Syrian Kurds Alliance Holds Talks With Assad

An Arab-Kurdish coalition, is in Damascus to begin negotiations on the future of northern and eastern Syria.

In Syria, the balance of power is constantly changing. Although at the root of the de facto split of a large portion of Syrian territory in the north and east of the country, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) accepted dialogue through their political arm: the Syrian Democratic Council.

According to the co-chair of this council, Riad Darar, a delegation, which includes several high-ranking political and military leaders, is in Damascus on 27 July “at the invitation of the government”. “We are working on a solution for northern Syria,” he said, quoted by AFP. Riad Darar expressed the hope that the discussions in Damascus are “positive”, insisting on the absence of any “precondition for negotiations”.

This rapprochement could mark a significant turning point as Damascus hammers, since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, its determination to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of the Syrian territory. At the end of May 2018, armed with the progress of the Syrian army, Bashar al-Assad warned that he could use force against the FDS, in order to take back the areas they control.

But already, without excluding, however, the holding of negotiations. “We first paved the way for negotiations because the majority of [SDF] members are Syrians,” said the Syrian leader, in accordance with a unitary and non-communitarian view of his country. And Bashar al-Assad added: “If that does not work, we will liberate our territories by force. We have no other solution. Shortly afterwards, the Syrian Democratic Council announced that it was ready to engage in “unconditional talks” with the Syrian government.

With the support of Westerners and the United States, the Arab-Kurdish coalition has established autonomy in areas north and east of the Euphrates River. These areas, rich in hydrocarbons representing more than a quarter of the area of Syria. The FDS also controls the city of Raqqa, taken in October 2017 to Daesh jihadists.

So far, in the Syrian conflict, where many belligerents have been invited, the stand-off between Turkey and the United States in early 2018 has weakened the position of the Syrian Democratic Forces. At the expense of the Kurds, Washington and Ankara agreed last June to share control of northern Syria. In June, the Turkish army took control of the city of Minbej last June. The Protection Units of the Kurdish People (YPG), previously backed by Washington but which are the bane of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had to withdraw from the city. Three months earlier, in March, to prevent the formation of a Kurdistan in Syria, the Turkish army, together with the pro-Turkish Free Syrian Army (ASL), conquered the Afrin enclave. Damascus then condemned a “Turkish occupation”.

More than seven years after the beginning of the war in Syria, by pragmatism in the face of the interference of the United States and Turkey, Damascus and Kurdish fighters are thus of some common interest.