Kurdish-backed body aims to widen authority in Syrian northeast

The third session meeting of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is held in Tabqa on Monday. Reuters
Updated 17 July 2018
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Kurdish-backed body aims to widen authority in Syrian northeast

  • Syrian Democratic Forces is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia but has expanded beyond majority Kurdish parts of the north
  • The Kurdish-led administrations in northern Syria last year began a three-stage election that aimed to deepen their autonomy through the new elected institutions

TABQA: The political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia said on Monday it would work to set up a unified administration for areas it controls, a step that would consolidate its authority in northern and eastern Syria.

The SDF controls around a quarter of Syria, much of it captured from Daesh with help from the US-led coalition. It is the biggest chunk of the country outside the control of President Bashar Assad’s government.
The plan announced on Monday at a congress of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) in Tabqa aims to bring together a number of local administrations or councils that have emerged across SDF-held areas of northern and eastern Syria.
“This is an administration to coordinate among the areas because there are gaps ... to secure needs (and services) in all areas,” Ilham Ahmed, the co-chair of the SDC and a top Syrian Kurdish politician, told Reuters.
Ahmed said the initiative was still in the early phases of discussion and the goal was to include all areas under SDF control. “It will have a benefit when it comes to ensuring security and stability,” she said.

 

The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia but has expanded beyond majority Kurdish parts of the north. Its territory now includes Raqqa, Daesh’s former Syrian base of operations, and Deir Ezzor province at the Iraqi border.
The group wants the Syrian conflict to end with a decentralized system that secures rights for minorities, including Kurds.

Territorial sway
The YPG and SDF have mostly avoided conflict with Assad during the seven-year war, setting them apart from rebels in western Syria who fought to topple him. The SDF and YPG say they do not seek an independent state.
Despite their big territorial sway, Syrian Kurdish groups have consistently been left out of UN peace talks, in line with the wishes of NATO member Turkey. It views the YPG as part of the Kurdish PKK, which has mounted a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Assad said last month Damascus was opening “doors for negotiations” with the SDF, but if these failed it would resort to force to recapture the areas where some 2,000 US forces are stationed. Though Kurdish leaders say they are ready to talk to Damascus, Ahmed signalled there had been no moves toward negotiations. She said Assad’s comments had not moved beyond “the theoretical level.”
The Kurdish-led administrations in northern Syria last year began a three-stage election that aimed to deepen their autonomy through the new elected institutions.
But the third and final stage of that election was postponed indefinitely after Turkey launched an incursion into the Kurdish Afrin region of northwest Syria, a leading Kurdish politician told Reuters last month.

Decoder

What is the meaning of YPG?

YPG is an acronym whose translation means People’s Protection Units. It is the home grown defense forces of the Kurdish area of Syria. It emerged after the Civil War erupted in Syria and started to spill over into Syrian Kurdistan, now known as Rojava, or what Kurds call “Western Kurdistan.”


UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

Khalifa Haftar. (Supplied)
Updated 21 August 2018
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UN calls on Libya to crack down on violent militias

  • Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar
  • Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees

TRIPOLI: The UN has called on Libya’s internationally recognized government to crack down on armed groups obstructing the work of state institutions in the chaos-wracked country.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) late on Sunday night expressed its “strong condemnation of the violence, intimidation and obstruction to the work of Libya’s sovereign institutions by militiamen.”
It called on the UN-backed Government of National Accord to “prosecute those responsible for these criminal actions.”
The GNA’s military and security institutions have failed to place limits on the powerful militias that sprung up in the turmoil that followed the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Several state institutions, including those in Tripoli, have been regular targets of harassment and intimidation by armed groups technically operating under the GNA’s Interior Ministry.
Members of militias “nominally acting under the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord are attacking sovereign institutions and preventing them from being able to operate effectively,” UNSMIL said.
Last week, the GNA’s National Oil Corp. said men from the Interior Ministry had forced their way into the headquarters of Brega Petroleum Marketing Company — a distribution outfit — to “arrest” its chief.
The Libyan Investment Authority, the GNA-managed sovereign wealth fund, recently moved from its downtown Tripoli office to a more “secure” location after threats from militiamen against its employees.
UNSMIL said it would work with the international community and the GNA to “investigate the possibility of bringing sanctions against those interfering with or threatening the operations of any sovereign institution.”
Libya remains divided between the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east supported by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A myriad of militias,terrorist groups and people traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos to gain a foothold in the North African country.