No autonomy to Syrian Kurds, says Assad adviser

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

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.


President-elect Biden: Last thing Middle East needs is Iran with nuclear weapon

Updated 34 min 27 sec ago

President-elect Biden: Last thing Middle East needs is Iran with nuclear weapon

President-elect Biden: Last thing Middle East needs is Iran with nuclear weapon
  • Said Tehran would have to agree to new demands if return to deal was possible
  • Added Tehran must address its “malign” regional activities through proxies

LONDON: US President-elect Joe Biden said he is against Iran gaining a nuclear weapon, adding it is the “last thing” the Middle East region needs, in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday.

Biden also said that his administration would seek to extend the duration of “restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a (nuclear) bomb” in any new negotiations on a nuclear deal.

He added that Tehran would have to agree to new demands if a return to a deal was possible and that it must address its “malign” regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Incumbent President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal struck in 2018 and reimposed strong sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic republic.

Biden, who defeated Trump at the ballot box last month, said during campaigning that he did not support the lifting of sanctions but intended to offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.”

However, in the NYT interview published on Wednesday, he admitted that getting Iran to agree to a modified deal would be “hard.”

“Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” Biden was quoted as saying.

“The best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” was to deal “with the nuclear program,” he added.

The president-elect warned that if Iran acquired a bomb, it would spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and that “the last . . . thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability,” he added.

“In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program,” he told the Times.

Biden was cited as saying that the US always had the option to snap back sanctions if needed, and that Iran knew that.

The JCPOA had given Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

* With AFP