ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-backed, multi-ethnic Self-Administration of North and East Syria announced on Thursday, in a response to recent comments by the Russian government, that the continued US presence in northern Syria won’t harm its ongoing discussions with Damascus.
“This is never included in our pursuit and efforts towards dialogue, as this choice stems from our keenness, our national responsibilities and the decision of our people,” it said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday during the Paris Peace Forum that the Syrian Kurds must be consistent in their policy towards both Russia and the US.
“They believed that they would always be covered [supported] by the United States. When the US made this twist [withdrew forces from the Syrian-Turkish border], the Kurds started asking us to help them start a dialogue with the government, which we were ready to do,” he said.
“But then, when the Americans said they are coming back to control the oil fields, the Kurds again lost interest in this dialogue,” Lavrov claimed. “So we need some consistency.”
However, the Kurdish-led administration made it clear two days later that they “continue to emphasize that dialogue is a fundamental principle,” of their ongoing efforts.
In January, the administration presented a roadmap to Moscow that proposed that northeastern Syria remain autonomous from Damascus, saying it “handed over to Russia a solution map that reflects positions, persistence and determination of self-administration about the need for a solution and dialogue within the Syrian national framework.”
However, Damascus has always rejected any form of self-governance during negotiations with the Syrian Kurds. For their part, the Syrian Kurds say they won’t accept any return to the pre-2011 situation when president Assad fully controlled Syria.
“We emphasize in Self-Administration for North and East Syria (SANES) that there are efforts for political dialogue, but so far, such efforts has not shown anything practical at any levels to talk about hindering or obstructing it.”
The administration underlined that the deal reached with Damascus on Oct. 13 is limited to the military aspects only, primarily protecting the border against Turkish advancement.
The self-administration indirectly said that there is a need for more concessions by the Syrian government and that Russia should play a role in this, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian media on Friday that he rejected any form of autonomy.
“As I mentioned earlier, this is an Arab region, and if anyone is to talk about federalism, it shall be the Arabs, because they are the majority; this is self-evident,” he said.
“Unlike, the situation in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey, there is no Kurdish majority in this region of Syria,” he added. “Simply, this group has made separatist propositions which we shall never accept, not today, not tomorrow, not as a state, not as a people.”
Aron Lund, a fellow with the Century Foundation, told Kurdistan 24, “I don’t think the Syrian government has any interest in recognizing any form of SDF autonomy in legal terms. They may come to a deal that means SDF leaders and even some SDF governance structures are incorporated into the system in practice, but they’re going to want to do it in a way that looks like it’s happening in accordance with Syrian law.”
“The Assads, both father and son, have always been very wary of anything that smells of ethnic or religious particularity. They’ve been especially hostile to Kurdish nationalism,” he said. “In fact, this predates the Assads, even the Baath. It goes back to the 1950s and Abdel-Nasser’s policies when Syria and Egypt were united in one country led from Cairo.”
The local self-administration added that they “continue to believe in dialogue and are ready for any approach that serves Syria [and] its people and ensures a democratic future. We always look forward [to] practical steps from the other party.”
It also emphasized that Turkey must stop its attacks on northern Syria, which it said would lead to an “organized return of terrorism by Turkey and its mercenaries who are involved in Syrian bloodshed every day.”
Editing by John J. Catherine