14 hours for ships to enter. Moreover, Canal Istanbul could turn out to be a huge source of revenue for the government.
International law prohibits the Turkish government from charging profitable tolls on ships that dock in the Bosphorus Strait. A new canal could attract nearly 40,000 cargo ships that use the strait each year (much more than the roughly 19,000 using the Suez Canal), not to mention the 2,000 daily crossings by civilian ships. It could also reduce overcrowding in the Bosphorus Strait. Turkey also establishes friendly diplomatic relations with China, Iran, Russia, Central Asia and Pakistan.
In today’s era, sovereignty is a sensitive issue, and Turkey is unlikely to revive even the Ottoman dream. Nevertheless, the end of this treaty will open the doors of abundance and prosperity to Turkey. The country will be able to drill its oil and impose taxes on the Bosphorus Strait. The Istanbul Canal is capable of replacing the Suez Canal in the near future.
Turkey is undoubtedly an important geopolitical power; its vibrant economy also lends credence to its rich history. After 2023, Turkey will be able to amplify its revenue by imposing a tax on maritime trade passing through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which will help it become a leading economy.
President Erdogan’s concern for Palestinians and Kashmiris has earned him immense respect and the Muslim world sees him as a Muslim leader rather than a Turkish leader. Turkey has always raised the voice of the Palestinians on all international platforms. He also spoke tirelessly for Rohingya Muslims.
Turkey may not revive the Ottoman Empire in a physical sense, although in terms of creating a common identity in the region, Turkish public diplomacy as well as economic growth will play a crucial role.
The author is an analyst and researcher on national and international issues