May 16 will mark the centenary of the agreement, amid the question of whether its borders can survive the region`s current fury. « The system that has been in existence for a hundred years has collapsed, » barham Salih, a former Iraqi deputy prime minister, said at the Sulaimani Forum in Iraqi Kurdistan in March. « We don`t know what new system will take its place. » The agreement also « internationalized » Jerusalem – a bone thrown at the Russian empire, then a British and French ally. The Russians feared that Orthodox Christians would be at a disadvantage if the French Catholics had the final say on the future of the holy city. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Arab nationalists invoked the secret agreement as a symbol of Western betrayal. The West, they claimed, has thwarted the arabs` natural propensity to unite in one state. In addition, it supported the State of Israel – a « dagger stuck in the heart of the Arab world, » as the then Egyptian President Gamal`Abd al-Nasser once said – to achieve this goal. In 1915-16, Sir Mark Sykes of the British War Office and the French Consul in Beirut, François Georges-Picot, reached a secret agreement to divide the Asian provinces of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War into areas of direct and indirect British and French control. For a period of twenty years, the existing Turkish tariff remains in effect in all blue and red zones as well as in zones (a) and b) and there is no increase in tariffs or conversions of value at certain rates, unless agreed between the two powers.
In the Sykes-Picot Agreement, concluded on 19 May 1916, France and Great Britain divided the Arab territories of the former Ottoman Empire into spheres of influence. In its intended area, it was agreed that each country can establish a direct or indirect administration or control, as they wish and as they see fit to agree with the Arab State or with the Arab confederation. Under Sykes-Picot, the Syrian coast and much of present-day Lebanon went to France; Britain would take direct control of central and southern Mesopotamia around the provinces of Baghdad and Basra. Palestine would have an international administration, because other Christian powers, namely Russia, were interested in this region. The rest of the territory in question – a vast territory with syria today, Mosul in northern Iraq and Jordan – would have local Arab leaders under French surveillance to the north and Britons to the south.