A deal between the Syrian government and the administration in the autonomous region in northern Syria is “inevitable,” a senior Kurdish military official said on Saturday, January 5, insisting that Kurdish forces should remain in the area.
Marginalised for decades, Syria’s Kurds led the formation of a de facto autonomous region across some 30 percent of the nation’s territory after the devastating war began in 2011.
The predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forms the backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces alliance, which is waging the ground campaign against Islamic State in Syria backed by the international Coalition.
Those new administrative arrangements were formalized in 2016 with the creation of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria in territory under SDF control.
U.S. President Donald Trumps’s shock decision to withdraw troops from Syria sparked turmoil within his administration and inflamed fears of a long-expected Turkish assault against the YPG.
Turkey considers the YPG inextricable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and its Western allies. The YPG is not a proscribed organization in the European Union, United Kingdom or United States.
After Trump’s announcement, U.S. officials encouraged the northern Syria administration to try to find a solution with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, senior Syrian Democratic official Ilham Ahmed told The Defense Post.
Rêdûr Xelîl, a senior SDF official and past YPG spokesperson, told AFP that northern Syria officials and Damascus were bound to reach a deal.
“Reaching a solution between the autonomous administration and the Syrian government is inevitable because our areas are part of Syria,” Xelil said.
Talks ongoing over administration of Manbij
Turkey-backed Syrian rebel groups, including militant Islamist groups, have been massing near Manbij in preparation for an apparent attack on the city. In response to the threat, and after a YPG call for the government to protect against a Turkish invasion, Syrian Arab Army forces deployed west of the city in the town of al-Arima, and Russia re-established its coordination center there.
U.S. State Department officials previously expressed concern that any Turkey-led incursion would put Coalition forces at serious risk, and recommended that CJTF-OIR commander Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera increase patrols and cooperation on the Manbij roadmap agreed between the U.S. and Turkey.
“Negotiations are ongoing with the government to reach a final formulation for administering the city of Manbij,” Xelil told AFP, adding that talks had shown “positive signs”.
If that leads to a solution that “protects the rights” of Manbij residents, a similar arrangement could be applied to SDF-controlled areas of Deir Ezzor province, east of the Euphrates river, Xelil said.
Xelil added that the deployment of government forces along the Turkish border could not be ruled out.
“We still have some differences with the central government, which need negotiations with international support,” Xelil said, adding that regime backer Russia could act as a guarantor state.
Outstanding issues in the talks between northern Syria officials and the Syrian regime include the form of government in Kurdish regions and the future of Kurdish forces stationed there, AFP reporting him as saying.
“The tasks of these forces could change, but we will not withdraw from our territory,” Xelil said, adding Kurdish fighters could be integrated into the Syrian army.
With reporting from AFP