ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Syrian Kurds should engage in a dialogue and negotiations with Damascus to find a solution within the framework of a united Syria, said the top Kurdish official of the autonomous Kurdistan Region on Thursday.
“I believe the Kurds of Syria should try to find a solution within the framework of a united Syria. They should be engaging in dialogue and negotiations with the regime,” argued Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, during an interview with al-Monitor.
The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control large swaths of territory in the north and northeast of Syria after liberating the areas from the Islamic State.
“The reality is that the regime is still there and that the Kurds of Syria should be talking with the regime in order to gain certain rights,” Barzani stated.
“Currently the [Syrian] regime feels that it has the upper hand, but the reality is that there is still a lot of instability in Syria. The minute the government regains sovereignty over all of Syria there will be more stability and the regime will feel confident enough to give the Kurds their rights. The regime will need to deal with the reality that the Kurds are there, that they exist and they have power, they control territories, and they have to find the way to solve their problems with the Kurds.”
The Kurdish official noted that the Kurdistan Regional Government is ready to mediate talks between the Syrian Kurds and Damascus to some extent, but believes Russia is an important player in the region and would likely be heavily involved in any settlement.
“For us, to a lesser extent, we are ready to step up to the plate. But this role can be played even more effectively by the Russians. It’s important for all of us to have a stable neighbor such as Syria, but it's especially important for Russia. They are very clear on this point. Their strategy is geared toward securing a stable Syria. They can be key players in negotiating a settlement between the Kurds and the regime,” Barzani added.
Regarding the role and influence of Washington in Syria, he stated that the US has “never” been very clear about its strategy and its policy in Syria.
“This is why the Kurds will probably not wait for too long, and they recognize the American presence for what it is, a temporary one.”
Commenting on the US’ efforts in trying to separate the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from their partners in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), to address Turkey’s security concerns on its border, Barzani said he does not see it as a realistic move.
“I don’t believe [it can be done.] The Kurdish forces currently dominating northeastern Syria have strong links and ties with the PKK and all their instructions, orders are being given by Qandil [the PKK’s headquarters in the Kurdistan Region],” Barzani added.
He noted that the Americans had not asked the KRG for support in helping distance the group from the PKK, but to encourage the Syrian groups to develop positive ties with Turkey.
The Kurdish premier believes the Turkish security concerns about the PKK are legitimate and need to be taken very seriously, “but having a large Turkish military presence in that region will not provide any solutions.”
Ankara has long complained that the Kurdish YPG is an extension of the PKK. The US, along with Turkey, considers the PKK a terrorist organization, but Washington sees the YPG as a distinct and different entity.
The Turkish army currently occupies a large portion of northwestern Syria, including the previously self-ruling town of Afrin which it invaded last year in a bloody campaign that saw hundreds of civilians killed and some 160,000 people uprooted from their lands.