Slaughter at Gallipoli avoidable, says envoy

 

THE SLAUGHTER at Gallipoli could have been avoided had the British accepted Turkey’s offer to side with them during the first World War, the Turkish ambassador to Ireland has claimed.

Turkey was neutral at the start of the war, but joined in on the German side in late October 1914 after a series of incidents, most notably when two German warships reflagged under the Turkish navy opened fire on Russian seaports.

Altay Cengizer said his country’s entry into the war was the subject of “revisionist thinking” which gave the impression that the Turkish-led Ottoman empire was just waiting for the opportunity to join the Central Powers.

Mr Cengizer, who has an MA in international history from the London School of Economics, will address a conference on Ireland’s involvement in the war this morning at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

His theme will be “diplomacy of the choiceless” which he said was the result of the attitudes of the Entente powers of Britain, France and Russia to Turkey at the start of the war and a promise that Russia had a claim on Istanbul.

“Turkey had no other choice, because it was going to be partitioned by the Entente,” he said.

“Turkey wanted to become allied with the Entente Powers, but the Turkish government at the time was rebuffed because of the desire, mainly of Britain, to keep Russia on its side,” he said.

“When the Liberal, imperialist government of [Herbert] Asquith and [Edward] Grey was in place, they continually turned down Turkish offers. They did not come up with anything meaningful in relation to Turkish neutral status. They underestimated Turkey’s strengths.”

Turkey’s entry into the war led to the disastrous Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 with the loss of hundreds of thousands on both sides, including an estimated 4,000 Irishmen who were killed during the battle. President Mary McAleese visited Gallipoli earlier this year.