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San Remo conference

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Delegates to the Conference standing outside Villa Devachan, from left to right: Matsui, Lloyd George, Curzon, Berthelot, Millerand, Scialoja, Nitti

The San Remo conference was an international meeting of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council as an outgrowth of the Paris Peace Conference, held at Villa Devachan in Sanremo, Italy, from 19 to 26 April 1920. Resolutions passed at this conference determined the allocation of Class "A" League of Nations mandates for the administration of former Ottoman three territories in the Middle East: Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia. Whilst Syria and Mesopotamia were provisionally recognized as states, Palestine was not.[1]

The boundaries of the three territories were left unspecified, to "be determined by the Principal Allied Powers."[1] Three months later, in July 1920, the French defeat of the Arab Kingdom of Syria state precipitated the British need to know 'what is the "Syria" for which the French received a mandate at San Remo?' and "does it include Transjordania?"[2] – it subsequently decided to pursue a policy of associating Transjordan with the mandated area of Palestine without adding it to the area of the Jewish National Home[3][4][5][6] – and the French proclaimed Greater Lebanon and other component states of its Syrian mandate on 31 August 1920. The boundaries were not finalized until four years later.

It was attended by the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I who were represented by the prime ministers of Britain (David Lloyd George), France (Alexandre Millerand), Italy (Francesco Nitti) and by Japan's Ambassador Keishirō Matsui.



During the meetings of the Council of Four in 1919, British Prime Minister Lloyd George stated that the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence was the basis for the Sykes–Picot Agreement, which proposed an independent Arab state or confederation of states.[7] In July 1919 the parliament of Greater Syria had refused to acknowledge any right claimed by the French Government to any part of Syrian territory.[8]

On 30 September 1918 supporters of the Arab Revolt in Damascus declared a government loyal to Sharif Hussein, who had been declared "King of the Arabs" by religious leaders and other notables in Mecca.[9] On 6 January 1920 the then Prince Faisal initialed an agreement with French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau which acknowledged "the right of the Syrians to unite to govern themselves as an independent nation".[10] A Pan-Syrian Congress, meeting in Damascus, had declared an independent state of Syria on 8 March 1920.[11] The new state included Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and portions of northern Mesopotamia which had been set aside under the Sykes–Picot Agreement for an independent Arab state or confederation of states. Faisal was declared the head of state. At the same time Prince Zeid, Faisal's brother, was declared regent of Mesopotamia.


The San Remo conference was convened following Conference of London (1920) and the proclamation on 8 March 1920 by the Syrian National Congress of an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria. It was attended by the prime ministers of Great Britain, France, and Italy, and representatives of Japan, Greece, and Belgium.[12]

Several issues were addressed: a peace treaty with Turkey, League of Nation mandates in the Middle East, Germany's obligations under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919, and the Allies' position on Soviet Russia.[13]

Great Britain and France agreed to recognize the provisional independence of Syria and Mesopotamia, while claiming mandates for their administration. Palestine was included within the Ottoman administrative districts of southern Syria comprising the mutessarriflik of Jerusalem and part of the vilayets of Beirut and Syria.[14].

For France, the San Remo decision meant that most of its claims in Syria were internationally recognized and relations with Faisal were now subject to French military and economic considerations. The ability of Great Britain to limit French action was also significantly diminished.[15] France issued an ultimatum and intervened militarily at the Battle of Maysalun in July 1920, deposing the Arab government and removing King Faisal from Damascus in August 1920. In 1920, Great Britain appointed Herbert Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel as high commissioner and established a mandatory government in Palestine that remained in power until 1948.[16]

Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant, which contained the general rules to be applied to all Mandated Territories, was written two months before the signing of the Versaille Peace Treaty. It was not known at that time to which territories paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 would relate. The territories which came under the regime set up by this article were three former parts of the Ottoman Empire and seven former overseas possessions of Germany referred to in Part IV, Section I, of the treaty of peace. Those 10 territorial areas were originally administered under 15 mandates.[17]


The decisions of the San Remo conference confirmed the mandate allocations of the First Conference of London (February 1920). The San Remo Resolution adopted on 25 April 1920 incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It and Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations were the basic documents upon which the British Mandate for Palestine was constructed. Under the Balfour Declaration, the British government had undertaken to favour the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. Britain received the mandate for Palestine and Iraq; France gained control of Syria, including present-day Lebanon. Britain and France also signed the San Remo Oil Agreement, whereby Britain granted France a 25 percent share of the oil production from Mosul, with the remainder going to Britain[18] and France undertook to deliver oil to the Mediterranean. The draft peace agreement with Turkey signed at the conference became the basis for the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. Germany was called upon to carry out its military and reparation obligations under the Versailles Treaty, and a resolution was adopted in favor of restoring trade with Russia.[13]

Asserting that not all parts of the Middle East were ready for full independence, mandates were established for the government of three territories: Syria and Lebanon, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Palestine. In each case, one of the Allied Powers was assigned to implement the mandate until the territories in question could "stand alone."

Anniversary celebrationsEdit

"Zionist Rejoicings. British Mandate For Palestine Welcomed", The Times, Monday, 26 April 1920, following conclusion of the conference.

In 2010, a panel discussion was held in San Remo on the subject of the conference's legal significance for the status of Israel and Jerusalem under international law. Panel participants included Deputy Speaker of the Knesset MK Danny Danon and Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein.[19]

Text of ResolutionEdit

The resolution per the conference minutes, 25 April 1920

San Remo Resolution – 25 April 1920

It was agreed –

(a) To accept the terms of the Mandates Article as given below with reference to Palestine, on the understanding that there was inserted in the procès-verbal an undertaking by the Mandatory Power that this would not involve the surrender of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the non-Jewish communities in Palestine; this undertaking not to refer to the question of the religious protectorate of France, which had been settled earlier in the previous afternoon by the undertaking given by the French Government that they recognized this protectorate as being at an end.

(b) that the terms of the Mandates Article should be as follows:

The High Contracting Parties agree that Syria and Mesopotamia shall, in accordance with the fourth paragraph of Article 22, Part I (Covenant of the League of Nations), be provisionally recognized as independent States, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The boundaries of the said States will be determined, and the selection of the Mandatories made, by the Principal Allied Powers.

The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust, by application of the provisions of Article 22, the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the Principal Allied Powers, to a Mandatory, to be selected by the said Powers. The Mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on the 8th [2nd] November, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

La Puissance mandataire s’engage à nommer dans le plus bref delai une Commission speciale pour etudier toute question et toute reclamation concernant les differentes communautes religieuses et en etablir le reglement. Il sera tenu compte dans la composition de cette Commission des interets religieux en jeu. Le President de la Commission sera nommé par le Conseil de la Societé des Nations. [The Mandatory undertakes to appoint in the shortest time a special commission to study any subject and any queries concerning the different religious communities and regulations. The composition of this Commission will reflect the religious interests at stake. The President of the Commission will be appointed by the Council of the League of Nations.]

The terms of the mandates in respect of the above territories will be formulated by the Principal Allied Powers and submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for approval.

Turkey hereby undertakes, in accordance with the provisions of Article [132 of the Treaty of Sèvres] to accept any decisions which may be taken in this connection.

(c) Les mandataires choisis par les principales Puissances alliés sont: la France pour la Syrie, et la Grande Bretagne pour la Mesopotamie, et la Palestine. [The officers chosen by the principal allied Powers are: France for Syria and Great Britain for Mesopotamia and Palestine.]

In reference to the above decision the Supreme Council took note of the following reservation of the Italian Delegation:

La Delegation Italienne en consideration des grands interêts economiques que l’Italie en tant que puissance exclusivement mediterranéenne possède en Asie Mineure, reserve son approbation à la presente resolution, jusqu’au reglement des interêts italiens en Turquie d’Asie. [The Italian delegation, in view of the great economic interests that Italy, as an exclusively Mediterranean power, possesses in Asia Minor, withholds its approval of this resolution until Italian interests in Turkey in Asia shall have been settled.][20]


United States of America:

British Empire:





  • Gustave Henri Camerlynck

Source: "San Remo Peace Conference Minutes". Office For Israeli Constitutional Law. 25 April 1920. Retrieved 23 April 2018.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b John Quigley (6 September 2010). The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict. Cambridge University Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-139-49124-2. The provision on Palestine thus read differently from the provision on Syria and Mesopotamia and omitted reference to any provisional recognition of Palestine as an independent state. The provision on Palestine read differently for the apparent reason that the mandatory would administer, hence the thrust of the provision was to make that point clear. In any event, the understanding of the resolution was that all the Class A mandates were states. Before leaving San Remo, Curzon telegraphed a memorandum to the Foreign Office in London to explain the San Remo decisions. In explaining to the Foreign Office how the boundaries between the mandate territories would he fixed, Curzon wrote that "[t]he boundaries of these States will not be included in the Peace Treaty [with Turkey] but are also to be determined by the principal Allied Powers."
  2. ^ Hubert Young to Ambassador Hardinge (Paris), 27 July 1920, FO 371/5254, cited in King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan, Mary Christina Wilson, Cambridge,1988, ISBN 0-521-32421-1, page 44
  3. ^ A telegram from Earl Curzon to Sir Herbert Samuel, dated 6 August 1920 stated: "I suggest that you should let it be known forthwith that in the area south of the Sykes-Picot line, we will not admit French authority and that our policy for this area to be independent but in closest relations with Palestine;" (in Rohan Butler et al., Documents of British Foreign Policy, 1919–1939, first series volume XIII London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1963, p. 331.) Karsh writes that at the same time Curzon instructed Vansittart to leave the eastern boundary of Palestine undefined, stating: "His Majesty's Government are already treating 'Trans-Jordania' as separate from the Damascus State, while at the same time avoiding any definite connection between it and Palestine, thus leaving the way open for the establishment there, should it become advisable, of some form of independent Arab government, perhaps by arrangement with King Hussein or other Arab chiefs concerned."Karsh, Efraim; Karsh, Inari (1 January 2001). Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923. Harvard University Press.
  4. ^ Wilson, Mary (1990). King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan. p. 44. Retrieved 26 Feb 2012. Since the end of the war the territory north of Ma'an had been ruled by Damascus as a province of Faysal's Kingdom of Syria. Although it fell within the British zone according to the Sykes-Picot agreemen, Britain was content with the arrangement because it favoured Arab rule in the interior and Faysal was, after all, British protege. However, when France occupied Damascus the picture changed dramatically. Britain did not want to see France extend its control southward to the borders of Palestine and closer to the Suez Canal.... It suddenly became important to know 'what is the "Syria" for which the French received a mandate at San Remo?' and 'does it include Transjordania?'... The British foreign secretary, Lord Curzon, decided that it did not and that Britain henceforth would regard the area as independent, but in 'closest relation' with Palestine.
  5. ^ Wilson, Mary (1990). King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan. pp. 46–48. Retrieved 26 Feb 2012. Samuel then organised a meeting of Transjordanian leaders at Salt on 21 August, at which he would announce British plans... On 20 August Samuel and a few political officers left Jerusalem by car, headed for the Jordan river, the frontier of British territory at that time. ‘It is an entirely irregular proceeding,’ he noted, ‘my going outside my own jurisdiction into a country which was Faisal's, and is still being administered by the Damascus Government, now under French influence. But it is equally irregular for a government under French influence to be exercising functions in territory which is agreed to be within the British sphere: and of the two irregularities I prefer mine.’... The meeting, held in the courtyard of the Catholic church, was attended by about 600 people..... Sentence by sentence his speech describing British policy was translated into Arabic: political officers would be stationed in towns to help organise local governments; Transjordan would not come under Palestinian administration; there would be no conscription and no disarmament......On balance, Samuel's statement of policy was unobjectionable. Three things feared by the Arabs of Transjordan – conscription, disarmament, and annexation by Palestine - were abjured.... The presence of a few British agents, unsupported by troops, seemed a small concession in return for the protection Britain's presence would afford against the French, who, it was feared, might press their occupation southward... Samuel returned to Jerusalem well pleased with the success of his mission. He left behind several officers to see to the administration of Transjordan and the maintenance of British influence.
  6. ^ Wasserstein, Bernard (2004). Israel and Palestine: Why They Fight and Can They Stop?, pp. 105–106."Palestine, therefore, was not partitioned in 1921–1922. Transjordan was not excised but, on the contrary, added to the mandatory area. Zionism was barred from seeking to expand there – but the Balfour Declaration had never previously applied to the area east of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because the myth of Palestine's 'first partition' has become part of the concept of 'Greater Israel' and of the ideology of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement."
  7. ^ "The Council of Four: minutes of meetings March 20 to May 24, 1919", pages 1 thru 8
  8. ^ King Husain and the Kingdom of Hejaz, Randall Baker, Oleander Press, 1979, ISBN 0-900891-48-3, page 161
  9. ^ Jordan: Living in the Crossfire, Alan George, Zed Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84277-471-9, page 6
  10. ^ Britain, the Hashemites and Arab Rule, 1920–1925, by Timothy J. Paris, Routledge, 2003, ISBN 0-7146-5451-5, Page 69
  11. ^ King's Complete History of the World War, William C. King, The History Associates, 1922, page 665
  12. ^ Britannica online: San Remo Conference: Retrieved 18 May 2013
  13. ^ a b Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism, eds. James Stuart Olson, Robert Shadle
  14. ^ Geographical Dictionary of the World in the early 20th Century. Logos Press, New Delhi, 1906. ISBN 8172680120
  15. ^ France in Syria: The abolition of the Sharifian government, April–July 1920
  16. ^ Herbert Samuel and the Palestine Problem
  17. ^ FRUS, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, Volume XII Treaty Of Versailles, Annotations Of the Text
  18. ^ The Journal of International Relations, Vol. 11, 1921, p. 329
  19. ^ 90 years after San Remo, MK Danon vows to 'raise awareness of Israel's rights under int'l law', Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Jerusalem Post
  20. ^ San Remo Resolution-Palestine Mandate 1920, MidEastWeb

Further readingEdit

  • Fromkin, David (1989). A Peace to End All Peace. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Stein, Leonard (1961). The Balfour Declaration. London: Valentine Mitchell.
  • "Conferees Depart from San Remo", New York Times, April 28, 1920, Wednesday. "CONFEREES DEPART FROM SAN REMO; Millerand Receives Ovation from Italians on His Homeward Journey. RESULTS PLEASE GERMANS; Berlin Liberal Papers Rejoice at Decision to Invite Chancellor to Spa Conference."

External linksEdit