Obrazy na stronie

absence of any specific arrangement on this point, it was obvious that the decision rested with the British Government. One important definition was, however, given to the words “ danger from without." Article VI. of the Convention laid down that, after the ratification by England and Turkey, the Powers, who were parties to the Treaty of Berlin, should be invited to adhere to it. The ultimate execution of the Convention depended, in fact, on its acceptance by the Powers. In a letter attached to the Convention, which was addressed by Sir Henry Wolff to the Turkish Plenipotentiaries, he said : “If, at the expiration of the three years stipulated in the Convention of this day for the withdrawal of the British troops from Egypt, one of the Great Mediterranean Powers shall not have accepted it, Her Britannic Majesty's Government would consider this refusal as the appearance of a danger from without, provided against by Article V. of the Convention, and the means of executing the aforesaid Convention shall be again discussed and settled between the Imperial Ottoman Government and Her Britannic Majesty's Government."

More than this, Article V. provided that if, at any time subsequent to the evacuation, “ order and security in the interior were disturbed, or if the Khedivate of Egypt refused to execute its duties towards the Sovereign Court, or its international obligations,” both the Ottoman and British Governments would have the right to occupy the country with troops, and, moreover, that if, “by reason of hindrances,” the Sultan did not avail himself of his right of occupation, the British Government could none the less take military action on their own account, and that, in that case, the Sultan would “send a Commissioner to remain during the period of the sojourn of the British troops with their Commander.”

So long as the negotiations which were preliminary to the signature of the Convention were going on, the embers of diplomatic opposition smouldered. Directly it was signed, they burst into a flame. M. de Nelidoff, the Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, at once “sent to the Palace his remonstrances, and reproached the Grand Vizier with having gratuitously sacrificed the rights of the Sultan to England. “ Similar language,” Sir Henry Wolff reported on May 27, “had been used to the Turkish Ambassador at St. Petersburg by M. de Giers, who said that Russia would probably refuse her adhesion, and thus act in the interests of the Sultan."

The French Government also took strong exception to the right of re-entry into Egypt, which the Convention conferred on England. On June 7, the Count de Montebello, who represented France at Constantinople, addressed a minatory letter to the Sultan in which he stated that the “ French Government had definitely decided not to accept the situation which would result from the ratification of the Egyptian Convention."

The Sultan was perplexed. On July 9, the Turkish Plenipotentiaries called on Sir Henry Wolff. “They said that the recent language of the French and Russian Ambassadors, both at the Palace and the Porte, had much disturbed the Sultan. His Majesty had been told that if he ratified the Convention, France and Russia would thereby be given the right to occupy provinces of the Empire, and to leave only after a similar Convention had been concluded. France might do so in Syria, and Russia in Armenia. Religious feeling had also been excited in the same direction.”

Under these circumstances, it was asked, could not Sir Henry Wolff “advise as to some formula by which these difficulties might be met ?” Sir

Henry could not advise the distracted Plenipotentiaries as to any formula. He “had exhausted his powers of reference” to Lord Salisbury. What was an unfortunate ruler who was torn hither and thither by rival diplomatists to do? He could at all events fall back upon his favourite device and try to gain time. Ùnder Article VII. of the Convention the ratifications were to be exchanged within one month of the date on which the Convention was signed. The British Government were implored to prolong this period. On June 26, that is to say four days after the prescribed period of a month had expired, the Turkish Ambassador represented to Lord Salisbury that “the Sultan was much fatigued after Bairam,” and wanted time to consider the whole question. A short delay was granted, but the Sultan was still unable to make up his mind as to whether he would or would not ratify the Convention.

Sir Henry Wolff then announced his intention of leaving Constantinople. He at once received a letter from the Sultan's Grand Master of the Ceremonies which was to the following effect: “His Majesty is at this moment occupied with questions of the greatest importance for his Empire. In view of these occupations, which will last all next week, he is anxious_that you should remain at Constantinople until Friday, July 15.” Sir Henry Wolff's departure was according!y fixed for July 15. At 8.30 P.M. of that day he telegraphed to Lord Salisbury : “Just as I am leaving, Artin Effendi has come with a personal message from the Sultan urgently pressing me to stay. I have told him that this is quite impossible. At midnight on July 15, Sir Henry Wolff left Constantinople.

Shortly after he left, the Sultan, through his Ambassador in London, made an unsuccessful attempt to renew the negotiations with the British

Government. He was informed by Lord Salisbury “that so long as the Sultan was so much under the influence of other advisers as to repudiate an agreement which he had himself so recently sanctioned, any fresh agreement would obviously be liable to meet with the same fate as the late Convention."

It should be added that one practical consequence of an unfortunate nature resulted from the Wolff mission. Before that time, the Egyptian administrative machine was sufficiently complicated. Henceforth, an additional complication was added.

A Turkish Commissioner was left in Egypt. When once the negotiations had broken down, there was no plausible excuse for the continued presence in Egypt of a high Turkish official, whose functions could not be defined, whose presence would naturally be resented by the Khedive, and who at any moment might become the centre of intrigue. Moukhtar Pasha was, however, allowed to remain. In spite of his high personal character, the presence of a Turkish Commissioner in Egypt has served no useful purpose, and has at times caused some trouble.

Although the negotiations conducted by Sir Henry Wolff failed to effect their object, the British Government were in a better diplomatic position at their close than they had been at their commencement. They could henceforth point to the fact that they had made an endeavour to come to terms with the Sultan on the Egyptian question; that they had, moreover, succeeded in their endeavour; and that it was no fault of theirs if the Sultan, under the pressure of France and Russia, had refused to ratify an arrangement to which at one time he had agreed. Strong in this argument, the British Government could feel that the Wolff negotiations, although for the time being

unproductive of result, had fortified their position as against both Mohammedan and European critics,

The neutralisation of the Suez Canal, to which allusion was made in Article III. of the Convention of May 22, 1887, formed the subject of further discussion, with results which will now be described.

« PoprzedniaDalej »