World Bulletin / News Desk
Ankara’s Yildrim Bayazit University, in cooperation with the Ataturk Research Center, hosted an international conference on Thursday devoted to the infamous Sykes-Picot Agreement, which marked its centennial earlier this year.
The two-day event was widely attended by academics from Turkey and the wider Middle East region.
Prof. Mustafa Bilgin, head of the university’s International Relations and Strategic Research Center, opened the conference by noting that the region was -- 100 years after Sykes-Picot -- again passing through a "historical and sensitive" phase.
"There is a major international rivalry in the region, as there was one century ago -- a rivalry that only the region’s Muslims are suffering from," Bilgin said in exclusive statements to Anadolu Agency on the conference’s sidelines.
"What is happening in [the Syrian city of] Aleppo is a clear example of this," he added.
"The region’s economic and demographic situation has changed since a century ago, but the expansionist mentality of the superpowers has not," Bilgin asserted.
"The war on Iraq -- and the crimes committed daily in Syria -- has led to the emergence of radical groups in the region, which are being exploited by the imperial powers to achieve their new divisionist objectives," he added.
Mehmet Ali Beyhan, for his part, the head of the Ataturk Research Center, told Anadolu Agency that, "although 100 years have passed since Sykes-Picot was signed, the region’s pain and suffering continue [as a result of the agreement]".
"It is our duty to share our research with Middle Eastern academics and research centers with a view to thwarting attempts to divide the region again," he added.
Signed on May 16, 1916 by Britain and France, the Sykes-Picot Agreement laid out British and French spheres of influence in the Near East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
The secret talks that led to the agreement -- held between French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British diplomat Mark Sykes -- were soon revealed by the communists after they took power in Russia in 1917.
Under the agreement’s terms, the area known as the "Fertile Crescent" was carved up between the two European powers, with Syria and Lebanon falling to France while historical Palestine (including what is now Jordan) went to Britain.
Iraq was divided between the two powers, with Baghdad and Basra going to Britain and Mosul going to France.