Sèvres, Treaty of (1920)

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Peace treaty signed by Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

World War I ended in the Middle East with the signing of the Mudros armistice by the Ottoman Empire on 30 October 1918; but the Middle East was only a small concern of the overall peace negotiations held in France in 1919German issues took precedence.

Each nation and group came with its own agenda. British prime minister David Lloyd George, while mouthing all the proper slogans about goodwill to Middle Eastern peoples, was there to advance the interests of the British Empire. These included British-controlled sea and land routes to India and assurance that no other power be given important strategic areas. French president Georges Clemenceau, compensating for heavy French troop losses, adamantly adhered to each wartime agreement signed by the Allies that would give France a hold on Syria and southern Anatolia. He also hoped for dominance over the Turkish Straits and perhaps over what would become Turkey. U.S. president Woodrow Wilson came with his Fourteen Points.

In addition to the big three, representatives of other concerned nations and groups came to the peace negotiations, including the Hijazis, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, and Zionists. No permanent decision were made in 1919 in this atmosphere of claims and counterclaims.

At the end of 1919, British troops in Syria were replaced by French troops, giving the Arabs the impression that the SykesPicot Agreement would be upheld. In Palestine, anti-Jewish riots broke out. The Arab Syrian Congress elected Faisal ibn Hussein as king of Syria and his brother Abdullah I ibn Hussein as king of Iraq and tensions rose in Iraq and Egypt. Britain realized that a treaty for the Middle East could no longer be postponed and in April 1920 met with France in San Remo, Italy, to forge an agreement on their points of difference. This prepared the way for a peace settlement with the Ottoman Empireand the Treaty of Sèvres was signed on 10 August 1920.

By this treaty, the Ottoman sultan recognized that his Arab provinces were cut off from his empire.
Control over the Straits went to an international commission. Arabia was recognized as independent and a British protectorate over Egypt was acknowledged. Syria and Iraq became provisionally independent under the newly created mandate systemwith Syria to be under the French and to include Alexandretta, Aleppo, Damascus, and Beirut; France could deal with King Faisal as it wished. The state of Iraq was formed under British tutelage, with the province of Mosul attached to those of Baghdad and Basra. Palestine, including both sides of the Jordan river, became a British mandate as well, and the (pro-Zionist) Balfour Declaration of 1917 was written into it. Germany's shares of the Turkish petroleum Company went to France, and Britain got oil-pipeline transit rights across Syria. Britain and France immediately moved into their respective spheres, although the League of Nations mandates did not become effective until 1923.

The Treaty of Sèvres, imposed on the Ottoman government, was never ratifiedbecause of internal Turkish affairsnamely the rise to power of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the overthrow of the Ottoman sultan. Thus the treaty became obsolete and final arrangements were put off until the Treaty of Lausanne, signed in 1923.

see also balfour declaration (1917); lausanne, treaty of (1923); sykespicot agreement (1916).


Hurewitz, J. C., ed. The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, 2d edition. 2 vols. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975-79.

Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 3d edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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Sèvres, Treaty of

views updated May 23 2018

Sèvres, Treaty of (1920) Peace treaty between Turkey and its European opponents in World War I that imposed harsh terms on the Ottoman Sultan. It was not accepted by the Turkish nationalists led by Atatürk, who fought a war for Turkish independence (1919–22). The treaty, never ratified, was superseded by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923).

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