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Persia

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of Russian officers at present employed with the Persian Cossacks, and whether he can say if the number has been increased or diminished since the beginning of the year?

The answer to the first part of the question is ten. I cannot say whether there has been any increase or decrease this year.

2.

asked if the Russian consular authorities at Ispahan have Persian Cossacks commanded by Russian officers as consular guards, or is any necessary protection given by the Swedish gendarmerie?

The general rule throughout Persia is that consulates have guards, of the consul's own nationality, and not Persian Cossacks. I have no reason to believe that this rule does not prevail at Ispahan.

3.

asked the Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether he has official information to the effect that a sum of £42,000 belonging to-the Persian Government, and set aside by them for the payment of police and gendarmerie, has been impounded by the Russian authorities, and that in consequence the police are clamouring for arrears of pay and the Swedish officers of gendarmerie are threatening to resign; and, if so, what steps he proposes to take?

It appears that the surplus of the northern customs has been used to meet certain unexpected Russian demands. This has naturally increased the difficulties of the financial situation, but I have no information to show that the failure to pay the gendarmerie has been solely due to this fresh claim on the Treasury. I have instructed His Majesty's Ambassador at St. Petersburg to discuss the whole matter with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Does not this action constitute a serious encroachment on the independence of the Persian Government?

I understand there are certain Russian claims on this particular sum which, according to my information, is not £42,000. But still a big sum has been retained to pay Russian claims, and the point I am raising is that it is very undesirable to press claims on Persia so as to increase her financial embarrassment.

Certainly not. The loan we made is ear-marked for the purpose of the gendarmerie. This is a sum received from the Northern Customs.

4.

asked whether the Russian authorities have signified their intention to permit the removal of Shuja-ud-Dowleh from the Governorship of Azerbaijan by the Persian Government; whether any withdrawal of Russian troops from that province is made dependent upon an increase of the Persian Cossacks commanded by Russian officers by an equal number of men; and whether an augmentation of the Persian (Swedish) gendarmerie in the North must be met by an identical increase of the Cossack Brigade?

I cannot give information as to possible or prospective changes in the Governorship of Azerbaijan. The withdrawal of Russian troops is stated to be dependent on the degree of order in Azerbaijan. The question of an increase in the Cossack Brigade and of strengthening the gendarmerie is still under consideration.

Does not this interference with the prerogative of the Persian Government in dismissing and appointing Governors of districts detract very greatly from the prestige of the Persian Government? Is it not a humiliation?

There has always been a certain amount of influence exercised in regard to the appointments of Governors, but, as I have said, I cannot give any information as to the possible or prospective changes in this Governorship. I do not understand there is any disagreement between the Russian and Persian Governments on this point at the present moment.

5.

asked if the action of the Russian authorities in collecting taxes in Azerbaijan was undertaken at the invitation of M. Mornand, the Treasurer-General; whether the Persian Government, in consequence, wished to dismiss M. Mornand, but were unable to do so because of the opposition of the Russian authorities, and also because of the threat made by the Belgian Government that the dismissal of M. Mornand would be followed by the withdrawal of all Belgian officials now in Persia?

I am informed that the action of the Russian Government was due to a misunderstanding of a suggestion made by M. Mornand. I have no information in the sense of the second part of the question.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the full and exact information is received by the Russian Foreign Office in St. Petersburg concerning the doings of their subordinates in Persia?