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.


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.