This Day In History: The Ottoman Turks Seek Peace With The Allies (1918)

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On this date in history the Ottoman Turkish government, known as the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) or Young Turks, began to enter negotiations with the allies. Previously, they have been convinced that their allies would win the war. The believed that Germany would defeat the allies in the west.  They were living in a fantasy. In late September, the Bulgarians sought to surrender under terms to the allies after their defeat on the Macedonian Front. Then the Turks learned that the Germans were also considering seeking an armistice with the allies after a series of set-backs on the western front.

The CUP was in a state of shock and they felt that they have been lied to by the army commander Enver Pasha who had stated that Turkey and the other Central Powers were winning! The Turks feared that they would be cut off and invaded from the Balkans now that Bulgaria was out of the war. In particular, they feared that Constantinople would be besieged by the allies who could march on the Turkish Capital now that Bulgaria was no longer in the war. The Ottomans were also running low on fuel and ammunition and if Germany surrendered they would effectively have no supplies. Members of the government later claimed that if they had known the state of the war that they would have sought a peace much earlier. The government decided to resign en masse and this was a sign to the allies that the country wanted to negotiate. A new Vizier or prime minister was appointed and he was under orders from the Sultan to secure a peace with the allies.

On this date in 1918, the new Ottoman government sent Charles Townshend, a British general and POW, to approach the British. This General was captured in modern day Iraq, then known as Mesopotamia. He had led a British army into Mesopotamia and had  seized Baghdad but eventually he and his army were surrounded  by the Turks and much of it later surrendered at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia in the spring of 1916. Townsend had surrendered wit the majority of his men in 1916. He had lived in a house in Constantinople and had become friendly with members of the elite and he was seen as an ideal envoy by the Turks. Townsend was sent by boat to the island of Mitylene in the Aegean Sea. He relayed the Turkish government’s terms and conditions to British diplomats. He told them that the Turks wanted to negotiate a peace deal but that they were also prepared to fight on. The Turks government demanded that they majority of their territories be retained by them and also possibly to receive some new territories in the Caucasus. However, the British were in no mood to give generous terms to  the Turkish government as they and their allies, the French were in a strong position. General Allenby had seized Jerusalem and Damascus and their Arab allies had seized most of the old Ottoman lands in Arabia.

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General Townsend army in Iraq in 1916

The British and the French took their time to negotiate an armistice and it was not until the 30th of October that the actual armistice was signed. In the aftermath of the armistice, the Ottoman Empire fell into near anarchy and order was only restored under the government of Ataturk.  The Ottoman Empire was partitioned between the British and the French. The armistice was the end of the Ottoman centuries-old domination of the Middle East and a new era in the regions history was ushered in.

 

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