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Treaty of Poti

Treaty of Poti

The Treaty of Poti was a provisional agreement between the German Empire and the Democratic Republic of Georgia in which the latter accepted German protection and recognition. The agreement was signed, on May 28 1918, by General Otto von Lossow for Germany and by Prime Minister Noe Ramishvili and Foreign Minister Akaki Chkhenkeli for Georgia at the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti.

Leading Georgian politicians viewed an alliance with Germany as the only way to prevent Georgia from being occupied by the Ottoman Empire, which continued a relentless military campaign against the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, a loose federation formed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in the aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik October Revolution in Russia. On the other hand, Germany was quite ready to exploit the situation to secure its position amid the ongoing World War I and growing German-Turkish rivalry for Caucasian influence and resources, notably the oilfields at Baku on the Caspian and the associated rail and pipeline connection to Batumi on the Black Sea (Baku-Batumi pipeline).

The treaty was signed just two days after the proclamation of the independence of Georgia on May 26 1918 and four days after the fruitless German-mediated peace conference between the Ottoman and Transcaucasian governments was closed in Batumi on May 24 1918. Encouraged by the German mission led by Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein and Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, Georgia withdrew from the federation and declared itself a separate republic. In a desperate quest for an ally and facing a renewed Turkish offensive, the Georgian ministers immediately hurried to Poti where a German delegation headed by Count von Lossow were waiting aboard S.S. Minna Horn. A provisional treaty was signed at Poti on May 28. Georgia was to receive recognition and protection by Imperial Germany. The convention provided among other things for Germany to have free and unrestricted use of Georgia’s railways and all ship available in Georgian ports, for the occupation of strategic points by German expeditionary forces, the free circulation of German currency in Georgia, the establishment of a joint German-Georgian mining corporation, and the exchange of diplomatic and consular representatives. In a secret supplementary letter, von Lossow promised to help in securing Georgia’s international recognition and safeguarding its territorial integrity. Thereupon, the German mission left for Constanţa, taking with them a Georgian delegation composed of Chkhenkeli, Zurab Avalishvili, and Niko Nikoladze, who were entrusted by the Government of Georgia with negotiating a final treaty in Berlin. However, Georgia decisively refused to ally itself with the Central Powers in the war and the protracted negotiations ensued, only to be rendered abortive, by the military defeat of Germany in November 1918.

The German-Georgian cooperation, however unequal and short-lived, proved to be highly beneficial for the young Georgian republic and contributed to its survival in the turbulent year 1918.

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