Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday that the Syrian constitution doesn’t allow for federalism and that the federal structures created by the Kurds in northern Syria “are temporary.” These remarks, given in a wide-ranging interview, contradict the political platforms and aspirations of nearly every Kurdish party in Syria.
“These [Kurdish parties] are diverse: some patriotic, some mercenary, and some seek separation and federalism,” the Syrian president declared. “We cannot take a clear position – it depends on the case.”
Assad said that the Kurdish parties and their allies had exploited the bedlam in northern Syria. “They took advantage of the absence of the state in a number of areas in the north in order to create specific social structures, which take a political form, ” he said.
The Syrian president stressed that while his government was opposed to federalism in principle, resolving the political situation in northern Syria would have to wait until the end of the civil war.
“Priority is given now to dealing with terrorism. We say that we support every group fighting terrorism and terrorists,” Assad explained. “But for us, dealing with federalism cannot happen except after we finish the problem of terrorism, then the people will decide.”
Assad explained that Kurdish political aspirations and federalism are in his mind very different issues. “The question of federalism is quite different; it is related first to the constitution and second to the popular state in that region,” he said.
“The constitution doesn’t allow for it to happen, and amending the constitution needs a referendum, and the popular state is not amenable to that trend, even among the Kurds themselves. The largest section of the Kurds do not support this,” the Syrian president claimed.
Although President Assad said that the Kurds do not want federalism, almost all Kurdish parties, including the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC), support federalism. It is a consensus position amongst Syria’s Kurds, uniting politicians with starkly diverging agendas.
“As far as we are concerned as a state, we accept whatever the Syrian people accept, and I don’t think that the Syrian people accept federalism anywhere in Syria. That’s why I’m not concerned about this proposition,” the Syrian president stated.
Moreover, the Syrian president did not rule out a clash with the Turkish army in Syria. “As long as the Turkish policy is run by an abnormal and psychologically-disturbed person like Erdogan, we have to expect all possibilities,” he said.
“Ultimately, when there is Turkish interference, Syria has the right to defend its territories. This is self-evident, and we will of course do it. Now there are military priorities, but in principle we certainly have the right,” Assad added.
Furthermore, the Syrian president said he is also ready to work with Donald Trump. The US President-elect has said that his goal in Syria would be fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), not overthrowing President Assad’s government.
“In principle, we have spoken about the necessity of forming an alliance against terrorism since 1985, and we continuously announce that Syria is ready to cooperate with any party seeking seriously to fight terrorism. This is a general principle which applies to the United States and all other countries,” Assad stated.
Salih Muslim, the co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party touched on many of the same themes as Assad in an interview-on Wednesday. According to Syria’s leading Kurdish politician, the Kurdish parties do not want to divide Syria and have no interests in fighting Damascus.
“We have a project for all of Syria; a democratic federal decentralized Syria. We are ready to discuss this with everyone: the Alawites, Druze, Sunnis, and others,” Muslim said. “This is the Syria we want. If they don’t accept it, Syria will be divided.”
Confederalism, the ideology of the PYD, seeks to create participatory self-administrations, not nation states. Muslim said that he feared the Syria would break up, a trend that could only be reversed through the creation of “a decentralized, democratic, and secular system.”
Bader Mustafa, a member of the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), told ARA News that Assad is trying to send a message to the Kurds and asserting his own dominion over Syria. “It is the same delusion he has been living for, for years. It is not Assad’s decision anymore.”
Mustafa was confident that the overwhelming majority of Syrian Kurds want federalism or decentralization in those areas controlled by Kurdish-led forces. “Assad is telling the Kurds that his regime can prevent what the Kurds want, which is a federal system and an end to the dictatorship of the Arab majority,” he said.
“I think it is not the right of any majority to decide for the minority,” Mustafa added.
“We as Kurds are not a minority voluntarily, but due to the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which prevented us from having one Kurdish state,” Mustafa continued. “It is obvious that the Kurds do not want a centralized state in Syria.”
Zara Salih, a politician from the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria, agreed. “What Assad is saying isn’t anything new. He is still denying the Kurdish issue and rejects the federal system the Kurdish people ask for,” he said.
“Assad keeps sending messages to the Kurds, especially to the Democratic Union Party, saying that what they’re doing against ISIS is their duty and there are no privileges for them,” Salih told ARA News.
The Kurdish official also said that Turkey and other states have prevented aid from coming into Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR), which is under a partial siege. He believes that the foreign actors should sideline Ankara and instead deal directly with the Kurdish parties.
“We are asking the United Nations, the US, and others to not get permission from Turkey to move things in Rojava. Why not directly deal with our people?” Salih reasoned. “But nobody wants to do it.”
“This does not mean recognizing Rojava as a different part [of Syria],” he clarified. “Rojava is a part of the Syrian revolution, a part of a democratic federal Syria.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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