Historum - History Forums  

Go Back   Historum - History Forums > Blogs > Offspring
Register Forums Blogs Social Groups Mark Forums Read

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

The territorial changes proposed by the Treaty of Sèvres

Posted June 28th, 2015 at 05:01 PM by Offspring
Updated August 30th, 2017 at 02:54 PM by Offspring

The deals made prior to the Treaty

Long before the end of the First World War, the Allies thought about which new territories they would control from the Ottoman Empire. Although the Brits were meeting with Arab leaders and promising them independent kingdoms, and the Russians were encouraging the Armenian movement for independence, these were not altruistic gestures. The Great Powers had strategical interests in the region and were going to benefit from the territorial changes. Hoping to avoid confrontations after the end of the war, the Powers signed agreements in advance.

The first one was the Constantinople Agreement (18 March 1915). According to it, Russia was going to annex Istanbul and the Straits (Bosphorus and Dardanelles). This would only happen if the Allies won the war and the French and British demands were satisfied. This agreement wasn’t implemented, because, after the Russian Revolution (November 1917), all the agreements signed by the Tsar were nullified. [1]

The Treaty of London (26 April 1915) was signed between Italy and the Entente, with the goal of getting Italy in the war. The Italians were awarded sovereignty over the Dodecanese islands. In case of a partition of Turkey-in-Asia, if France, Great Britain and Russia were going to occupy territories from the Ottoman Empire, then Italy would obtain a just part in the Mediterranean region, adjacent to the Adalia province.

The McMahon-Hussein Correspondence (July 1915 – May 1916) established the territories that were going to be part of a future Arab independent state. The Arabs requested a territory which stretched from Persia in the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean, at the 37 parallel. The Brits agreed, after making the following modifications: the districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Sirya from the West of the Damascus, Homs, Hama and Alep districts are not considered purely Arabic and must be excluded from the requested limits; the UK would guarantee the inviolability of the Holy Places and will protected them from any external aggression and is ready to recognize and support the independence of the Arabs from the regions which fell in the British area of influence. Having this guarantees, the Arabs started their revolt in June 1916.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement (May 1916) was made between Great Britain and France, with the approval of Russia. It mentioned the establishment of an international regime in Palestine, the annexation by France of Syria’s coastal areas, with an extensive influence area in the mainland, and the British annexation of lower Mesopotamia with a similar area of influence which would neighbor the French one. Inside these areas of influence, both Powers were ready to recognize an independent Arab state or a confederation of Arab states or anything Arab really.

The Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Agreement (18 August 1917) was meant to complete the Sykes-Picot Agreement, by mentioning the Italian area of influence in Asia Minor. [2]

In November 1917, a letter from Arthur James Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, to Baron Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Great Britain, which became known as the „Balfour Declaration” (because of lack of imagination) expressed the fact that the Brits supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, while saying that the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in the area must be respected. [3]

The Anglo-French Declaration (17 November 1918) mentioned that the two countries will do everything possible to establish governments in the Near East which would derive their authority from the free choice and initiative of their indigenous people. The two governments said they had no intention to impose any type of institutions to the people of these regions.

When all of these agreements and political declarations are taken into consideration, we can see that there was no clear solution for the Near East. The Sykes-Picot Agreement clearly conflicts with the British promises made to the Arabs. The withdrawal of Russia from the war meant the elimination of a cornerstone for many of these deals. The Balfour Declaration promised the formation of a nation for Jews in a territory with a Jewish population of just 10%. If the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination would haven been followed (something explicitly accepted by Great Britain and France in their joint declaration from November 1917), many of these secret agreements made by French, British and Italian statesmen wouldn’t have been respected. [4]

The interests of the Great Powers

Great Britain

The British foreign policy in this area was based on three principles: the establishment of the biggest possible supremacy it could get in the Near East, the reduction of the competitive position of France and the realization that these objectives cannot be obtained by the policy it had since the XIX century: supporting the government from Constantinople.

The Brits wanted to protect India, by controlling, one way or the other, the various routes (both land and sea) towards it. London greatly supported the formation of an independent Armenian state, because it wanted to eliminate the control the Ottoman Empire had over the Northern route to India and because it would assure a buffer zone against Russian expansionism.

Initially, the Brits wanted the US to have a mandate over the Straits, but the Americans refused. Wilson thought that it would be difficult to convince the American public that this mandate wasn’t a profit made from war, but a responsibility. Great Britain didn’t want France to control the Straits and knew the French won’t accept a British mandate in that area, so it supported an international mandate.

In December 1918, the British government decides that Palestine should enter British control, not American, nor international.

They wanted to weaken the Ottoman Empire, by taking territories from it which had no Turkish majority. The UK wanted Greece to became a British agent in the East of the Mediterranean, thus filling the goal left by the collapse of the Ottoman power.


Traditionally, France saw itself as the great Christian power in the Orient. It invested 3.25 billion francs into the Ottoman Empire.
Territorially, it wanted Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Cilicia (a region in the South of Anatolia). These requests were connected with historical rights and allied agreements made during the war. The French wanted to maintain as much as possible the terms of the Sykes Picot Agreement in regards to the territories it was going to gain, because they considered it was advantageous towards them.

France was mainly interested in the deals regarding Europe. It’s unclear weather it ceded Mosul to the Brits, because it wanted them to respect the promises they made in the Near East or if it was made in exchange for control over the Saar Basin and a form of control over the Rhineland. Clemenceau wanted to maintain the Entente and saw the League of Nations as a continuation of it.

The US

Unlike the other Allies, the US didn’t declare war on the Ottoman Empire, but it has many members on this forum, so I have to talk about it.

Although a part of Congress wanted war, Wilson and the State Department were against it, because the Ottoman Empire had no provocative actions towards the US, unlike Germany, which used submarines to sink American ships. Also, the Americans experts were convinced the Ottoman Empire was a tool of Germany and a declaration of war against it would enlarge the German control over it.

A declaration of war would have led to the closure of the American educational institutions in Turkey and the confiscation of those considerable properties. The US gave economic aid to the Syrians and Armenians (one million dollars per month) which would have been cut off, because it went thru missionary sources from Turkey. The only interests the US had in the Ottoman Empire were religious, educational and humanitarian.

In the Autumn of 1917, a commission of American experts was established. It analyzed the problem of peace with Turkey, as part of a general study about peace after the end of the war. The recommendations it gave on the 22nd of December 1917 gave Wilson the foundations for formulating 12 of the 14 Points. In January 1919, these recommendations were still at the basis of American policy in the Near East. The US considered necessary the liberation of all races from the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. This implicated at least the autonomy of Armenia and the protection of Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia by civilized nations. It was necessary to establish free trade thru the Straits and Turkey must be treated as free from economic constraints.

Wilson hoped that the negotiations would respect the 14 Points, but this wish was logical in the case of Germany, who was promised that the 14 Points will be respected when it surrendered, but the Ottoman Empire surrendered unconditionally. Wilson thought the Allies should respect the Anglo-French declaration (17 November 1918) and the moral agreement between the Allies in regards to respecting Point 5 and 12. These were about adjusting the colonial territorial pretensions, by taking into account both the wishes of the native people and the desires of the imperial governments, and the liberation of minorities from Turkish control.

There was a hostile attitude towards the Ottoman Empire among the American population and members of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference (the winter between 1918 and 1919). The former ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, said that as long as the Koran made murder part of Islam, Muslims shouldn’t be permitted to govern over Jews and Christians. [5]

His attitude came after he tried to oppose the Armenian genocide (or, how Turkey calls it: „that thing that happened with Armenians a century ago”). He raised 100 million dollars (the equivalent of a billion in today’s money) for them and used his friendship with Adolph Ochs, editor at the New York Times, to bring attention to the genocide (145 articles were written by the NYT on this issue in 1915).

The US wanted the UK to have a mandate over Palestine. The Congress refused to have a mandate over Armenia, because it would have cost millions and they had to maintain 25000 troops in that area.


No one cared about its interests, during the negotiation of the Treaty of Sèvres, so why should I?

The territorial changes proposed by the Treaty of Sèvres

The Mudros Armistice was signed by the Ottoman Empire on the 30th of October, 1918. It ended the war in the Middle East. According to the armistice, the Allies were going to take control of the Straits. Article 7 said the Allies had the right to control any strategic point following any situation which threatens their security. They were able to used that article as a pretext to occupy any area in the Ottoman Empire. [6]

Sèvres is a commune located 10 km away from the center of Paris (which, apparently, was a commune once, or something). It was signed in a famous porcelain factory. The main signatories were: the Ottoman Empire, the UK, France, Italy and Japan. Greece didn’t accept the new borders and did not ratify the Treaty.

The negotiations lasted 15 months. They started during the Paris Peace Conference (18 January 1919 – 21 January 1920), continued at the London Conference (12-14 February 1912) and the San Remo Conference (12-26 April 1920). It was signed on the 20th of August, 1920. It was time well spent, when you think it was soon overtaken by events and replaced by another treaty.

Armenia was recognized as an independent state, in Article 88. [7] The Kingdom of Hejaz was granted international recognition. It was located on the Western side of the Arabian Peninsula (and that was the only Western thing about it). It had 260,000 km2 and a population of 750,000. Mecca (80,000 inhabitants) and Medina (40,000) were its biggest cities. There was a plant for the formation of the state of Kurdistan, but it was never implemented.

The Treaty established the following spheres of influence: French (Syria, Southeastern Anatolia –including Antep, Urfa and Mardin-, Cilicia and large portions of Eastern and Central Anatolia), Greek (Smirna –it was going to be administrated by the Greeks, but under Turkish sovereignty, because the makers of the Treaty knew how well they got along), Italian (Dodecanese islands, large parts of Southern, Western and Central Anatolia, including the city-port of Antalya) and British (Iraq and Palestine were the main territories). The Straits and the Mediteranean Sea were areas of free navigation.

I could have just posted this picture:

Click the image to open in full size.

from Wikipedia, but then people would think I’m lazy.

The Treaty was never implemented, because of the start of the Turkish Independence War. It was replaced with the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923). [8]

Lazy, obvious, unnecessary, but mandated by formality, conclusions

The deciding Powers didn’t take into account the rise of Turkish nationalism. In the case of the Ottoman Empire, unlike in Europe, they behaved more like imperial powers and acted in a classical way. The principle of national self-determination didn’t coincide with the interests of the Great European Powers and, thus, it wasn’t at the basis of the territorial changes mentioned by the Treaty of Sèvres.


[1] Heather Lehr Wagner, The Division of the Middle East: The Treaty of Sèvres, Philadelphia, Chelsea House Publishers, 2004, p.32.

[2] Paul C. Helmreich, From Paris to Sèvres: The Partition of the Ottoman Empire at the Peace Conference of 1919-1920, Columbus, Ohio State University, 1974, p.6-7.

[3] Heather Lehr Wagner, op.cit., p.34.

[4] Paul C. Helmreich, op.cit., p.9-10.

[5] Ibidem, p.12-22.

[6] Heather Lehr Wagner, op.cit., p.31

[7] The World War I Document Archive, The Treaty of Sèvres, Sèvres (I love the fact that you have to mention the city where it was signed, when footnoting it, even tho it’s in the name), 10 August 1920, Peace Treaty of Sèvres - World War I Document Archive

[8] The World War I Document Archive, The Treaty of Lausanne, Lausanne, 24 July 1923, Treaty of Lausanne - World War I Document Archive

You can find three relevant maps ("Britain's Promise to the Arabs, 1915", "The Allied Plan for Palestine, May 1916" and "Britain and the Arabs, 1917-1971) in:
Martin Gilbert, The Ruthledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli conflict, tenth edition, Abingdon, Ruthledge, 2012, p.5-7.


My strategy had two goals. The first was to make a funny joke. The second one was to elicit some interest in Italy’s interest. I am simply a genius.

The Italian pretensions were based on the promises made by the other Great Powers in the Treaty of London and the Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Accord. They wanted to preserve the Mediterranean equilibrium after the collapse of the Ottoman power.

The members of the Italian delegations realised that their territorial pretentious in Anatlia had no justification in the 14 Points, unlike the British and French ones. Also, the British and the French had troops in the area, while the Italian proposals to send troops to Adana (btw, Adana kebab is wonderful) and Adalia (I choose to believe they were looking at a list of Turkish cities, in alphabetical order) were refused (it’s always wise to refuse Italian help).

The Italians were also concerned with the aspirations of the Greek government. Greece had stronger territorial pretensions than Italy, from a Wilsonian point of view, in Anatolia, because ethnic Greeks lived in the areas they requested, especially in the coastal cities. The Italian position in the East of the Mediterranean Sea would have been endangered by the Greek expansion in the coastal area of Asia Minor.
« Prev     Main     Next »
Total Comments 2


  1. Old Comment
    Futurist's Avatar
    "In the Autumn of 1917, a commission of American experts was established"

    Are you talking about The Inquiry here, Offspring? :

    Posted July 12th, 2015 at 04:32 PM by Futurist Futurist is online now
  2. Old Comment
    Offspring's Avatar
    Yes. I decided that "a commission of American experts" sounds less dull than "The Inquiry".
    Posted July 12th, 2015 at 04:35 PM by Offspring Offspring is online now

Remove Ads

Copyright © 2006-2013 Historum. All rights reserved.