Map showing the proposed areas of control and influence agreed between France (A) and Britain (B) Image: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

100 Years Ago: The Sykes-Picot Agreement

Posted on on 16 May 2016
Share |

Britain and France concluded a secret deal in May 1916 for dividing the Middle East between them after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

It was known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement after the officials who conducted the negotiations in the winter of 1915/16 to decide the Allies' spheres of influence once Turkey was defeated.

The Centenary has put it back in the spotlight. There's been a spate of articles and blogs pointing to the troubled legacy of the terms agreed between the colonial powers at the height of the First World War.

The talks involved Sir Mark Sykes, a British politician, soldier and advisor to the UK Government on the Middle East, and his French counterpart François Georges-Picot, a lawyer and diplomat.

Intensive bargaining resulted in a diagonal line being drawn across the region, from Acre on the Mediterranean Coast of what is now Israel to Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

Lands north of the line (Syria, Lebanon and a region of eastern Anatolia ) would come under French influence or control, while Britain would have southern Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Jordan. Palestine would be an international territory.


The agreement, which also took account of Tsarist Russia's demands for Turkish territory, remained largely under wraps for more than a year. It was divulged and denounced by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution in November 1917.

Post-war treaties and the Turkish War of Independence redrew the boundaries of the former Ottoman territories.

100 years on, Sykes-Picot, the deal that foreshadowed them, is being widely discussed in the context of present-day conflict and instability in the Middle East.

An article in 'The Economist' notes: "It was, in fact, one of three separate and irreconcilable wartime commitments that Britain made to France, the Arabs and the Jews. The resulting contradictions have been causing grief ever since."

Sources: Wikipedia/various

Images: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain 

Posted by: CN Editorial Team