Russia continues to support Kurds in Syria

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Syrian Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ. File photo: AFP

ARA News

ERBIL – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has noted the importance of involving Kurds in the upcoming intra-Syrian talks that are scheduled for next week.

This comes amid a growing possibility of Russia supporting a Kurdish federal region in Syria.

“In this context, the importance was emphasized of necessity to involve all Syrian sides in these talks – in particular, opposition representatives with pro-Moscow, pro-Cairo and other political platforms, including representatives of Kurdish forces (…),” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the Kurdish group that Russia backs, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), will not by invited to the Syrian peace talks in Geneva due to a Turkish opposition. 

Speaking to ARA News, Timur Akhmetov, an independent Russian analyst on the Middle East, said: “Basically, Russia officially says it is not against any claims of Kurds unless all issues are discussed within ‘national dialogue’ (over which basically Damascus has a final say) and attempts will not end up with state disintegration.”  

Akhmetov raised doubts about the potential Russian support to Syrian Kurds. 

“Interestingly, Russian approach to solving all problems in the regions is based on support for central governments not on distributing more powers to regions,” he said. “Also, Russia is not ready to antagonize Turkey by providing real support to the Syrian Kurds though it is eager to exploit the Kurdish issue to exert pressure on Ankara.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said in an exclusive interview with ARA News that it is not clear why Russia backs a federal Syria.

“It is not at all clear why the Russians have thrown out for consideration this idea of a federal Syria. Syria has no history as a federal state,” he said. 

“It may be that the Russians have decided that the only way for the Alawite and Druze areas to live safely is to manage their own security and enjoy a measure of self-governance. It might allow them to retain their bases even if in a few years a Sunni-dominated government wanted Russian bases out,” he added.

The Syrian opposition has opposed the plans for federalism, fearing division on the ground.

“The opposition has reacted negatively so far. Part of this is because they suspect this move aims at allowing the Syrian Kurds and perhaps even the Alawi community along the coast to declare independence eventually,” Ford told ARA News.

But even in Iraq, Sunni Arabs back federalism now, the former U.S. diplomat said.

“In Iraq, Sunni Arabs in 2004-2009 were against a federal Iraq, but with the passage of time and the political developments in Baghdad, now in 2016 many Iraqi Sunni Arabs like the idea of decentralization and more self-governance within Iraq.”

However, it is most likely that the most powerful Kurdish actor on the ground, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) will not be invited to Geneva talks. Whereas the Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is part of the Syrian opposition, will attend as part of the Syrian Coalition.

Abdulhakim Bashar, a member of the KNC-parties, was appointed as vice-president of the Syrian Coalition last week. Moreover, Fuad Aliko, another leading member of the KNC, is also expected to attend the Geneva negotiations.

Haytham Manna, co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which includes the PYD, said Thursday that he will boycott the talks, reported the Russian news agency Sputnik.

“The fact that the Kurds weren’t invited is one of the reasons [for not attending talks],” Manna said.

This comes as thousands of Kurds protested in Derbassiyah, Tel Temir, Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Hasakah in northeastern Syria on Thursday, calling for the including of the PYD and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Geneva talks.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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