With the Ottoman Empire drawn into the war the Entente powers assumed that its defeat and dismemberment were inevitable. They negotiated between themselves which portions of the Empire they would take.
In 1915 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appointed the de Bunsen Committee to identify the Ottoman territories that were of interest to Britain. They considered the port of Haifa in Palestine to be a useful transport link to Mesopotamia, but they did not see any value in the rest of Palestine.
The British saw the French as their main rivals for Ottoman territory in the Middle East. With the de Bunsen recommendations in mind, British diplomat Sir Mark Sykes met with French representative Francois Georges-Picot and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonow to negotiate a Russian-British-French agreement on the division of these territories. Commonly known as the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 allocated territory and zones of influence to Britain, France, Russia and Italy. Palestine was allocated a ‘special’ international administration. At this time all the territory was still under Ottoman rule.
David Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister in December 1916. When the war ended his ambitious plans for British dominance in the Middle East reached well beyond the confines of the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret agreement which only became known to the Arabs in late 1917 when it was found by the Bolsheviks in the Tsar’s papers and released by them.
It is accordingly understood between the French and British governments:
That France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab state or a confederation of Arab states (a) and (b) marked on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall have priority of right of enterprise and local loans. That in area (a) France, and in area (b) Great Britain, shall alone supply advisers or foreign functionaries at the request of the Arab state or confederation of Arab states.
That in the blue area France, and in the red area Great Britain, shall be allowed to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they desire and as they may think fit to arrange with the Arab state or confederation of Arab states.
That in the brown area there shall be established an international administration, the form of which is to be decided upon after consultation with Russia, and subsequently in consultation with the other allies, and the representatives of the Shereef of Mecca.
That Great Britain be accorded (1) the ports of Haifa and Acre, (2) guarantee of a given supply of water from the Tigres and Euphrates in area (a) for area (b). His Majesty’s government, on their part, undertake that they will at no time enter into negotiations for the cession of Cyprus to any third power without the previous consent of the French government.
That Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards the trade of the British empire, and that there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards British shipping and British goods; that there shall be freedom of transit for British goods through Alexandretta and by railway through the blue area, or (b) area, or area (a); and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against British goods on any railway or against British goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.
That Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of France, her dominions and protectorates, and there shall be no discrimination in port charges or facilities as regards French shipping and French goods. There shall be freedom of transit for French goods through Haifa and by the British railway through the brown area, whether those goods are intended for or originate in the blue area, area (a), or area (b), and there shall be no discrimination, direct or indirect, against French goods on any railway, or against French goods or ships at any port serving the areas mentioned.
That in area (a) the Baghdad railway shall not be extended southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (b) northwards beyond Samarra, until a railway connecting Baghdad and Aleppo via the Euphrates valley has been completed, and then only with the concurrence of the two governments.
That Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be sole owner of a railway connecting Haifa with area (b), and shall have a perpetual right to transport troops along such a line at all times. It is to be understood by both governments that this railway is to facilitate the connection of Baghdad with Haifa by rail, and it is further understood that, if the engineering difficulties and expense entailed by keeping this connecting line in the brown area only make the project unfeasible, that the French government shall be prepared to consider that the line in question may also traverse the Polgon Banias Keis Marib Salkhad tell Otsda Mesmie before reaching area (b).
For a period of twenty years the existing Turkish customs tariff shall remain in force throughout the whole of the blue and red areas, as well as in areas (a) and (b), and no increase in the rates of duty or conversions from ad valorem to specific rates shall be made except by agreement between the two powers.
There shall be no interior customs barriers between any of the above mentioned areas. The customs duties leviable on goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the port of entry and handed over to the administration of the area of destination.
It shall be agreed that the French government will at no time enter into any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third power, except the Arab state or confederation of Arab states, without the previous agreement of his majesty’s government, who, on their part, will give a similar undertaking to the French government regarding the red area.
The British and French government, as the protectors of the Arab state, shall agree that they will not themselves acquire and will not consent to a third power acquiring territorial possessions in the Arabian peninsula, nor consent to a third power installing a naval base either on the east coast, or on the islands, of the red sea. This, however, shall not prevent such adjustment of the Aden frontier as may be necessary in consequence of recent Turkish aggression.
The negotiations with the Arabs as to the boundaries of the Arab states shall be continued through the same channel as heretofore on behalf of the two powers.
It is agreed that measures to control the importation of arms into the Arab territories will be considered by the two governments.
I have further the honor to state that, in order to make the agreement complete, his majesty’s government are proposing to the Russian government to exchange notes analogous to those exchanged by the latter and your excellency’s government on the 26th April last. Copies of these notes will be communicated to your excellency as soon as exchanged.I would also venture to remind your excellency that the conclusion of the present agreement raises, for practical consideration, the question of claims of Italy to a share in any partition or rearrangement of turkey in Asia, as formulated in article 9 of the agreement of the 26th April, 1915, between Italy and the allies.
His Majesty’s government further consider that the Japanese government should be informed of the arrangements now concluded.
From the Avalon Project