HASAKAH (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday, in the presence of representatives from the US-led coalition, urged dialogue between the Syrian government to and local Kurdish officials during the group's first annual conference in the northeast city of Hasakah.
“We call on Damascus to negotiate with representatives of the self-administration and the SDF and to prioritize a political solution, recognizing the self-administration and the rights of the Kurdish people in Syria,” SDF Commander in Chief Mazlum Abdi said in a speech.
Abdi also said the conference would be the basis for building a military force that could guarantee a united, free nation.
“We are here to lay the foundations for our military action to protect our areas in the coming post-Islamic State period and to spread security and stability in our region and all over Syria."
Abdi also warned that the fight against the extremist group hasn't ended and that its fighters continue efforts to rebuild its depleted force.
“We are facing great military challenges that threaten the future of our country, especially the Islamic State which is still strong and still insists on destroying this nation.”
“We say that the new phase is difficult since the Islamic State is spreading in the region and among populated areas through its sleeper cells.”
Abdi further stated that the Turkish attack on Afrin has negatively affected the SDF's campaign against the group's militants.
"We affirm that Afrin is an important step for the success of the peace process between us and Turkey," said the commander. "The return of Afrin to its people is one of our main points. Without this, there will be no peace in Syria."
“Turkish threats hamper the efforts of our forces and of the international coalition to defeat the Islamic State," he said.
He continued, "We announce that we will exert all efforts to achieve compatibility with the Turkish state, in coordination with the United States. There are preliminary agreements to establish security in the region through border points and we will be a positive party to this process."
Brigadier General Nicholas Pond of the International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) also spoke, confirming that the coalition remains committed to supporting the SDF in the ongoing fight and stability efforts as well. He also warned Turkey against launching operations in northeast Syria.
“Uncoordinated military activity will undermine our shared interests,” he said, and mentioned the proposed buffer zone in the area.
“The United States and Turkey will plan and implement a security mechanism from a joint coordination center,” he continued. "It will be implemented in stages. It will allow the coalition and you, our partners, to remain focused on achieving an enduring defeat of the Islamic State."
General Pond further explained, “This prevents a security vacuum from emerging and addresses the security concerns of our NATO ally.”
Despite Turkish threats against the SDF, which Ankara claims is an off-shoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Syrian Kurdish administration seems optimistic that some agreement with Turkey is possible in the near future as long as the US-led coalition continues its support. With that support, Syrian Kurds could likely play a significant role in calming the situation in northeast Syria, especially given Turkey's increasing threats to invade it.
Along with the Kurdish self-administration, the SDF is banking on the chance that this will place them in a stronger position in talks with Damascus and increase the chance it will recognize and guarantee the establishment of meaningful Kurdish rights in Syria.
Editing by John J. Catherine