Richard Melson

September 2006


Sykes-Picot Agreement May 16, 1916

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916 was a secret understanding between the governments of Britain and France defining their respective spheres of post-World War I influence and control in the Middle East.

The boundaries of this agreement still remain in much of the common border between Syria and Iraq.

The agreement was negotiated in November 1915 by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton, Mark Sykes.

Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising Jordan, Iraq and a small area around Haifa. France was allocated control of South-eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The controlling powers were left free to decide on state boundaries within these areas.

The area which subsequently came to be called Palestine was for international administration pending consultations with Russia and other powers.

This agreement is seen by many as conflicting with the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence of 1915–1916. The conflicting agreements are the result of changing progress during the war, switching in the earlier correspondence from needing Arab help to subsequently trying to enlist the help of Jews in the United States in getting the US to join the First World War, in conjunction with the Balfour Declaration, 1917.

The agreement had been made in secret. Sykes was also not affiliated with the Cairo office that had been corresponding with Sherif Hussein ibn Ali, and was not fully aware of what had been promised the Arabs.

The agreement was later expanded to include Italy and Russia. Russia was to receive Armenia and parts of Kurdistan while the Italians would get certain Aegean islands and a sphere of influence around Izmir in southwest Anatolia. The Italian presence in Anatolia as well as the division of the Arab lands was later formalized in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 led to Russia being denied its claims in the Ottoman Empire. At the same time Lenin released a copy of the confidential Sykes-Picot Agreement as well as other treaties causing great embarrassment among the allies and growing distrust among the Arabs.

Attempts to resolve the conflict were made at the San Remo conference and in the Churchill White Paper of 1922, which stated the British position that Palestine was part of the excluded areas of "Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus".

The agreement is seen by many as a turning point in Western/Arab relations, as it negated the promises made to Arabs[1] through T.E. Lawrence for a national homeland in the Syrian territory in exchange for their siding with British forces against the Ottoman Empire.

The agreement's principal terms were reaffirmed by the inter-Allied San Remo conference of 1926 April 1920 and the ratification of the resulting League of Nations mandates by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.


1.*Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World,

Director James Hawes. PBS Home Video, October 21, 2003. (ASIN B0000BWVND). Interview with Kamal Abu Jaber, former Foreign Minister of Jordan

External links

Sykes-Picot agreement - text at UNISPAL

Sykes-Picot agreement - Key maps

Versailles Treaty

Article 156 of the treaty transferred German concessions in Shandong,

China to Japan rather than returning sovereign authority to China.

Chinese outrage over this provision led to demonstrations and a cultural movement

known as the May Fourth Movement and influenced China not to sign the treaty.

China declared the end of its war against Germany on September 1919

and signed a separate treaty with Germany in 1921.

The Treaty of Versailles (1919) was the peace treaty which officially ended World War I between the Allied and Associated Powers and the German Empire. After six months of negotiations, which took place at the Paris Peace Conference, the treaty was signed as a follow-up to the armistice signed in November 1918 in Compiègne Forest (which had put an end to the actual fighting). Although there were many provisions in the treaty, one of the more important and recognized required that Germany accept full responsibility for causing the war and, under the terms of articles 231-247, make reparations to certain members of the Allies.

Negotiations started on May 7, the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania.

Terms imposed by the Treaty included Germany losing a certain amount of its own territory to a number of surrounding countries, being stripped of all its overseas and African colonies, and its ability to make war again was limited by restrictions on the size of its military.

Germany also acknowledged and agreed to respect the independence of Austria.

Germany's foreign minister, Hermann Müller, signed it on June 28, 1919.

The treaty was ratified by the League of Nations on January 10, 1920.

Sykes-Picot & Versailles

September 2, 2006