On the initiative of Poghos Nubar Pasha, on October 27, 1916, in London, it was decided to establish the Armenian Legion (French La Légion Arménienne) as part of the French East Legion (French La Légion d’Orient) to participate in battles on the Syrian-Palestinian front.
The main condition of the Armenian side was the following addition to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 16, 1916: “After the victory of the Allies, France must ensure the autonomy of Cilicia under its protectorate.”
A series of successful battles – in particular, the Battle of Jerusalem from where the German-Turkish army was knocked out (December 8, 1917) and the Battle of Arar (September 18, 1918) – predetermined the outcome of operations on the Palestinian front and brought Turkish surrender closer.
According to the Armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918), Turkish troops were withdrawn from Cilicia, and parts of the Armenian Legion entered the coveted land in December 1918. On May 4, 1920, Cilicia was declared an independent state under the French mandate. 120 thousand refugees returned from Lebanon and Syria to their homeland.
However, the triumph did not last long. In the foreign policy of France occurred a turn towards improving relations with Turkey. After the withdrawal of the Anglo-French units in November 1919 and January 1920, the hands of the regular Kemalist army were untied.
The once 5,000-strong Armenian Legion found itself practically disarmed against the adversary for 8 months, displaying fierce resistance and suffering heavy losses.
A flood of Armenian refugees poured into Syria and Lebanon again but no further, for the British, being “allies” and once again showing their essence, closed their subject territories for refugees.