The associates of the Russian agency Sputnik in Istanbul were arrested. They were ultimately released after the Turkish police’s hearing of the editor-in-chief and the intervention by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, prompting Turkish President Erdogan to assert that he had no intention to annex any part of Syrian territory.

Sputnik had published an article entitled "The ‘Stolen Province’: Why Turkey Was Given A Corner Of Syria By France 80 Years Ago," describing the territorial dispute in which Syria and Turkey have been embroiled since 1945.

In 1939, France ceded the region of Alexandretta and Antioch (the "Hatay") to Turkey, unilaterally modifying both the mandate for Syria, which it had received from the League of Nations, and the Treaty of Lausanne, defining the boundaries of Turkey. To legalize such transfer of Syrian territory, France orchestrated a dubious "referendum" to have the population approve the decision already taken in Paris.

The article was construed in Turkey as an allusion to possible Western complicity in the upcoming annexation of a part of Syria.

Sputnik explains that strange surrender in light of France’s interest to ally with Turkey in the face of the rise of Nazi Germany. There are, however, two other explanations which are not necessarily contradictory:
 In 1936, then Prime Minister of France, Léon Blum, had negotiated with the Zionist movement the creation of the State of Israel to be located not in British Palestine, but in French Syria and Lebanon. He reportedly granted the region beyond the Euphrates to the Kurds and Hatay to the Turks. However, this project was never brought before the French National Assembly since Léon Blum was overthrown.
 France wanted to keep the Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch (loyal to Rome) and to finish with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (loyal to Moscow). The Turks who discriminated (and still discriminate) against Christians made life impossible for the Orthodox population. Today the patriarch loyal to Rome resides in Beirut (Lebanon) while the one loyal to Moscow is in Damascus (Syria).

The Franco-Turkish treaty provided for the holding of a second referendum in 80 years time, i.e. in 2019, to ratify the territorial transfer. In anticipation, Turkey effected large-scale population changes, but in the context of the war against Syria and due to the attempted coup in Turkey, the referendum did not take place.