The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France, with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916. The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.
The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence. The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British Sir Mark Sykes.
British–Zionist discussions during the negotiations
Following the outbreak of World War I, Zionism was first discussed at a British Cabinet level on 9 November 1914, four days after Britain's declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire. At a Cabinet meeting David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, "referred to the ultimate destiny of Palestine." Lloyd George's law firm Lloyd George, Roberts and Co had been engaged a decade before by the Zionists to work on the Uganda Scheme. In a discussion after the meeting with fellow Zionist Herbert Samuel, who had a seat in the Cabinet as President of the Local Government Board, Lloyd George assured him that "he was very keen to see a Jewish state established in Palestine." Samuel then outlined the Zionist position more fully in a conversation with Foreign Secretary Edward Grey. He spoke of Zionist aspirations for the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish state, and of the importance of its geographical position to the British Empire. Samuel's memoirs state: "I mentioned that two things would be essential—that the state should be neutralized, since it could not be large enough to defend itself, and that the free access of Christian pilgrims should be guaranteed. ... I also said it would be a great advantage if the remainder of Syria were annexed by France, as it would be far better for the state to have a European power as neighbour than the Turk" The same evening, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith announced that the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire had become a war aim in a speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet.
In January 1915, Samuel submitted a Zionist memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine to the Cabinet after discussions with Weizmann and Lloyd George. On 5 February 1915, Samuel had another discussion with Grey: "When I asked him what his solution was he said it might be possible to neutralize the country under international guarantee ... and to vest the government of the country in some kind of Council to be established by the Jews" After further conversations with Lloyd George and Grey, Samuel circulated a revised text to the Cabinet in the middle of March 1915.
Zionism or the Jewish question were not considered by the report of the de Bunsen Committee, prepared to determine British wartime policy toward the Ottoman Empire, submitted in June 1915.
Prior to the departure of Sykes to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov in Petrograd on 27 February 1916, Sykes was approached with a plan by Samuel. The plan put forward by Samuel was in the form of a memorandum which Sykes thought prudent to commit to memory and destroy. Commenting on it, Sykes wrote to Samuel suggesting that if Belgium should assume the administration of Palestine it might be more acceptable to France as an alternative to the international administration which she wanted and the Zionists did not. Of the boundaries marked on a map attached to the memorandum he wrote:
"By excluding Hebron and the East of the Jordan there is less to discuss with the Moslems, as the Mosque of Omar then becomes the only matter of vital importance to discuss with them and further does away with any contact with the bedouins, who never cross the river except on business. I imagine that the principal object of Zionism is the realization of the ideal of an existing center of nationality rather than boundaries or extent of territory. The moment I return I will let you know how things stand at Pd."