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When the Lausanne Conference convened in late 1922, with British imperialists meeting with Turkish nationalists to re-negotiate the terms of the Treaty of Sévres, both sides were at an impasse. The British wanted to maintain imperial control of former Ottoman lands and ensure the empire did not rise again, and the Turkish nationalists based in Ankara were fighting against catastrophic loss of their lands through partitioning from the outside countries.

At the conference, the Turkish nationalists were represented by Ismet Inönü. When the chairman of the conference, British foreign secretary Lord Curzon, launched into lengthy speeches against the Turkish demands, Mr Inönü simply turned off his hearing aid (and since he was partially deaf already, basically muted the foreign secretary completely). Once Curzon finished his objections to the demands, Inönü restated his original insistences on recognition of the Turkish National Pact as though the British leader had not said a word at all.

Although this technique and his stubbornness exasperated the delegates, it helped the Ankara group win out in the end; when the Treaty of Lausanne was finally signed in July 1923, Turkey was granted full sovereignty and the post-WWI partition and occupation ended. Inönü's performance became "a classic in the annals of international diplomacy" and the term "hearing aid diplomacy" stuck.

Source:
A History of the Modern Middle East by William L. Cleveland, Simon Fraser University, 2004

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