History, Ottoman Rule
Sykes-Picot agreement, Central Powers, Suez Canal, Ottoman Empire, eastern Asia
The Ottomans incorporated the region into their empire in 1516, and it remained in their possession for the next four centuries. The commercial importance of the territory as the site of overland routes to eastern Asia was greatly reduced with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
Strong nationalist movements had taken hold in many parts of the Ottoman Empire during the early years of the 20th century. When World War I (1914-1918) broke out and Turkey took the side of the Central Powers, the Allies, in order to enlist support against Turkey, held out to the Arabs the hope of postwar independence. In January 1916, by the terms of letters between the British government and Husein ibn Ali, grand sharif of Mecca, the latter promised Arab participation in the war on the Allied side in return for a British guarantee of independence for all Arab lands south of a line roughly corresponding to the northern frontiers of present-day Syria and Iraq. In May of the same year, however, the United Kingdom and France secretly concluded a separate accord, known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, by which most of the Arab lands under Turkish rule were to be divided into British and French spheres of influence. The areas now comprising Syria and Lebanon were assigned to France; those comprising Israel and Jordan were assigned to the United Kingdom.
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