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Italo-Turkish War - 1912 - Peace

On October 1, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece mobilised their forces. Reshid Pasha thereupon arrived in Switzerland from Constantinople with full powers. Eight days later Montenegro declared war on Turkey, and the other States of the Balkan League joined in the war. The position of the Ottoman Empire was critical, assailed by the strong league of Balkan States, with the Italian war unfinished. The Porte nevertheless procrastinated. On October 12 the Italian Government forwarded what amounted to an ultimatum to Turkey, demanding that its terms of peace be accepted within five days, and at the same time the Italian fleet was ordered into the ^Egean. Thus under pressure, Turkey, on October 16, signed the preliminaries of peace. Two days later the Italian and Turkish plenipotentiaries affixed their signatures to the final draft of the Treaty of Lausanne.

By the terms of the treaty Italy acquired the sovereignty over Tripolitana and Cyrenaica. The Italians engaged to evacuate the Dodecanese as soon as the Turkish officials, both civil and military, had left Libya. In view of the fact that the Turkish Government had reason to fear that Greece would seize the islands if Italy evacuated them, no steps were taken to carry out this provision, and Italy still holds the islands. Wide religious freedom was granted by special decree to the populations of Libya, and the complete freedom of worship assured; the name of the Sultan was still to be pronounced in public prayers, and the Sultan was to appoint his representative hi Libya, who was to look after Mohammedan interests.

Thus the war, which had lasted for nearly thirteen months, came to an end. Russia, who throughout the campaign had shown herself friendly to Italian interests, immediately recognised Italian sovereignty over the conquered provinces, followed by the other Powers, except France, who delayed her recognition for several days; a fact which was widely commented upon at the tune. The Turk had been driven out of Africa, and the act of the Italians was a signal for the Balkan peoples to unite and drive him "bag and baggage out of Europe."

Italy had entered the war believing that it would be more of a military promenade than a serious campaign. As time passed, and the war became more costly; as the number of casualties increased, and the expenses of the expedition mounted to unprecedented figures, many Italians expressed concern lest the people become discontented; lest scenes such as were witnessed during the Abyssinian war be repeated. But the Italian people had progressed greatly since those days. The war in Africa was to show that Italians of all parts of the peninsula had attained to a sense of national consciousness. The Italian army had undertaken a difficult campaign abroad on a large scale, and had acquitted itself with great credit. The slowness in the operations and a certain timidity of command were due mainly to political reasons. The Government of Giolitti, which had entered upon the war only after much pressure had been brought to bear, constantly dreaded a serious reverse, which might end in an episode such as accompanied the fall of Crispi. Yet when peace with Turkey was finally concluded, Giolitti, speaking in the Chamber on December 3, 1912, could exclaim with truth:

"The peace which we have concluded, leaves Italy stronger and more respected; it gives her a great colony in the Mediterranean opposite her own territory; it gives her a mission to perform (and it is not a small matter for a great people to have a mission to perform); it gives her, furthermore, as a great Power, full liberty of action. With this full liberty of action in times of difficulty we can provide efficaciously for the defense of our interests, and we can at the same time enforce our authority to protect the legitimate interests of other people."

The Libyan war up to this time had cost Italy 458,000,000 lire (18,320,000.)1 Notwithstanding the fact that the campaign was difficult and casualties relatively very heavy, the Italian people sustained the ordeal with splendid spirit. Nearly 200,000 men had taken part in the fighting, and the patriotism of the Italian people had brilliantly asserted the growth of solidarity and unity throughout the length and breadth of the Kingdom.

The African campaign had, however, again alienated the friendship of the Powers. The inimical attitude of France after the Carthage incident, the sulky mood of the French people regarding the fait accompli when Italian sovereignty over Libya was finally acknowledged, and the harsh British criticism of Italian methods and motives, made a strong impression in Italy. For the Italians had counted on the support and sympathy of France and Great Britain, with whose approval the Tripolitan campaign had been undertaken. The active opposition of Austria and Germany had not surprised the people of Italy, and made them desirous of freeing themselves from the shackles of the Triple Alliance. But Italian leaders believed that the Triple Alliance still served the best interests of peace. Germany was quick to gauge the significance of the dissatisfaction, rife in Italy, with France and Great Britain. To bind Italy more firmly to the Central Empires it was expedient to proclaim unequivocally the strength of the Triple Alliance. Thus on December 7, 1912, eighteen months before the date of expiration, the Triple Alliance was once again renewed.

Italy now entered upon a period of what appeared to be the closest intimacy with Austria-Hungary. Not for many years had there been such a seemingly amicable understanding. Italy supported the Austrian contention regarding the inviolability of Albania. The Italian Government agreed to co-operate with the Dual Monarchy to compel Montenegro to evacuate Scutari; an Austro-Italian Note was handed to Greece, demanding its withdrawal from southern Albania. Yet everywhere Italy was actively safeguarding her interests, compelling the Vienna Government to consider Italian aims.

During the spring of 1913 severe fighting continued to take place in Libya, where the Italians encountered a determined opposition on the part of the Arabs. In Cyrenaica the problem of pacification was extremely difficult, owing to the unruly nature of the population. Fresh troops were despatched to Africa, and engagements took place intermittently throughout the summer with bands of raiding Arabs. On July 2 the King and Queen of Italy, on their way to pay a visit to the Swedish Court, were entertained with much cordiality by William II and the Empress at Kiel. Though no official communication was made, it was known that at this meeting Italian interests in Asia Minor were considered. The Italian Press now for the first time discussed Italy's "Asiatic policy," and three months later it was announced that a group of Italian financiers had been granted a concession to build a railway in southwest Asia Minor, from Adalia on the Mediterranean northwest of Cyprus, to a junction point on the Bagdad Railway.

Meanwhile, the Italians had established themselves firmly in the Dodecanese. At Rhodes municipal improvements had been taken rigorously in hand; city lighting and road building had been speedily pushed forward; a good postal-service was established, and plans were made to open Italian schools, in spite of the fact that France, inspired in part by phil-Hellenic motives, expressed grave concern regarding the continuance of the Italian occupation of the islands. Thereupon Sir Edward Grey, on behalf of the Entente Powers, addressed a formal Note to Italy, demanding the evacuation of the islands hi accordance with her promise. The Triple Alliance replied to this Note, on behalf of Italy, though no definite assurances were given regarding evacuation.

Thus Italy, who two years before had been satisfied to play a negative role in world politics, suddenly found herself in a position of dominant influence. She had possessed herself of Libya in the face of the opposition of nearly all the Powers; she had matched her strength against Austria; assured the integrity of Montenegro and the neutrality of the Otranto Channel; she had furthered the establishment of an independent Albanian kingdom, and thus blocked the designs of Serbia to an outlet to the Adriatic, and prevented the expansion of Greece.

But if on the surface Italy seemed in agreement with her Austrian ally, many incidents showed how precarious were the foundations of their friendly understanding. The Libyan war had aroused afresh the irredentist aspirations of the Italians, while Austria deliberately chose to continue her anti-Italian policy in the Adriatic.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:16 ZULU