Kurdish rep in Geneva talks calls Syrian federalization 'uncalculated'

Kurdish rep in Geneva talks calls Syrian federalization 'uncalculated'
5 years ago

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GENEVA -- A Kurdish member of the main opposition group at the Syria peace talks in Geneva, Abdul Hakim Bachar, called the federal system announcement "an adventurous, uncalculated decision," and doubts it will affect negotiations.

"We know that the Kurdish Democratic Party is not a part of the Syrian security apparatus so it won't affect the negotiations," Bachar, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) representative in the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), told Reuters in Geneva.

Syria's three Kurdish-controlled autonomous regions voted on Thursday (March 17) to approve the establishment of a federal system in the north of the country, defying warnings from Damascus and neighbouring Turkey against any such unilateral move.

The vote was held at a conference in the town of Rmeilan in northeast Syria. The Syrian government immediately said it had no legal or political impact.

"It is not the Kurds who announced it. The people who announced it are the Democratic Union, a small Kurdish party that has received a lot of military support from many sides. We, as the Kurdish National Council, are in favour of federalism, a federal state and a sectarian constitution but not in this formula - it should be within a national Syrian agreement confirmed in the constitution of the country. This (announcement) is not federalism but an adventurous uncalculated decision, with no legal, political or constitutional validity. I think announcing it at this time, in effect, relieves pressure on the regime; when at this time after the withdrawal of the Russian forces, the regime is under pressure to accept the political solution based on Geneva 1, which requires the departure of the regime," Bachar added.

Syria's Kurds effectively control an uninterrupted 400 km (250 miles) of territory along the Syrian-Turkish border from the Euphrates River to the frontier with Iraq, where Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed autonomy since the early 1990s. They also hold a separate section of the northwestern border in the Afrin area.

Voting on the federal model had been expected on Wednesday (March 16) but was delayed by one day, in part because of demands from local Arab and Assyrian communities for reassurances that it would not mean separation from Syria, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Nevertheless, it will be sure to alarm neighbouring Turkey, which fears that growing Kurdish control over parts of northern Syria is fuelling separatism among its own minority Kurds.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday that Syria's national unity and territorial integrity was fundamental, and any unilateral decisions outside that framework "cannot have validity".

On the negotiations to end the five-year-old Syrian conflict, Bachar said a political solution depends on the international community.

"The first round is apparently more serious than the previous one but we are not very optimistic. We will see today and next week what the regime can accept, but I personally am not optimistic, this regime won't accept a political solution unless there is huge international pressure, especially from its Russian allies," he said.

The Geneva talks are part of a diplomatic push launched with U.S.-Russian support to end a conflict that has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world's worst refugee crisis, and allowed for the rise of Islamic State.

The talks are expected to run until March 24.