Syrian opposition calls Kurdish fighters ‘terrorists’, regime rejects federalism

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG and YPJ bidding farewell to a comrade killed during clashes with jihadists in Aleppo countryside. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Syria’s Kurdish parties were not impressed by the statements being issued from Astana. Opposition representatives called for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to be listed as “terrorists,” while the regime’s delegation explicitly rejected federalism.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey issued a statement as the conference broke up on Tuesday, saying that they had reached an agreement to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusra. They also agreed to create a new mechanism to reinforce the December 30 ceasefire.

However, the regime and the armed opposition failed to reach an accord ending Syria’s six-year-long conflict. Underscoring that failure, on Tuesday clashes broke out between rival Islamist groups in Idlib city.

Seeming prophetic, Kurdish politicians had said that peace talks, which excluded their people and the self-administrations, “would fail.”

“The Astana meeting was only for a ceasefire deal between Russia, Iran and Turkey – nothing except that,” Syrian Kurdish politician Zara Salih told ARA News. “The Syrian opposition and regime did not sign anything on the last day of the talks.”

Salafists Claim that Kurdish Forces are Terrorists

The head of Jaysh al-Islam, Mohammed Alloush, addressed the delegates at Astana and called for the PYD and YPG to be listed as terrorist groups. Jaysh al-Islam is a Salafist faction which has used caged Alawite civilians as human shields.

Aldar Xelil, a leading member of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) criticized the Kurdish National Council (KNC) on Tuesday for remaining silent during Alloush’s speech. The KNC had sent Abdulhakim Bashar and Ibrahim Biro as part of the opposition delegation.

“We are fully aware that Alloush and other rebel leaders are being backed by Turkey, thus they use a similar discourse describing Kurdish fighters as terrorists,” declared Salih, a politician in Northern Syria. “But the YPG are fighting terrorist groups […] with US support, so they are not terrorists.”

Doctor Kamal Sido, a consultant from the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), told ARA News that Ankara was most likely behind Alloush’s demand to list Kurdish groups as terrorists. “I think that is what Turkey demands, but it’s very difficult for Turkey to realize.”

The US has repeatedly made clear that it doesn’t see the YPG as a terrorist organization. In a striking departure from Ankara’s position, the new US Secretary of State called the Syrian Kurds Washington’s “greatest allies” in the fight against terrorism.

“We don’t consider the YPG to be a terrorist organization, and they have proven successful against ISIL inside Syria,” explained State Department spokesman John Kirby, employing another acronym for ISIS.

Regime Claims that Kurds are Opposed to Federalism

Bashar Jaafari, the leader of the regime’s delegation at Astana, said that most Syrian Kurds oppose federalism and that those Kurds who dream of federalism “need Panadol and Advil” – analgesic drugs.

According to Syrian state news, Jafari said that the issue of federalism would be decided “by all Syrians and not decided unilaterally by a single component,” adding that all ideas “even one as crazy as federalism, must be put to a democratic vote.”

Reiterating the regime’s position, Jaafari said that “it’s completely unacceptable for a group of people to decide to create a statelet and call it federalism.”

Jaafari’s statement was widely criticized by the political parties in northern Syria. Most of the Kurdish parties in Syria are working to establish autonomous federal structures; those who aren’t, are striving for an independent Kurdistan.

“This was the second time Jaafari has announced the regime’s opposition to federalism,” retorted Salih, a Kurdish politician. “The first time he suggested that Kurds should seek Panadol pills instead of federalism. Today, he advised us to take a stronger medicine, like Advil.”

“The best answer to Jaafari and to the Syrian opposition is an ‘independent Kurdistan’ in Syria,” Salih told ARA News, adding that sovereignty would “be the best solution for all Syrian people.”

“I think the regime in Damascus, the Islamists and Turkey have the same position on the question of autonomy or federalism,” Dr Kamal Sido reasoned. “They are against autonomy for Kurds, but the Kurds want federalism.”

“However, I believe the biggest enemy of Kurdish autonomy is Turkey and the Syrian Islamist rebels –not the regime in Damascus. They are similar to the Iraqi Sunnis who opposed federalism for the Kurdistan [Region] after 2003,” Sido concluded.

Northern Syria Holds Peace Conference

The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria held its own conference on Saturday, hashing out ideas which could end the Syrian crisis. During the conference, Kurdish, Arab, and Syriac politicians agreed to reject the statements emanating from Astana.

Foza Yousif, the newly elected co-chairwoman of northern Syria’s executive council, told the assembled politicians that past negotiations had not succeeded because the democratic movements were excluded.

Moreover, the YPG and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have made clear that they will not abide by any agreement reached in Astana. In a statement which was released on Tuesday, the Protection Units said that they believed that the Syrian crisis could only be resolved through “democratic projects, the fraternity of the peoples and democratic autonomy.”

“Since we have not been invited to the Astana talks, the decisions made there will not be binding for us in any way,” the YPG concluded. “Those decisions are only valid for the participants in the Astana meeting.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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