3267) Ara Papian: Woodrow Wilson’s Arbitral Award Is A Valid And Legally Obligatory Document

Ara Papian © This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com
Ara Papian © This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com Indefatigable analyst of international legal and historical contexts of occupation by the Turks in Armenia, the former Armenian diplomat returns to the response of Woodrow Wilson at the request of the Allies on the western borders of Armenia. Ara Papian finished product on a paradoxical conclusion: it is true that international law can not state enough to settle the territorial dispute is the only guarantor of a permanent and lasting solution. Hopefully this apparent contradiction will soon be clarified by the author.

He recalls well that the disappearance of the Armenian population of the provinces of Western Armenia was weighing an argument in the reluctance of allies to peace conferences to make the vast territories to independent Armenia. Finally, note that since 1920, Azerbaijan saw himself criticized by the United States to have unfounded claims on the Armenian territories.


The Armenian Genocide during the World War I and after went down the history as a crystal-clear example of unpunished crime that reinvented itself in Nazi extermination of the Jews, the Gypsies and the Slavic peoples. The annihilation of an entire civilization that occurred under the apathetic eye of the world at the turn of the XX century ricocheted right into our lifetime with the destruction of innocent people in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The principle of an ignored crime backfired again
. . .

All Genocides have a common denominator – it is brutal and premeditated killing of hundreds of thousands and millions of people, huge loses of cultural values and property. Unfortunately, the Armenian Genocide has something in particular that makes it deferent and it stands separately from all other Genocides. In addition to human loses and destruction of our heritage we lost the most valuable thing that a nation can possess – we lost our Homeland. The Armenian massacres and deportations uprooted men, women and children who were living on their ancestral homeland for several millennia, reducing a once vibrant region into open graves and ghost towns throughout Anatolia and Western Armenia. It is a sad fact that today there are less than 60,000 Armenians left in Turkey. After the 1.5 million killed, the remaining survivors and their descendants are now dispersed throughout the world.

Armenian territorial rights are based upon several international instruments. The most important of them is the Arbitral Award by the United States President Woodrow Wilson, done on November 22, 1920, which by a binding decision and conclusively defined the boundary between Armenia and Turkey. Because of the time constraint, I will not go into details of this document. Especially when the full text of the Arbitral Award in English (more than 240 pages) with detailed notes and indices will come out in Yerevan at the end of next month – on May 28. However, it is important to give the general overview of the Arbitral Award, which we Armenians rightfully consider as the Bible of our territorial rights.

As you may know, the Republic of Armenia declared her independence on May 28, 1918. One and half years after this declaration, on January 19, 1920, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers finally agreed to recognize the government of the Armenian State on the condition that the recognition should not prejudge the question of the eventual frontier.1 The United States recognized the Republic of Armenia on April 23, 1920, on the same condition. By the way, the United States refused to recognize the independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan because of their unlawful claims to Armenian territory.2

On April 26, 1920, the Supreme Council meeting at San Remo requested the President of the United States two things:

1. The United States assume a mandate over Armenia;

2. The President of the United States to make an Arbitral Decision to fix the boundary of Armenia with Turkey.3 As you may know, the Armenian mandate was rejected by Senate vote on June 1, 1920. Nevertheless, the American answer to the second request was positive and on May 17, 1920, the Secretary of State informed the American Ambassador in France that the President had agreed to act as arbitrator.4 For the implementation of the task, the State Department began to assemble a team of experts in mid-July 1920 headed by Professor William Westermann, from Wisconsin University. The state department put together a committee, entitled: “The Committee upon the Arbitration of the Boundary between Turkey and Armenia”. As the Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920, the boundary committee began its deliberations. The fact of signing the Treaty of Sevres is important because the compromis, i.e. the application for the arbitration, is included in the Treaty as Article 89. It must be underlined that the status of the compromis has nothing to do with the status of the main Treaty, thus with ratification or non-ratification of the Treaty. Therefore, as the State Department received the authenticated copy of the Treaty on October 18, 1920, it was sufficient for the President officially to conclude the arbitration without waiting the ratification of the Treaty of Sevres.

On November 22, 1920,5 Woodrow Wilson signed the final award with seven enclosed appendices. So under the Arbitral Award of November 22, 1920, the border between Armenia and Turkey was settled conclusively and without appeal, because, as clearly states The Hague Convention6 (article 54 of the 1899 edition and article 81 of the 1907 edition):7 “The award, duly pronounced and notified to the agents of the parties, settles the dispute definitively and without appeal.” 8

Few words on the content of the Arbitral Award. According to the Arbitral Award, the title and the rights of the Republic of Armenia were recognized on the large part of the provinces of Van, Bitlis, Erzerum and Trebizond. It was less than the half of the territory on which the Armenian title was recognized by the article 24 of the Mudros armistice on October 30, 1918. This drastic cutback was due to far-reaching reduction of native Armenian population, because of the Armenian Genocide.

Now briefly on the most important issue – the present status of the Arbitral Award. As indicates the official Manual of the Terminology of Public International Law of the United Nations, for the arbitral award to be valid it must meet four criteria:9

Criterion 1: The arbitrators must not have been subjected to any undue external influence such as coercion, bribery or corruption;

Criterion 2: The production of proofs must have been free from fraud and the proofs produced must not have contained any essential errors;

Criterion 3: The compromis must have been valid;

Criterion 4: The arbitrators must not have exceeded their powers.

Due to time limits, I will not go into details. However, after assessing Wilson’s Arbitral award against the abovementioned criteria, it can be declared confidently: The Arbitral Award of Woodrow Wilson is still a valid and legally obligatory document, because the indispensable feature of an arbitral award is that it produces an award that is final and binding. By agreeing to submit the dispute to arbitration, i.e. signing a compromis, the parties in advance agree to accept the decision.10 Therefore, in spite of the long-standing occupation, Turkey does not possess any legal title to the territory of Wilsonian Armenia. After the arbitral award of the US President, signed and sealed on November 22, 1920, Turkish presence over there is not more than an administrative control alike of Turkish status in Northern Cyprus. Thus, the presence and all acts taken by the Turkish Republic in the “Wilsonian Armenia” are illegal and invalid, because the belligerent occupation does not yield lawful rule over a territory.

It is true that international law by itself will not be able to bring about a solution for the Armenian-Turkish confrontation. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that international law is the only way to bring about a just and peaceful resolution, thus a durable and permanent solution. The main basis for the lawful solution of long-standing Armenian- Turkish problem are not the infamous Armenian-Turkish protocols, but the Arbitral Award, done over 90 years ago in the capital city of this country by 28th President of the United States of America Woodrow Thomas Wilson.


1 G. H. Hackworth, Digest of International Law, Turkish‐Armenian Boundary Question, vol. I, Chapters I-V, Washington, 1940, p. 715.

2 (H. Lauterpacht, Recognition in International Law, Cambridge, 1947, p. 11. Papers Relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, 1920, v. III, Washington, 1936. p. 778.) [hereinafter – FRUS].

3 The Treaties of Peace, 1919‐1923, (Preface by Lt.‐Col. Lawrence Martin).vol. I, New York, 1924, p. xxxii.

4 Ibid., p. 783.

5 Cukwurah A. O., The Settlement of Boundary Disputes in International Law, Manchester, 1967, pp. 165-166.

6 The 1899 Convention was ratified by Turkey on July 12, 1907. (The Hague Court Reports, op. cit., p. cii).

7 This notion was comprised in article # 54 of the 1899 Convention with slightly deferent wording: “The award, duly pronounced and notified to the agents of the parties [at variance, puts an end to] the dispute definitively and without appeal.”( The Hague Court Reports, op. cit., p. lxxxix).

8 Ibid.

9 Manual of the Terminology of Public International Law, op.cit., § 508, pp. 588‐590. 10 Ibid., p. 27.

14.05.2011 | www.nt.am | Noyan Tapan | Articles and Analyses / www.armenews.com

Ara Papian was born June 6, 1961. Former Ambassador Extraordinary and plénipotenciaire of the Republic of Armenia in Canada, he was Professor of Armenian literature in the Melkonian Institute in Nicosia (Cyprus) in 1981-82, then from 1984 to 1986. Military interpreter / translator in Afghanistan, he is fluent in Armenian, Russian, English and Persian. He holds a diploma from the Department of Oriental Studies of Yerevan State University (1984), Diploma of the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow (1994) and NATO in Rome in 1998. Several diplomatic missions have led the United States in Tehran and Bucharest.


Sukru Server Aya said...

a- The map drawn by W.Wilson as arbiter of Sevres Conference, is dated Nov.22, 1920.

Even before this map was received in Europe, the Dashnakist Armenian Republic which was in her third war (now with Nationalist Turks) surrendered on Dec.2, 1920 and signed the Gumru Alexandropol Peace Treaty. This treaty signed later, revoked all former claims and rights Armenia was given at this Conference which was not recognized from the first day.

b- REALITY: The Woodrow Map was dead before it even reached Europe and Western Powers exerted no desire to enforce it. This is DEAD BORN document which Mr. Papian wants to reincarnate from bones a century later! Waste of valuable time on what was lost a century ago!

S.S. Aya

Calgary, Alberta, Canada said...

Following the defeat of the Armenians the Gumru Treaty was signed on December 2, 1920 between the young Turkish government and the Armenian Republic. Turks gave a provision to allow the relocated Armenians to return to their lands:

Article 3 of the Treaty of Gumru. The Government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey may be able to consider the wishes of the Armenian Republic about the relocation of the entire native population back into the territories designated in the second article, existing in the old Ottoman boundaries which shall remain in Turkey, by irrefutable historical ethnic and legalistic rights, accepts their return by a general election within those territories, within three years after the ratification of this treaty. A mixed commission will decide the form of this.

Article 6 of the Treaty of Gumru. The two parties permit the return of refugees to their hearths across the old boundaries with the exception of those who, during the general war, went to enemy¹s army and took arms, and those who crossed occupied territories and participated in massacres; and mutually assure the privileges of minorities obtained in the most-civilized countries to those who repatriate themselves.

Article 7. Those of the refugees mentioned in Article 6 who do not return to their hearths within the limit of one year after the ratification of this treaty, besides not being able to benefit from the generosity of the said article, their legal claims also will not be heard.

Based on these provisions borders were to be opened to both sides as Turks too were dislocated by Armenians and Russians during the bloody wars of 1914 ¬1920. But such provisions never materialized despite the Turkish effort of giving an "olive branch."

This treaty was also known as "The Treaty of Alexandropol." )
Here is what Armenian historian, Kapriel Serope Papazian (who, unlike Dr. Dennis Papazian, did not shun the truth) had to say (as referred to by Prof.Türkkaya Ataov) in his "Patriotism Perverted" (Boston Baker Press, 1934):

The Treaty of Sevres, which recognized Armenia, was signed on August 10, 1920, by the representatives of the Armenian Republic. "The same men were to repudiate the Sevres Treaty and the claims of Armenians in Turkey by signing the Treaty of Alexandropol on December 2,1920" (p.48). (Holdwater: only four months later. Now, doesn't that take the cake?) Papazian says that the text of this treaty has not been published by those responsible for it, that neither A. Khatisian (the head of the Armenian delegation that signed the Treaty), nor S. Vratzian (the head of the Armenian Government at the time), who have both written voluminous histories of the Armenian Republic, embody the text of the Treaty in their books (p. 74). (Holdwater: Armenians who are trying to withhold facts damaging to "The Cause"? That must have been a first...)
Article 3 of the Treaty states: "As it is evident from Turkish, Russian and all other world statistics, and from the established social situation, we again, on this occasion, confirm that there is no territory within the Ottoman borders where the Armenians form a majority" (pp.74-75). Article 9 said that the Government of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey refrained from demanding indemnities although it had a "right to demand indemnities as a result of the war against Armenia which it has been compelled to wage." Article 11 declared the Sevres Treaty "null and void." The same article stipulated that the Armenian Government undertook ''to withdraw its delegations in Europe and America, that are tools in the hands of certain imperialistic governments and circles." (Holdwater: Why, the Armenians ADMITTED it!!) Article 15 mentioned that the Armenian Republic agreed "to consider as null and void all those stipulations of treaties she has signed with any power, which relate to Turkey and are against the interests of Turkey" (p. 77).

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