Sunday, 29 January 2012

The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement

Having recently read a review of a book that looks at the history of European powers in the Middle East, BFTF decided to dig a little deeper into the story of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which was one of the key events of the period.

As ever, a good starting point is Wikipedia, which helpfully has an article on the subject and describes it as a "secret agreement between the Governments of the UK and France, with the assent of Imperial Russia, defining their respective spheres of influence and control in Western Asia after the expected downfall of the Ottoman Empire during World War 1"

Map or areas affected by the Sykes-Picot Agreement
Dark Blue : French occupation
Red : British occupation
Green : Russian occupation
Light Blue : French Protectorate
Pink : British Protectorate
Purple : International Zones

The agreement negated the promises made to the Arabs by T.E Lawrence for an Arab homeland in Greater Syria - promises that were made in return for the Arabs supporting British forces against the Ottoman Empire (see here).

The agreement also conflicted with the Balfour Declaration which promised to the Zionists that Palestine "should be the national home of the Jewish people, but that nothing should be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine"

Eighty-five years later, in a 2002 interview with The New Statesman, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed "A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis - again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one."

Image Source: Wikipedia

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