Sykes-Picot Agreement

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Map of the spheres of influence agreed in the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Original card dated May 8, 1916 with the signatures of those involved
Provinces in the Ottoman Empire in 1909. According to the Sykes-Picot Agreement , three provinces each were united, from which the states of Iraq and Syria later emerged.
Mark Sykes François Georges-Picot
Mark Sykes
François Georges-Picot

The Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916 was a secret agreement between the governments of Great Britain and France , through which their colonial interests in the Middle East were determined after the expected defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War .

The agreement was negotiated in November 1915 by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and the British diplomat Mark Sykes . A draft was agreed on January 3, 1916, so this date is also given as an alternative to May 16, 1916, on which the agreement was officially concluded. Picot was the much more experienced negotiating partner and knew how to achieve far more than expected for France.


Great Britain was granted supremacy over an area roughly equivalent to present-day Jordan , Iraq and the area around Haifa . France was to take control of south-east Turkey , northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon . Each country could freely determine the state borders within its zone of influence.

The area later called Palestine was to be placed under international administration. This area, the exact extent of which was to be the subject of heated controversy, had the following limits:

  • To the south: a west-east line, beginning about halfway from Dair al-Balah to Gaza to the Dead Sea , north of Beersheba and south of Hebron .
  • To the east: from the Dead Sea along the Jordan River to the Sea of ​​Galilee and a few miles north of the lake.
  • In the north: following the eastern border, a line in a west-northwest direction, which extends almost to the south of Safed and meets the sea roughly in the middle between Haifa and Tire .
  • To the west: the Mediterranean .

The content of the Sykes-Picot Agreement contradicted the Hussein-McMahon correspondence of 1915/16. While in the correspondence the Arabs had been promised the support of Great Britain in the event of a revolt against the Ottoman Empire and the prospect of recognition of a subsequent Arab independence, France and Great Britain divided large parts of the Arab territory among themselves. However, the first paragraph of the Sykes-Picot Agreement also contained the note that both France and Great Britain were ready to recognize and protect an independent Arab state in the regions marked with A and B on the map. However, both states retained privileges in their spheres of influence.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement was later expanded to include Italy and Russia . Russia was to receive Armenia and parts of Kurdistan , Italy some Aegean islands ( Dodecanese ) and a sphere of influence around Izmir in southwest Anatolia. The Italian presence in Asia Minor and the division of the Arab countries were formally sealed in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. However, these plans were not implemented. Mustafa Kemal Pascha  organized the political and military resistance against these plans from May 19, 1919  . From 1920 onwards, the fighting with Greece was particularly fierce. The war ended on September 9, 1922 with the reconquest of Izmir. After the fighting ended, there was ethnic cleansing in Greece and Turkey, with “Turks” being expelled from Greek territory and “Greeks” from Turkish territory, with the exception of the Greeks in Istanbul and the Muslims in Western Thrace.

After the victory of Turkey on July 24, 1923, the  Treaty of Lausanne  revised the provisions of the Treaty of  Sèvres . With the treaty, the boundaries of the new state that are still valid today were recognized under international law. At the same time, the mutual expulsion of minorities was legalized. After all foreign military units left Anatolia, Mustafa Kemal Pasha proclaimed the republic on October 29, 1923   .

Publication by the Bolsheviks

The October Revolution of 1917 resulted in Russia's claims to the Ottoman Empire being rejected. The Bolshevik government then published the content of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement on November 23, 1917 in the Russian daily newspapers Pravda and Izvestia . Three days later, the contents of the agreement also appeared in the British daily The Guardian . The publication caused great anger among the Entente powers and growing distrust among the Arabs.


The area around Mosul , which according to the agreement belonged to the French zone, was occupied by British troops shortly before the end of the war, as was most of Syria. The leaders of the Arab Revolt from the Hashemite dynasty claimed these areas for the Arab state promised them by the British. This led to a conflict with France.

At the San Remo Conference from 19 to 26 April, 1920 and the Churchill White Paper of 1922, attempts were made to solve these problems. As a result, it was established that Palestine was part of the exempted areas ("Syria west of the district of Damascus"). The main points of the Sykes-Picot Agreement were confirmed at the conference on which the three League of Nations mandates are based, which were ratified on July 24, 1922 . The area around Mosul was given to Great Britain by France in exchange for a share in the rich oil reserves. In Syria, France prevailed militarily in July 1920 against King Faisal ibn Hussein, who was elected by the Syrian National Congress .

The Treaty of Sèvres of August 10, 1920, one of the Paris suburb agreements , stipulated that the independence of the Arab countries formerly under Ottoman rule would be recognized if they accepted the "mandate" of a state. Great Britain received the British mandate for Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq and the League of Nations mandate for Palestine , which included the southern part of the Ottoman province of Syria (Syria, Palestine and Jordan), while France received the League of Nations mandate for Syria and Lebanon in the rest of the Ottoman Syria (modern Syria, Lebanon and Hatay ) was awarded.

Before the First World War, five to six major European powers had pursued their interests in the Middle East, some of them against each other. After that, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary were no longer able to do this. As a result, large parts of the Middle East were unrestrictedly under British-French influence for several decades.

The agreement is cited today as a cause of conflict in the region. Ethnic and cultural structures were not taken into account when drawing the boundaries. The colonial rulers were unable to establish a stable order for the peoples living there.

See also


  • James Barr : A Line in the Sand. The Anglo-French struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948. WW Norton, New York City 2011, ISBN 978-0-393-34425-7 .
  • Albert Hourani : The History of the Arab Peoples. (= Fischer 13705) Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt 1997, ISBN 3-596-13705-5 .
  • Jörn Leonhard: Dangerous promises . In: The time . No. 21 of May 12, 2016, p. 15 .
  • Helmuth KG Rönnefarth, Heinrich Euler: Conferences and contracts. Contract Ploetz. Part II, Volume 4: Most Recent 1914–1959. 2nd, expanded edition. Ploetz, Würzburg 1959, pp. 14-17.

Web links

Commons : Sykes-Picot Agreement  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Christopher M. Andrew, Alexander Sydney Kanya-Forstner: The climax of French imperial expansion. 1914-1924. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA 1981, ISBN 0-8047-1101-1 , p. 95.
  2. Imperial Borders in the Middle East: The Spirit of Sykes-Picot in Neue Zürcher Zeitung of May 27, 2016
  3. See § 1 of the Sykes-Picot Agreement
  4. ^ The Geographer: International Boundary Study. (PDF; 296 kB) Jordan - Syria Boundary. (No longer available online.) Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State , USA, December 30, 1969, p. 9 , archived from the original on March 27, 2009 ; accessed on March 4, 2011 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Albert Hourani : The History of the Arab Peoples. 1997, p. 389.
  6. Albert Hourani: The History of the Arab Peoples. 1997, p. 391.
  7. 100 Years of the Sykes-Picot Agreement: The Root of All Evil in the Middle East? , Kristian Brakel ( Heinrich Böll Foundation ) in an interview at Deutschlandradio Kultur on May 14, 2016
  8. Middle East: The Sykes-Picot Agreement in World War I , Deutschlandfunk Eine Welt on June 21, 2014