Staffan de Mistura. File photo
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QAMISHLI – The UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura has angered the Kurds by suggesting that they are only five per cent of the population, and are provoking Syrians for asking for federalism.
“This issue is coming up regularly and rightly so, by the way, because the Kurds, as you know, represent at least five percent of the Syrian population and the Syrian Kurds are Syrian. They have a voice and they need to be heard,” de Mistura said.
“Now the issue is that – first of all – everyone seems to be talking to them – the Americans, the Russians. Many of them are fighting against Daesh/ISIS in connection with member countries. But there are some difficulties in ensuring that they could be part of the talks,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“One of them is that they have been announcing that they are in favor of federalism – just to mention one. That is an issue that is provoking on all sides in Syria a reaction. We will be finding a way to have their voice heard. To give you another example, there are informal discussions with them all the time. But inviting them to the intra-Syrian talks will require some homework,” he suggested.
So far, both the Syrian regime and the opposition have rejected any form of federalism.
Many Kurdish politicians, journalists and intellectuals were angered by de Mistura’s comments that Kurds are only five per cent of the Syrian population.
“There is a campaign by Kurdish activists against his comments. They are condemning saying that Kurds are no more than 5% of Syrian people and asking him to clear his words and uncover his sources,” Idris Nassan, a former official in the Kobane administration told ARA News.
According to Nassan, the Kurds are getting closer to federalism, after declaring the preparation for a federal system on 17 March. Some Kurds expect that the three cantons of the Syrian Kurdish region Rojava [including Jazira, Kobane and Afrin] will be united soon, and elections and a referendum will be held in three months.
“Of course, this because Kurds are getting closer to gain their federal region as they have more international support. So the Syrian coalition and their alliances have pressure on de Mistura that led him to make such statements,” Nassan said.
“In my opinion, de Mistura uses his diplomacy this way to get SNC on in peace talks and go on to reach some concrete results, otherwise, he has to stop and declare the end of negotiations,” he concluded.
Speaking to ARA News, member of the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria (KNC), Zara Salih, said: “I think de Mistura is making a big mistake by releasing such a statement about the percentage of Kurds in Syria, because it is a fact that Kurds constitute at least 15 percent of the Syrian population, not five percent as he claims.”
“We can’t blame Staffan de Mistura here, because it is a responsibility of ENKS’ [Kurdish abbreviation for the Kurdish National Council in Syria] representatives in Geneva to offer right information to him and to ensure Kurdish demand for federal system as the best solution for new Syria,” he added.
“Definitely Syria will not remain central state and already according to Kery-Lavrov agreement the future of Syria is looking mostly towards federalism,” he suggested.
Salih argued that there is an opportunity for the international powers to include the Kurds in the Syrian peace talks in Geneva after the recent failures. “The best solution for the Kurds now is offering a separate Kurdish delegation which can represent all Kurds, because we can’t rely on the Syrian opposition,” the Kurdish official said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News