Putin’s envoy says Russia ready to consider Kurdish rights in Syria

"Russia is ready to work for the constitutional rights of the Kurds to solve the Syrian issue."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Russian President’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, says Russia is ready to consider the rights of the Kurdish people in a new Syria.

Kurdistan 24 spoke with Bogdanov on Tuesday where he stated that Damascus’ relationship with the Syrian Kurds must be renewed. He underlined the importance of discussions between Arab and Kurdish representatives from different organizations.

According to the deputy foreign minister, Russia is ready to work for the constitutional rights of the Kurds to solve the Syrian issue.

However, the Syrian Kurds are unlikely to accept anything less than autonomy in the country’s northeast.

A roadmap presented to Damascus and Moscow in January by the local Kurdish-backed administration proposed that the northeast of Syria remain autonomous from Damascus.

Until now, Russia has supported the position of Damascus.

Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, told reporters in January that all the territories under Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control should return to Damascus.

Nikolay Surkov, an associate professor in the Oriental Studies Department of Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told Kurdistan 24 that Russia is ready to broker a deal between the Kurds and Damascus.

Surkov noted that the current problem is that “both sides are not willing to make concessions.”

Damascus has not changed its position and still opposes any form of Kurdish demands for autonomy, he said.

“At the current stage, the parties are very far from reaching a compromise.”

Russia has also said in the past that it is difficult for Moscow to be a broker while the SDF remains a close ally to the United States.

“It is hard for Russia to trust the Kurds because they are US allies, this is the problem too,” Surkov told Kurdistan 24.

The associate professor said Russia considers the US’ ongoing presence in Syria as a complicating factor because Moscow considers it “an attempt to split Syria into several parts.”

“Since there is no trust between Russia and the US, there cannot be much trust between Russia and the Kurds.”

According to Yury Barmin, a Middle East and North Africa Director at Moscow Policy Group, Russia still hopes the US completely withdraws from Syria as US President Donald Trump stated in December.

In March, Trump confirmed that Washington would maintain a small residual force after the majority of troops have withdrawn.

Barmin said the US decision to withdraw gave Russia hope of “some changes within the SDF.”

“It kind of brought about a decision to really hedge stronger toward more dialogue with Damascus,” he told Kurdistan 24.

Russia hopes it “can encourage the SDF to establish a relationship with Damascus and to engage in political dialogue.”

Konstantin Truevtsev, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said it would be challenging to reconcile the positions of Damascus and the SDF.

He suggested that the Kurds could get a form of autonomy under Legislative Decree 107, which Kurds have rejected in the past.

“If the Syrian government agrees with it at last, then there can be a solution that means Kurds will withdraw from Deir al-Zor and southern Raqqa, and that Syria will have the possibility to get its fuel supplies,” Truevtsev stated.

“At the same time, the Kurds will concentrate on their lands in Qamishli and Kobane. So, in this case, the whole situation in Syria will be very effectively changed.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany