Syria’s Kurds may turn to Damascus in absence of U.S. forces - AFP
With U.S. President Donald Trump announcing an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces on Sunday and Turkey launching an offensive against north-eastern Syria on Wednesday, Syrian Kurds may have to “thaw ties with President Bashar Assad's Russian-backed regime,” French news agency Agence France-Presse wrote on Saturday.
Kurds have been talking with Damascus on a long-term rapprochement, but haven’t come to an agreement over major issues including the form of government and the armed forces in the region, AFP wrote.
Kurdish groups controlling various parts of Syria’s north-east haven’t directly fought the Assad government since the beginning of the unrest, allowing the government to focus on the southern regions and eventually securing some 60 percent of the country’s territory. There has been occasional, limited cooperation between them, as well.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a majority-Kurdish group that has support from other ethnicities in the region, has been partnered with the United States since 2014 as the main force on the ground against the Islamic State (ISIS).
Damascus has accused them of treason and wants to restore central authority in the resource-rich region.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Tuesday said Damascus was ready to welcome back the Kurds, but would not concede any territory, AFP reported.
Kurds would have to disband their forces, “hand over all their heavy weapons to the Syrian army ... and return to the military's ranks so they can fight Turkey's incursion together," the editor in chief for the pro-government al-Watan newspaper Waddah Abed Rabbo was quoted by the agency as saying.
As part of renewed efforts for a solution, Moscow on Thursday offered to “push to get contacts going between Damascus and Kurdish organisations,” AFP wrote, and Kurdish administration has announced that they look forward to Russia’s role of backer and guarantor.
Political risk consultancy Eurasia Group told the AFP that Russia and the Syrian regime stand to benefit the most from the Turkish operation, as Kurds will be more open to Assad re-assert control over their territory.