Don’t abandon us, Syrian Kurds tell Europe

Kurdish official Aldar Khalil played a key role in establishing Syria's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in 2013. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
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Don’t abandon us, Syrian Kurds tell Europe

  • The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been leading the fight against the Daesh group in Syria for the past four years
  • Khalil explained that the Kurds might need to seek protection from Assad unless their Western allies stepped up

PARIS: A top Kurdish official has called on Europe not to abandon Syrian Kurds once the battle against the Daesh group is over and to help set up an international force to protect them from Turkey.
European powers “have a political and moral responsibility” to the Kurds, Aldar Khalil told AFP in a interview in Paris, warning that the Kurds would seek the protection of Syrian President Bashar Assad if failed by Europe and the US.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been leading the fight against the Daesh group in Syria for the past four years, backed up by air strikes from a US-led coalition of powers.
With Daesh’s self-declared caliphate now in ruins, the Kurds fear being left at the mercy of Turkey after the US declares mission accomplished in the final battle for the militants’ last holdout.
Turkey considers the SDF to be a terror group and is threatening to invade the area under Kurdish control.
Khalil appealed to Europe for protection.
“If they (Europe) don’t meet their commitments they are effectively abandoning us,” Khalil said late on Sunday, calling on France particularly to work at the United Nations for the creation of a buffer zone along the border with Turkey.
“France can table a proposal to the Security Council on our protection, suggesting an international force between us and the Turks — of which it would be part — or to protect our airspace,” Khalil said.
The senior political representative, who played a key role in establishing Syria’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, said that it could be modelled on the UN peacekeeping force deployed along Lebanon’s border with Israel.
Khalil explained that the Kurds might need to seek protection from Assad unless their Western allies stepped up — and he spelled out the terms of a possible deal.
“We will be obliged to agree a deal with the (Syrian) regime so that it deploys its troops along the border and protects us,” Khalil explained.
He said that the Kurds would insist on maintaining autonomy and demand that the border troops be Kurdish.
“They would come under the orders of the Syrian army, but be our units,” he said.
In return, they would offer to give the government a cut of the Kurdish region’s oil revenues.
“We can also agree to raise the regime’s flag,” he added.
Eight years into the conflict that has killed more than 360,000 people, Assad controls nearly two-thirds of the country and is anxious to win back more territory.
On Sunday, he warned the Kurds that the US would not protect them against Turkey.
“No one will protect you except your state,” he said.


Netanyahu struggles to form government amid talk of new election

Updated 20 min 59 sec ago
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Netanyahu struggles to form government amid talk of new election

  • Israeli leader faces Wednesday deadline to seal deal
  • Coalition talks deadlocked over military conscription bill

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked on Sunday on what he termed a “final effort” to break a deadlock on forming a governing coalition ahead of a Wednesday deadline for a deal.
In power for the past decade, Netanyahu has unexpectedly struggled to seal an agreement with a clutch of right-wing, far-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would align with his Likud party and ensure him a fifth term following Israel’s April 9 election.
Divisions between former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party and United Torah Judaism over a military conscription bill governing exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students have plunged the coalition talks into stalemate.
Lieberman has long said ultra-Orthodox men must share other Israeli Jews’ burden of mandatory service. Ultra-Orthodox parties say seminary students should be largely exempt from conscription as they have been since Israel was founded in 1948.
A 42-day deadline mandated by law to announce a new government expires on Wednesday, and President Reuven Rivlin can then assign the task to another legislator after consultations with the leaders of political parties.
That could open the way for former military chief Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, to try. But he would need the backing of some of Likud’s allies to persuade Rivlin he could put together a ruling majority in parliament.
Likud and Blue and White each won 35 of the Knesset’s 120 seats seats in the April ballot, but Netanyahu was seen as having clinched victory because of the right-wing majority that emerged.
In a video published on Twitter on Sunday, Netanyahu said he had invited all of his negotiating partners to meet him in “a final attempt to form a right-wing government” and avoid “an unnecessary election.”
A Likud source said the sessions would be held later in the day and on Monday.
Parallel to the negotiations, Likud announced preparations for a possible national ballot, with November already touted by political analysts as a likely date.
Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar released a draft of a dissolution bill that he said he was submitting to parliament, but no date for a vote in the legislature was announced. Likud said its secretariat would meet on Tuesday “to prepare for an election.”
Some political commentators saw those moves as an attempt to pressure Likud’s negotiating partners into a deal, given the possibility of a voter backlash against another national ballot so soon after the previous one and the uncertainty of the election’s outcome in a country riven by divisions.
The scheduling of an election — and Likud could face an uphill battle for the necessary 61 votes in parliament to pass a dissolution resolution — would pre-empt a coalition-building assignment from Rivlin and ensure Netanyahu remains as interim prime minister until a new government is formed.
Already locked in a legal battle over his potential indictment in three corruption cases, Netanyahu has vowed to remain in office even if he is charged. He denies any wrongdoing and is scheduled to argue against indictment at a pre-trial hearing in October.