Report: Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces meet with Syrian government

Kurdish-led authorities attempt to open new channels to President Bashar Assad's government as they seek to negotiate a political deal that keeps their autonomy within Syria.

By REUTERS
August 14, 2018 11:03
2 minute read.
Report: Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces meet with Syrian government

A MEMBER of the Syrian Democratic Forces mourns at the grave of a fallen comrade.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BEIRUT - The political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been to Damascus for a second round of talks with the state, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday.

A delegation including members of the US-backed SDF, which controls roughly a quarter of Syria, held talks with Damascus earlier this month, their first declared visit to the capital.

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The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar Assad's government as they seek to negotiate a political deal that keeps their autonomy within Syria.

The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, which has mostly avoided conflict with Assad and says its aim has been to secure Kurdish rights rather than topple the government.

This has set them apart from rebel factions fighting to topple Assad since 2011, which have now been defeated in much of the territory they once held.

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) went for new talks on local administration and decentralization, al-Watan cited its co-chair Riad Darar as saying on Tuesday.

"All the discussions happening now are ... to find out the other side's point of view," he said. The talks "need a lot of reflection to make decisions, and so the matter was left to other meetings."

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Such negotiations could raise new questions for US policy in Syria, where the US military has deployed into SDF territory during the battle against Islamic State.

The "long dialog" included a proposal from Damascus for the de facto autonomous region to take part in the state's local elections next month, he told Reuters.

The SDC insists on preserving its structure of governance and self-rule in any future elections, he said. "The delegation from Qamishli decided it would return for more discussions."

State officials tabled many issues that the SDC saw as premature, Darar added. "We need to agree on service provision first and this could build trust between us and with the people."

The SDF seized swathes of land with U.S. help, though Washington opposes their ambitions of autonomy. The region they control spreads across much of northern and eastern Syria, rich in farmland, oil, and water.

Damascus sees the US forces as occupiers. For the first time, Assad said in May that he was "opening doors" for talks with the SDF, but also threatened force and said the Americans would leave one way or another.

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