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

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.


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 18 August 2019

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”