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)
Updated 21 October 2017
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SDF: Raqqa to be part of decentralized Syria

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.


Minister’s ouster unlikely to slow Sudan’s push to get off US ‘terror’ list

Updated 20 April 2018
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Minister’s ouster unlikely to slow Sudan’s push to get off US ‘terror’ list

  • Ghandour was fired a day after he said in parliament that Sudanese diplomats abroad had not been paid in months.
  • Analysts say his sacking is not expected to derail ties between Khartoum and Washington.

Khartoum: President Omar Al-Bashir’s dismissal of Sudan’s foreign minister, Khartoum’s top negotiator with Washington, is unlikely to affect efforts to have Khartoum removed from a US “terrorism” blacklist, experts say.
On Thursday, Bashir sacked Ibrahim Ghandour, who headed negotiations with Washington that in October helped lift a decades-old US trade embargo on Khartoum.
His dismissal comes amid an economic crisis in the African country and his replacement, who has yet to be named, is set to inherit a complicated case load.
Ghandour, the first official to publicly raise concerns over Sudan’s economic crisis, was fired a day after he said in parliament that Sudanese diplomats abroad had not been paid in months.
But analysts say his sacking is not expected to derail ties between Khartoum and Washington, which have warmed since the sanctions were lifted.
“Ghandour’s loss will be felt, but his going won’t change Khartoum’s policy direction,” Magnus Taylor, Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
By dismissing Ghandour, Khartoum is not changing its “moderate” policy toward Washington, he said.
“Generally, Sudanese are focused on getting themselves out of the SSTL,” Taylor said, referring to Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism List.
Although Washington lifted sanctions imposed in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support of militant groups, it has kept Sudan on the blacklist along with Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Officials say the US terror tag prevents international banks from doing business with Khartoum, in turn hampering Sudan’s economic revival.
Ghandour had been pushing for Khartoum’s removal from the blacklist in a bid to obtain much needed foreign loans.
“He was useful for negotiations with the US because people thought they can deal with him as he was reasonable, eloquent and intelligent,” Taylor said.
“But Sudan will bring someone else who can do that kind of job.”