ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday that her government wants control of Kurdish majority areas now held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to return to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Moreover, she said that Russia has the impression that the US wants to stay in Syria, despite recent announcements to the contrary.
“In this regard, establishing dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus takes on particular significance,” she said. “After all, the Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society.”
“The return of official control over all Kurdish-populated territories should also neutralize the security risks to Syria’s neighbors,” she added, in an apparent reference to Turkey, which has been threatening to cross its southern border into Syria to attack Kurdish armed groups there.
She also said that the US presence in Syria is illegal, and that American and other foreign military units must “eventually leave the country.”
Apart from the US, the UK, Germany, Turkey, and Russia also have troops in Syria.
“We believe it is important that the territories that will be vacated after the Americans leave will come under the control of the Government of Syria,” she added.
It's not the first time that Moscow has said that all territories under SDF-control should return to Damascus.
"It’s clear the Syrian government should control this part of their territory,” Zakharova said in December.
Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that “Russia is sending the signal to everyone that it is in charge and wants all other foreign actors to abide by its decisions in Syria.”
“If Russia can broker a deal between Assad and the SDF, it will be a major symbolic victory that shows Damascus is back in charge. A big win for Russia.”
In recent weeks, delegations from the Kurdish-led administration and the SDF have met Russian officials in Moscow and at the Hmeimim military base in Syria in attempts to head off a Turkish attack and to reach an agreement with Damascus on local self-rule.
However, Mohammed Ismail, a senior leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Syria (KDP-S) told Kurdistan 24 that Russia is not being serious in its dealings with Kurdish parties. He said, “Russia is not against the Kurds, but Russia follows its own interests and they want everything to go back to the [Syrian] regime.”
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said in an interview on an American radio show on Friday that the US is open to having conversations with Russia in order to protect the Kurds after the US withdrawal, as reported by Sputnik.
“You know, the Kurds are in a very difficult position, and the President [Trump], as he spoke with President Erdogan, thinks that we, they were loyal to us,” he said. “We must make sure that they’re not harmed. That’s what we’re talking to the Turks about.”
He added, “We’d talk to the Russians about it, too, if need be.”
Editing by John J. Catherine