Syria’s Kurds criticise Damascus ‘threats’

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Ayoub, above, said the government is determined to return the Kurdish-led areas. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Syria’s Kurds criticise Damascus ‘threats’

  • Syrian defence minister made the remarks during a press conference on Monday
  • SDF said the remarks expose the government’s divisive plans

OMAR OIL FIELD, Syria: Syria’s Kurds have criticized the “threatening language” of the Damascus regime after it pledged to retake northeastern areas they control by reconciliation or by force.

The minority have largely stayed out of Syria’s war, instead carving out a de-facto autonomous region across a large swathe of northern and northeastern Syria.

That region is held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who have been battling the Daesh group with backing from a US-led coalition.

Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub on Monday said his government would recapture all areas held by the SDF “in one of two ways: a reconciliation agreement or... by force.”

In a statement late Monday, the semi-autonomous administration slammed his comments.

“The Syrian defense minister’s statement regarding the SDF... reflects the continuation of the racist and sterile policy that has led Syria to this disastrous situation,” it said in a statement.

“The use of threatening language against the SDF who have liberated and protected the north and east of Syria from terrorists only serves those forces working to divide Syria,” it said.

US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December of a pullout of all US forces from Syria shocked the Kurds and sent them grappling to mend fences with Damascus.

Dialogue between both sides has been ongoing, but has failed to bear fruit.

Damascus rejects Kurdish self-rule and wants a return of government institutions to oil-rich SDF-held areas.

The Kurds want protection from a long-threatened Turkish offensive, but seek some form of decentralization from Damascus.

“The autonomous administration... stands by its position of the need for a solution and dialogue within the Syrian framework for all pending issues,” the Kurdish authorities said.

“But we want all sides to know that we, while choosing the political solution, we will spare no effort in the legitimate defense of our rights if necessary,” he said.

Eight years into a war that has killed more than 370,000 people, the Damascus regime controls almost two-thirds of the country after a series of victories against rebels and jihadists.

But the SDF-held region, a northwestern jihadist bastion and border areas held by Turkey’s Syrian proxies remain beyond its control.


Moroccans protest prison sentences of anti-poverty activists

Updated 38 min 13 sec ago
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Moroccans protest prison sentences of anti-poverty activists

  • Security forces kept watch as participants sang, “The people want the detainees released” and “Long live Rif.”

RABAT: Thousands of demonstrators in Morocco are condemning prison sentences given to the leader of the Hirak Rif anti-poverty movement and dozens of other activists.
The demonstration brought one of the main avenues of the Moroccan capital, Rabat, to a standstill on Sunday. Security forces kept watch as participants sang, “The people want the detainees released” and “Long live Rif.”
Hirak leader Nasser Zefzafi was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 20 years for threatening state security. An appeals court upheld his sentence and those of other activists this month.
Rif is the struggling region in northern Morocco where the Hirak movement was born in 2016. The movement demands development and job creation for the region.
Families, human rights organizations and left-wing parties are demanding the imprisoned activists’ immediate release.