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Alexandretta is Syrian

Patrick Seale: that "by disregarding its pledge to protect the integrity of Syria, France had committed a flagrantly immoral political act.”

Alexandretta covers an area of 4.805 square kilometers of the Levant coast along the Eastern Mediterranean. It is located on the Western section of what is known as the 'Syrian Saddle'. Its port (namely, the port of Alexandretta) is said to be "the first natural harbour in the Eastern Mediterranean". It offers safe anchorage for large ships in a gulf over 35miles in length. Furthermore, it is "the natural outlet for the vasthinterland of Aleppo and the Upper Euphrates valley and is connected by rail with Osmanich(Ottoman Empire) and thus with the main lines running west to Ankaraand Istanbul, east to Baghdad, and south, through Aleppo, Damascus and Haifa, to the Suez Canal". Within the boundaries of the sanjak (administrative division) of Alexandretta, however, lie, in addition to the port of Alexandretta, the ancient historical town of Antioch (Antakya) that has become the sanjak's capital; the fertile valley of the Orontes; and the Southern section of the Amanus Range.

 

Historically, the city of Alexandretta was founded by Alexander the Great to commemorate his victory over Darius III at Issus in 333B.C. It was built on a coastal strip of sand and shingle about 1/2 mile wide near the Phoenician town of Myriandrus. It was designed as a great caravan centre, but was soon surpassed in that respect by Antioch. In the third century A>D, the Persians destroyed it, but it was rebuilt by Wathiq, a grandson of Harun al-Rashid in the ninth century. Its old history is best summarized in an article written by Syjak Adam in 1937. At Alexandretta, Adam wrote, "the winds whisper, not of Celtic Saint and highland Cheiftain, but of Alexander of Macedon, and the fierce feuds of Roman and Persian, Egyptian and Seleucid, Byzantine and Arab, Turk and Armenian, not to mention the Prophet Jonah, spewed shore hereabouts from the whale's belly. Old as ages, and wild and savage is the history of the land.”

Turkey annexed Alexandretta in 1939, when Syria was under the French mandate. France was in a difficult situation due to the deteriorating international situation. Her main concern at the time was her own security in Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean where she was facing the Italian menace. Turkey, on the other hand, was in a better situation than France. She was advantaged by her strategic position and diplomatic strength resulting from her sovereignty over the Straits since the Montreux Convention of 1936. Recognizing the opportunity to exploit the dangerous international situation, Turkey began to exert pressure on France claiming that the Turkish element constituted the 'vast majority' in Alexandretta and demanding a series of concessions in this sanjak, until in July 1939, France agreed to cede the territory to Turkey. In this context, Sanjian Avedis(1) commented on France's political and military weakness and the factors which determined her to cede Alexandretta. He wrote:

“Containment of the axis in Europe and guarantees for the security of the Dardanelles were more urgent requirements for her own security than the 'expendable' Sanjak of Alexandretta. It was certainly this basic conflict in France's obligations at home and abroad which was so carefully exploited by Turkey.”

Juristically , the Franco-Turkish compromise violated a number of international agreements governing Alexandretta. One of these agreements was the Charter of the Mandate which stipulated that:

“the Mandatory [France] shall be responsible for seeing that no part of the territory of Syria and Lebanon is ceded or leased or in any way placed under the control of a foreign Power.”

Other agreements included: a) the "Franklin-Bouillon Agreement", signed in Ankara between France and Turkey on October 20,1921, which guaranteed a special administrative regime for this Syrian territory; b) the Covenant of League(article 22); c) the 'de Jouvenel Agreement' signed between France and Turkey on May 30, 1926; d) the Treaty of Lausanne; and the decisions of the League Council of 1937, "which had reaffirmed the Sanjak's distinct status within the Syrian political framework.

"France", as an international jurist, M. Georges Scelle, remarked, "committed an illegal act, by disposing of territory in which she had not a free hand". By the same token, (2) Patrick Seale pointed out that "by disregarding its pledge to protect the integrity of Syria, France had committed a flagrantly immoral political act." In short, As Britain by virtue of Balfour Declaration sacrificed a part of southern Syria(Palestine), in 1917, to return a favour to the Zionists, in the same way France sacrificed another part of northern Syria (Alexandretta) to appease Turkey.

Turkey, will one day  be forced to withdraw from Syrian territory which it occupies, because the Syrian Arab Army and its allies will not accept anything but the full liberation of Syrian Arab territory, which has been occupied by aggressor nations that are either directly engaged in this war or through terrorist takfiri groups who work as proxies for them. After that, Turkey will have to withdraw from Alexandretta which has been historically occupied and which the Syrian state will not allow to remain occupied.

(1)         Avedis K. Sanjian

 Professor of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures, Emeritus

(2) Seale, Patrick Assad of Syria, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 28

Haifaa mafalani

 

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