No autonomy to Syrian Kurds, says Assad adviser

A senior adviser to Bashar Assad on Tuesday rejected the idea of giving Syrian Kurds a measure of autonomy. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019

No autonomy to Syrian Kurds, says Assad adviser

  • The Kurds want to safeguard their autonomous region inside a decentralized state
  • Ankara wants the area near the Turkish border to be cleared of the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia

MOSCOW: A senior adviser to Bashar Assad on Tuesday flatly rejected the idea of giving Syrian Kurds a measure of autonomy, saying such a move would open the door to the partition of the country.

The Kurdish-led authority that runs much of north and east Syria has presented a road map for a deal with Assad in recent meetings with his key ally Russia.

The Kurds want to safeguard their autonomous region inside a decentralized state when US troops currently backing them pull out. They also hope a deal with Damascus would dissuade neighboring Turkey from attacking them.

But when asked on Tuesday if Damascus was willing to do a deal that would hand the Kurds some measure of autonomy, Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Assad, flatly rejected the suggestion.

“Autonomy means the partition of Syria. We have no way to partition Syria,” she told Reuters on the sidelines of a Middle East conference in Moscow organized by the Valdai Discussion Club.

Her comments come after Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad expressed optimism last month over dialogue with Kurdish groups, and suggest the Kurds will face an uphill struggle to wring concessions from Damascus, which has said it wants to retake every inch of territory lost during eight years of war.

Shaaban praised Moscow for its Syria intervention, saying it had shown “amazing consistency in dealing with facts on the ground.”

She was scathing about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his idea of carving out “a safe zone” in northeast Syria however.

Ankara wants the area near the Turkish border to be cleared of the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia and to move into territory there, some of which is currently controlled by US forces.

Shaaban said the idea smacked of an illegal land grab.

“Turkey has all the new ambition to occupy other people’s land and I think we are facing Erdogan who has dreams of reinvigorating and recreating the Ottoman Empire,” she said.

“But I don’t think he will be able to do that because our people are there to defend our land.”

Turkey backs the anti-Assad opposition that still has a foothold in northwestern Syria, and has troops in that area.


Deal on horizon after Lebanon maritime border talks

Updated 8 min 24 sec ago

Deal on horizon after Lebanon maritime border talks

  • Hariri condemns ‘heinous criminal attack’ on French worshippers 

BEIRU: Talks between Israel and Lebanon over disputed maritime borders are expected to resume next month following two days of productive negotiations, the US and UN said.

US-mediated talks held at the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters in Naqoura ended on Thursday with plans for another round of negotiations to begin on Nov. 11.

Lebanon presented documents and maps claiming its right to 2,270 sq. km of the marine area, a position at odds with Israel.

Following the talks, the US and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon released a statement saying: “Building on progress from their Oct. 14 meeting, on Oct. 28 and 29 representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon held productive talks mediated by the US and hosted by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL).

“The US and UNSCOL remain hopeful that these negotiations will lead to a long-awaited resolution. The parties committed to continue negotiations next month.”

Meanwhile, a terrorist attack that left three people dead in a church in the southern French city of Nice has drawn widespread condemnation in Lebanon.

Prime minister-designate Saad Hariri condemned what he described as a “heinous criminal attack.”

After meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Lebanon’s top Sunni religious authority, he said: “The incidents in France are regrettable, but we condemn in return the words and cartoons mocking the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). But what happened today in Nice is a very regrettable murder because it makes it seem like all Muslims have the same mentality, and this is entirely false.

“Thoughts, speech or revenge should not be based on this logic. This discourse is wrong. Just as well, such cartoons should not be published, and we condemn them. But the important thing is to realize that Islam is fine.”