News / Middle East

    Syrian Kurds Set to Declare Autonomous Federal Region in Syria

    Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters carry their weapons while riding on the back of a pick-up truck in Qamishli, Syria, March 11, 2016.
    Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters carry their weapons while riding on the back of a pick-up truck in Qamishli, Syria, March 11, 2016.
    Edward YeranianCarla Babb

    Representatives of Syria's largest Kurdish party say they plan to declare an autonomous federal region for the areas they control in the northern part of the country.

    Kurdish leaders in Syria said other ethnic and sectarian groups, including Arabs and Turkmen, will be represented in the regional grouping.

    However, the United States said Wednesday it will not recognize "self rule" of a semi-autonomous zone in Syria.

    "We remain committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Syria," Deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

    Toner said the U.S. remains "focused on advancing a genuine, negotiated political transition towards an inclusive government" in all of Syria.

    As Syrian Kurdish militiamen continue to battle other opposition factions in the north of Syria, their political leaders said they are preparing to declare an autonomous federal region.

    'Declaration' soon

    Idriss Nassan, a top Kurdish foreign affairs representative in the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobani, told Al Jazeera TV that “preparation for the declaration of federalism in north Syria will be soon,” and that Kurdish representatives are now “meeting to discuss the declaration."

    Speaking Wednesday from Baghdad, Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for the coalition's operation against the Islamic State group, said the announcement was a "political matter" that would not affect operations against IS terrorists.

    Syria's ambassador to the U.N., Bashar al-Jaafari, however, told reporters in Geneva that attempts to sow division among the Syrian people would not work.

    "The Syrian Kurds are an important component of the Syrian people," he said. "We are proud of them; they are proud of us. We have established our state together for centuries. So, betting on creating any kind of divisions among the Syrians will be a total failure."

    Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. and Head of the Government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari, left, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive at peace-talks at the U.N. office in Geneva, March 16, 2016.
    Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. and Head of the Government delegation Bashar al-Jaafari, left, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, right, arrive at peace-talks at the U.N. office in Geneva, March 16, 2016.

    Three Kurdish-controlled autonomous regions would unite under the Kurdish plan being reviewed. The Kurdish PYD militia controls large swaths of northern Syria, after defeating Islamic State militants along the Turkish border.

    Turkey, however, is not likely to view the autonomy announcement with much enthusiasm, given the low-level conflict between the Turkish government and its own Kurdish citizens, and the recent spate of bomb attacks which Turkey accuses Kurdish groups of perpetrating.

    US State Department

    A U.S. State Department spokesman Wednesday issued a statement saying, "We have not and will not recognize any "self-rule" semi-autonomous zone" and that, "We remain committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Syria."

    Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA that he believes the Kurds' autonomy declaration may aggravate the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

    "Needless to say, this move will mightily anger Ankara and the Turks are bound to respond to it. So, whether it flies or not, it causes an escalation in the situation in Syria. Now, we will have to await the Turkish response to it," said Khashan.

    Kurdish political leaders were not invited to the Syria peace talks now taking place in Geneva due to Turkish opposition. Ankara accuses the Syrian-Kurdish PYD party of having ties with the more militant Kurdish PKK, whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is imprisoned in Turkey.

    VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report


    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Alan Dew from: United Kingdom
    March 16, 2016 6:36 PM
    So, Kosovo deserved an independent sate, but Kurds even do not deserve a federal system although they have fought bravely ISIL and other Jihadist terrorist groups! The US administration is to get red of its policy of appeasing the Turkish governments against the Kurdish people. The US is invited to accept and support the Kurdish nation who strongly want to be the closest friend of American people. Kurds have suffered quite much during at least 100 year of injustice since the colonial Sikes-Picot agreement of 1916 which divided their home land and gave it to newly created states; Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran which have been ruled by noon-Kurdish ethnicities whose regimes perpetrated crimes against humanity or maybe genicides against the Kurdish people. Kurds have the highest level tolerant and pro-Western population among the majority Muslim societies and it is time that the West looks back at its mistakes and supports the freedom of Kurdsvin order for Kurds to act as a major front-line against the Jihaidst Salafi Islam.

    by: Sunlight from: Sahalahti
    March 16, 2016 4:10 PM
    Kurdish People need own country.It is right law!
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 16, 2016 11:40 PM
    One thing is for sure, the Russians won't oppose any kind of government the Syrian people vote for, and if they vote for a Kurd independent state or for a Kurd autonomous region (like Kosovo or Crimea) in Syria, it'd be ok with the Russians, [as long as it's a free and independent vote by the Syrian people? .. And it would be ok if the Kurds kept their autonomous region in Iraq, or if they established a far bigger independent state in Turkey? .. as long as they have free democratic elections? .. Go figure it? .. The Russians support free and democratic elections? .. that the Sunni Muslim kingdoms and emirates vehemently oppose?

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