ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reaffirmed his rejection of a federal system in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, stating that Kurds in Syria prefer a central system.
In an interview conducted by a Syrian state news agency, Assad said, “Most Kurds want to live in a unified Syria, under a central system, not in a federal system.”
Assad dismissed the idea, claiming that it is geographically and socially "impossible," continuing, “Geographically speaking, Syria is too small for a federal state. It is probably smaller than most of the Russian Federation's republics. Socially speaking, a federation needs social constituencies which cannot live with each other,” he said.
However, Assad conceded that federalism might be possible if the Syrian people agree. “We as a state say that we agree to whatever the Syrian people agree to. The question of federalism is linked to the constitution, and the constitution needs popular endorsement,” he explained.
Additionally, the Syrian opposition also rejected the idea of federalism. “The [Syrian] Coalition totally rejects the unilateral declaration of a federal region in northern Syria,” the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) reported on March 18.
“President of the Syrian Coalition, Anas al-Abdah described [this] declaration as void and [does not] reflect positively on the situation in Syria,” the report added.
United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura told Reuters two weeks ago that the distance between the government and opposition remained "large" but agreed on the need to maintain the country's territorial integrity and reject federalism.
In response, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which exercises wide influence and control over Syrian Kurdish areas (Rojava), has consistently argued that it wants a decentralized government for Syria, and is not seeking partition or independence.
“The document [declaring federalism in northern Syria] stressed that [this system] would guarantee the unity of Syrian territory,” a PYD official told Reuters two weeks ago.
Nawaf Khalil, a former PYD official, refuted the government and SNC's claims that described the declaration as “one-sided,” explaining that the announcement was a decision made with the region's ethnic and religious communities.
"[This] resulted from discussions with Arabs, Assyrians, Chechens, Armenians, and Turkmen," he affirmed.
On March 17, Syria's Kurdish-controlled northern regions voted to declare a federal system after being excluded from international peace negotiations in Geneva seeking to resolve Syria's civil war.
Reporting by Hisham Arafat
Editing by Benjamin Kweskin