Posted on August 6, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Kurdistan
Syrian Kurdish PYD leader Salih Muslim. Photo: Avasinweb
MOSCOW,— The proposal to establish an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan, the north of a federalized Syria, is currently being discussed as this topic concerns the entire country, Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Sputnik.
Syrian Kurds have established three autonomous zones, or “cantons”, and Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013.
Syria’s Kurds on March 17, 2016 declared a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan in the country’s north, but both the government and an opposition coalition swiftly rejected the announcement.
“The theme of federalization is being discussed. It is not a question of northern Syria. It’s a question of the whole of Syria. Discussions are ongoing,” Muslim said in an interview.
He added that the issues that need to be negotiated include a federal parliament and holding elections.
Syrian Kurds worried Erdogan will try to mend ties with Assad out of spite
Salih Muslim expressed his concerns over the possibility of Ankara attempting to normalize relations with the Syrian government out of spite for the Kurds.
Speaking to Sputnik Turkey, Muslim explained that the PYD is concerned about the prospects of post-coup attempt Turkey strengthening ties with neighboring states to prevent Kurds from achieving their rights to autonomy in Syrian Kurdistan. He suggested that he doubts that Turkey will be able to make peace with Assad, but added that even if that happens, it will not affect the Syrian Kurdish project for autonomy inside Syria.
Turkey fears the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syrian Kurdistan could fan separatism among its own large Kurdish population who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 78-million population.
Over 3 million Kurds live in Syrian Kurdistan.
Commenting on the July 16 coup attempt, Muslim said that it was entirely expected, and that the military had long been unhappy with the Justice and Development Party’s course of Islamization. At the same time, he indicated that the coup attempt was clearly a direct result of Ankara’s “misguided policies,” including against the Kurds.
“The putschists were people who were largely engaged with the Kurdish problem,” Muslim explained, referring to the military and other security forces involved in a brutal campaign against the Kurds in southern Turkey. “The AKP wanted to get rid of them. They were unable to solve the Kurdish problem.”
Asked what he thought about the normalization of ties between Turkey and Russia, and the possibility that Turkey will soon change its policy on Syria as well, Muslim emphasized that “from the beginning, we have said that Erdogan and the leaders of the AKP are making concessions in order to prevent the Kurds from attaining their rights. This is the main thing for them, and it concerns Syria, Turkey and the other places where Kurds live. They made peace with Russia and Israel. Now it is Assad’s turn.”
At the same time, Muslim suggested that it is unlikely that Ankara and Damascus will be able to come to a rapprochement. “Turkey has already lost its political weight. They are making concessions to everyone, including Assad. But this will not lead anywhere, because nobody can trust Turkey.”
“Even if Turkey reaches consensus with Assad, this will not affect the Kurds. I don’t think it will throw us back. I doubt that Turkey will be able to come to terms with Assad. But even if they do, this will not affect us, because we do not depend on anyone’s support. We stand on our own feet. We do not act against Turkey relying on the Syrian regime, nor act against the Syrian regime relying on Turkey. We rely on the strength of our people. We have a federalization project which is making progress every day.”
Muslim also emphasized that Syrian Kurds are not Ankara’s enemy. “We look at Turkey in strategic terms. We are neighbors. We need to be together; we need to be friends. But Turkey, because of their hostility to the Kurds, acts against us. This is not good, but we will continue to extend a hand of friendship to Turkey.”
“The Kurdish problem has gone far beyond the scope of the Rojava and affects all Kurds,” Muslim added, referring to the de facto autonomous region in northern Syria. “We would consider it very beneficial if Turkey came to an agreement with their own Kurds. But Turkey does not want to do so; they continue to terrorize us. But this will not work. Turkey is trying to fool everyone, but no one believes them.”
Ultimately, Muslim emphasized that resolving the Syrian conflict will be impossible without Kurdish input, including at the Geneva peace talks. The politician suggested that Russia is “at the center of the decision of the Syrian issue,” and that it has the tools at its disposal to help resolve the crisis. Muslim hinted that Russia can pressure its allies in Geneva to come to a peace settlement.
Kurds in political arena amid Syrian settlement
Moscow is standing in the center of the Syrian conflict’s settlement and should use its power to support Syrian Kurds on the political arena, Salih Muslim told Sputnik.
“Russia is our friend. It must support us in the political arena. We are awaiting stronger solidarity from friends,” Muslim said in an interview.
He added that Moscow was in the heart of the solution of the Syrian issue and could use its authority during the next round of Geneva talks on Syria’s reconciliation.
“Russia has an effective force in this matter, it can do something for the Syrian settlement,” Muslim said.
While the Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, none of their representatives have been invited to the intra-Syrian negotiations, the latest round of which took place in Geneva on April 13-27.
Russia has been calling on the United Nations to invite Syrian Kurds to the proximity talks on settlement of the five-year civil war in Syria.