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Sykes–Picot Agreement (1916)


World War I document of 1916 that would have divided the Middle East into British and French spheres.

The SykesPicot Agreement was one of the pivotal diplomatic documents of World War I concerning the Middle East. It was negotiated in secret at the end of 1915 by Sir Mark Sykes of Great Britain and Georges François Picot of France, with full knowledge by their respective foreign ministries. It provided for a partition of the Middle East into French and British spheres.

The French were to have direct control of Syria, Lebanon, and Cilicia plus a zone of influence extending east from Damascus and Aleppo through Mosul. The British were granted direct control of the Mesopotamian provinces (now Iraq) of Baghdad and Basra as well as a zone of influence extending from Basra to Palestine. Palestine was itself to be placed under international administration.

Under the subsequent AngloRussianFrench Agreement of 1916, the Russians adhered to Sykes Picot after extensive discussions between Sykes and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazanov. In return for their support, the Russians were granted direct control over much of eastern Anatolia. In a successful attempt at embarrassing the coalition, the terms of the AngloRussianFrench Agreement were made public by the Bolsheviks in the spring of 1918. The Arabs claimed that SykesPicot contradicted promises made to them by the HusseinMcMahon Correspondence, and the Jews claimed that it contravened the Balfour Declaration. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson wished to annul SykesPicot, and even Sykes soon repudiated the agreement. Nonetheless, though the French renounced their claim to Mosul and Britain won control of Palestine, the Middle East treaties framed at the Paris Peace Settlements after World War I closely mirrored the SykesPicot Agreement.

see also balfour declaration (1917); husaynmcmahon correspondence (19151916); paris peace settlements (19181923); sykes, mark; wilson, woodrow.


Anderson, Matthew S. The Eastern Question. New York: St. Martin's, 1966.

Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace. New York: Henry Holt, 1989.

Hurewitz, J. C., ed. The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979.

Khalidi, Rashid. British Policy towards Syria and Palestine, 19061914: A Study of the Antecedents of the Husseinthe [sic] McMahon Correspondence, the SykesPicot Agreement, and the Balfour Declaration. London: Ithaca Press, 1980.

zachary karabell

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