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When the possibility of a British invasion of Palestine was first raised, it became necessary to reach an understanding with France, which also had an interest in Palestine and Syria. As early as 16 May 1916 Sir Mark Sykes, who had studied the political problems of Mesopotamia and Syria, had agreed with M. Picot, formerly a French Consul at Beirut, that Britain would occupy Palestine and France would occupy Syria.
Between July 1915, and March 1916, Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt and Sherif Hussein of Mecca, exchanged a series of 10 letters in which the British promised to support the creation of an independent Arab state in return for assistance in fighting against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. This correspondence became the source of controversy between the British and Arabs, particularly in relation to the territory to be included in the promised Arab state. The British description of territory to be excluded from the independent Arab state was indicated in McMahon’s letter of October 24, 1915:
The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo cannot be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded.
Though Hussein did not take exception to the exclusion, subsequent developments concerning the creation of the Palestine Mandate led the Arabs to argue that the exclusion did not cover the territory of what was to become the Mandate. The crux of the dispute concerned reference to the district or vilayet of …..
Arab View of the Correspondence