Kurds begin talks with Assad regime on the future of Syria

Residents of the Syrian town of Douma use a small vehicle to carry humanitarian aid distributed by relief workers and the United Nations as part of a humanitarian assistance provided by France in the region of Eastern Ghouta on July 26, 2018. (Louai Beshara/AFP)
Updated 29 July 2018
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Kurds begin talks with Assad regime on the future of Syria

  • The two sides have agreed to form committees to discuss an end to the violence
  • The committees will chart a roadmap to a democratic, decentralized Syria

QAMISHLI, Syria/JEDDAH: Kurdish leaders have begun talks with the Assad regime in Damascus on the future of Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a military alliance backed by the US that controls about a quarter of the country in the north and northeast, has agreed with the regime to form joint committees after initial discussions on Thursday and Friday.


The aim is to create a “road map leading to a democratic and decentralized Syria,” said the Syrian Democratic Council, the SDF’s political wing.

“It is still very early to talk of an agreement but we are working on it,” said Sihanouk Dibo, an adviser to the main Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). “The negotiations will be long and arduous because the Damascus regime is very centralized.”

The talks are expected to infuriate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has launched three full-scale military operations in northern Syria in the past two years against the YPG, the Kurdish militia that spearheads the SDF.

Assad regime forces fled Kurdish-majority areas in 2012, a year after the Syrian civil war began, and the Kurds set up their own administrations there.

The SDF formalized the new administrative arrangements in 2016 with the creation of autonomous cantons in areas under its control that it regards as a model for a federal system nationwide.


The Assad regime officially opposes Kurdish self rule, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last year a “form of autonomy” was “negotiable.”


Bashar Assad said in May he was prepared to open talks with the SDF but remained ready to use force if necessary to ensure the return of regime troops and state institutions to SDF-held areas.

He has described the Kurdish administration’s democratic bodies in the northeast as “temporary structures.”


Analysts said talks between the Kurds and the Assad regime faced hurdles.

“It’s hard to see how they will reach more substantive agreement in the coming months because you just have a huge gap between the two sides on what the future of this region should look like,” said Noah Bonsey, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst on Syria.

An umbrella group representing other opposition forces in Syria has said it wants to hold talks with the regime on reform demands of its own,
but its bargaining power has been greatly reduced by its loss of territory in recent months.


Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK and US hold Yemen talks in London

Updated 42 min 22 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK and US hold Yemen talks in London

  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir took part in the meeting of the Yemen Quartet
  • Meeting discussed how best to support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths

LONDON: Saudi Arabia and the UAE met in London on Friday to discuss with the UK and US the next steps in the Yemen peace process.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir took part in the meeting of the Yemen Quartet.

The UK Foreign Office said the meeting discussed how best to support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.

A ceasefire between Yemeni government troops and Houthi militants was agreed for the key port of Hodeidah in December during talks in Sweden. But the implementation of the truce has stalled and the Arab Coalition supporting Yemeni forces has accused the Iran-backed Houthis of dozens of violations. The coalition includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“I called this meeting so that we keep doing everything we can to move forward on the hard road to peace in Yemen,” UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. “This is a horrendous conflict and it is taking too long to turn the ceasefire agreed in Stockholm into a durable path to peace.”

The meeting was also attended by the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nayan, and David Satterfield, a US acting assistant secretary of state.