The Sykes-Picot Agreement (May 1916)

April- May 16, 1916                


From The Arab Awakening, George Antonius, Capricorn Books Edition,1965. 


The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 was a secret agreement between the governments of the Great Britain and France, with the assent of Imperial Russia, defining their respective spheres of influence and control of the Arab provinces after the expected downfall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and Briton Sir Mark Sykes. 


Text of the Agreement


Concluded in London on May 16, 1916 


(1) France and Great Britain are prepared to recognize and uphold an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States in the areas (A) and (B)  on the annexed map, under the suzerainty of an Arab Chief.  France in area (A), and Great Britain in area (B) shall have a right of priority in enterprises and local loans. France in area (A) and Great Britain in area (B) shall alone supply foreign advisers or officials at the request of the Arab State or the Confederation of Arab States. 


(2) France in the blue area and Great Britain in the red area, shall be at liberty to establish such direct or indirect administration or control as they may desire or as they may deem fit to establish after agreement  with the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States. 


(3) In the brown area there shall be established an international administration, of which the form will be decided upon[after] consultation with Russia, and after subsequent agreement  with the other Allies and the representatives of the Sharif of Mecca. 


 (4) There shall be accorded to Great Britain


      (a) the ports of Haifa and Acre;


      (b) guarantee of a specific supply of water from the Tigris and Euphrates in area (A) for area (B).


His Majesty's Government, on their part, undertake that they will at no time initiate negotiations for the concession of Cyprus to any third


Power without the previous consent of the French Government. 


(5) Alexandretta shall be a free port as regards of the trade of the British Empire, and there shall be no differentiation in treatment with regard to port dues or the extension of special privileges affecting British shipping and commerce;  there shall be freedom of transit for British goods through Alexandretta and over railways through the blue area, whether such goods are going to or coming form the red area, area (A) or area (B); and there shall be no differentiation in treatment, direct or indirect, at the expense of  British goods and shipping in any port serving the areas in question.


                 Haifa shall be a free port as regards the trade of France, her colonies and protectorates, and there shall be no differentiation in treatment or privilege with regard to  port dues against French shipping and commerce. There shall be freedom of transit through Haifa and over British railways through the brown area, whether such goods are coming form or going to the blue area, area (A), or area (B), and there shall be no differentiation in treatment, direct or indirect, at the expense of French goods and shipping in any port serving the areas in question.? 


(6) In area (A) the Baghdad Railway shall not be extended southwards beyond Mosul, and in area (B) it shall not be extended  northwards beyond Samarra, until a railway connecting Baghdad with Aleppo along the basin of the Euphrates will have been completed, and then only with the concurrence of the two Governments. 


(7) Great Britain has the right to build, administer, and be the sole owner of the railway connecting Haifa with area (B). She shall have, in addition, the right in  perpetuity and at all times of carrying troops on that  line. It is understood by both Governments that this railway is intended to facilitate communication between Baghdad and Haifa, and it is further understood that, if in the event of technical  difficulties and expenditure incurred in the maintenance of this line  in the brown area rendering the execution of  the project impracticable,  the French Government will be prepared to consider plans for enabling  the line in question to traverse the polygon formed by Banias-Umm Qais - Salkhad -Tall 'Osda -Mismieh before reaching area (B). 


(8) For a period of twenty years, the  Turkish customs tariff shall remain in force throughout the  blue and red areas, as well as in areas (A) and (B), and no increase in the rates of duties and no alteration of  ad valorem duties into specific duties shall be made without the consent of the two Powers.


There shall be no internal customs barriers between any of the areas mentioned above. The customs duties to be levied on goods destined for the interior shall be collected at the ports of entry and remitted to the Administration of the area of destination.? 


(9) It is understood that the French Government will at no time initiate  any negotiations for the cession of their rights and will not cede such rights in the blue area to any third Power, other than the Arab State or Confederation of Arab States, without the previous consent of His Majesty's Government who, on their part, give the French Government  a similar undertaking in respect to  the red area. 


(10) The British and French Government shall agree to abstain from acquiring and to withhold their consent to a third Power acquiring territorial possessions in the Arabian Peninsula; nor shall they consent to the construction by a third Power of a naval base in the islands on the eastern seaboard of the Red Sea. This, however, will not prevent such ratification of the Aden boundary as might  be found necessary in view of the recent  Turkish attack. 


(11) The negotiations with the Arabs concerning the frontiers of the Arab States or Confederation of Arab States shall be pursued through the same channel as heretofore in the name of the two Powers. 


(12) It is understood, moreover, that measures for  controlling the importation of arms into the Arab territory will be considered by the two Governments.