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SDF: Raqqa to be part of decentralized Syria

Female Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather during a celebration at the iconic Al-Naim Square in Raqqa after retaking the city from Daesh fighters. (AFP)
JEDDAH: Raqqa and the surrounding province will be part of a decentralized, federal Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which captured the city from Daesh, said on Friday.
“We pledge to protect the borders of the province against all external threats, and we confirm that the future of Raqqa province will be determined by its people within the framework of a decentralized, federal democratic Syria in which the people of the province will run their own affairs,” the SDF said in a statement formally declaring Raqqa’s capture from Daesh.
Ali Haidar, the Syrian regime’s minister responsible for national reconciliation, said Raqqa’s future could only be discussed “as part of the final political structure of the Syrian state.”
In reaction to the SDF statement, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Arab News: “When you’re killing around 1,200 civilians — nearly half of them women and children — and destroying 80 percent of the city, that’s not liberating Raqqa.”
The city and province will continue to be part of Syria “whether Americans accept it or not,” he said, rejecting the possibility of Syria fragmenting. He said the majority of the people in Raqqa are Arabs and that “whoever controls its people, will have the control over Raqqa.”
Abdel Rahman said the Syrian game is now between Russia and America.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is a risk that de-escalation zones created in Syria will lead to a division of the country. But, he said he hoped that could be avoided.
Quoting his top sources, Abdel Rahman said, a split of Syria will remain a dream.
He said Russia took Al-Mayadeen, the second most important city under Daesh’s control after Raqqa, in four days, “but it took them four months to take Raqqa.”
He said the international media took special interest in Raqqa “because Kurdish fighters were fighting there.”
Abdel Rahman said Syria will become a theater of war between the US and Russia. The country is now controlled by Washington and Moscow, not by the Assad regime, the SDF or any other group, Abdel Rahman added.
Asked what future he sees for the war-wracked country, he said: “The people of Syria are its future.”
The US State Department said Daesh’s loss of Raqqa “does not mean our fight against ISIS is over.” It said the global coalition will continue to draw on all elements of national power … until all Syrians have been liberated from ISIS brutality and we can ensure that it can no longer export its terror around the world.”
In a declaration formally announcing Raqqa’s liberation, the SDF pledged “to protect the frontiers of the province against all external threats,” and to hand control to a civil council from the city.

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