Kurd-Arab council ready for ‘unconditional talks’ with Syria regime

File photo showing fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are seen in Deir Ezzor, Syria, May 1, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 10 June 2018

Kurd-Arab council ready for ‘unconditional talks’ with Syria regime

  • The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is linked to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia that holds much of the country’s north and east.
  • Leading SDC member Hekmat Habib told AFP that both the council and the SDF “are serious about opening the door to dialogue” with the government.

QAMISHLI, SYRIA: The political arm of a powerful alliance of Syrian Kurd and Arab fighters announced Sunday it was ready for unconditional peace talks with the central government in Damascus.
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is linked to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia that holds much of the country’s north and east.
Those areas are outside regime control, and most are managed by autonomous Kurdish-run administrations that the regime sees as a challenge to its authority.
In a statement on Sunday, the SDC said it was committed to resolving Syria’s deadly conflict through dialogue, and would not “hesitate to agree to unconditional talks.”
“It is positive to see comments about a summit for Syrians, to pave the way to start a new page,” it said.
Leading SDC member Hekmat Habib told AFP that both the council and the SDF “are serious about opening the door to dialogue” with the government.
“With the SDF’s control of 30 percent of Syria, and the regime’s control of swathes of the country, these are the only two forces who can sit at the negotiating table and formulate a solution to the Syrian crisis,” he said.
The comments are the latest in a string of developments indicating an attempted rapprochement between the regime and Kurdish authorities, in an effort to head off a clash.
Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Kurdish forces he could use force against them, if he was not able to take their territory through talks.
Several days later, a delegation from Syria’s tolerated domestic opposition made a rare visit to Qamishli, most of which is held by Kurdish forces linked to the SDF.
A Syrian Kurdish official told AFP at the time that the delegation was trying to play a mediating role between local autonomous authorities and the regime.


Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

Updated 10 min 17 sec ago

Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

  • New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths
  • Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing

DUBAI: A wedding party contributed to a new surge in coronavirus infections in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday but insisted the country had no option but to keep its economy open despite warnings of a second wave of the epidemic.
Iran, which has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, has reported a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent days. Thursday’s toll of 3,574 new cases was the highest since February, when the outbreak was first reported.
“At one location, we witnessed a peak in this epidemic, the source of which was a wedding that caused problems for the people, health workers and losses to the economy and the country’s health system,” Rouhani said on state TV. He did not say when or where the wedding took place.
New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths.
Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing. One official said about 70% of the new cases in Tehran were among those who had traveled outside the capital in recent days.
Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19 but authorities are concerned that measures to limit public and economic life to contain the virus could wreck an already economy already reeling under international sanctions.
“In these circumstances, we have no other choice — that is, there is no second option,” Rouhani added. “We have to work, our factories have to be active, our shops have to be open, and there has to be movement in the country as far as it is necessary.”
Iranian universities reopened on Saturday after being closed for more than three and a half months, state media reported. Nurseries will reopen in a week’s time, when Qur'an and languages classes will also resume, Rouhani said.