Syrian Kurds seek deal with government regardless of US pullout

Press TV – Syrian Kurdish leaders seek a Russian-mediated deal with President Bashar al-Assad’s government regardless of US plans to withdraw from their region, a senior official has said. 

The deal would mark perhaps the most important milestone because the two biggest chunks of Syria splintered by seven years of war would be rejoined, leaving only a corner in the northwest in the hands of militants.

Senior Kurdish official Badran Jia Kurd told Reuters the Kurdish-led administration that runs much of northern Syria presented a roadmap for an agreement with Assad during recent meetings in Russia.

“The final decision is to reach an agreement with Damascus, we will work in this direction regardless of the cost, even if the Americans object,” Reuters quoted Jia Kurd as saying in the northern Syrian city of Qamishli.

The main aims of the roadmap, the report said, are to protect the Syrian border with Turkey, to integrate the governing structures of northern Syria into the constitution, and to ensure a fair distribution of resources.

Last week, residents in Manbij asked the Syrian government to retake the northern city on the Turkish border after a US pledge to withdraw troops from the Arab country.

Jia Kurd said the local Kurdish-led administration was ready to cooperate with the government on ending Turkey’s occupation of Syrian territories and defeating the remaining terrorists in the north.

The region is controlled by the US-backed YPG militia which Turkey views a terrorist group but the fighters have mostly avoided confrontation with the Syrian government during the war.

Jia Kurd said the ball was in the court of Russia and Damascus, but much depends on reconciling the regional demands with Syria’s sovereignty.

Kurdish leaders convened political talks in Damascus last year, but they broke down without progress. The government has said it is determined to reunite Syria, with Foreign Minister recently making it clear that a federal Syria is unacceptable.

Last month, US President Donald Trump ordered a quick withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces from Syria but then said troops would get out slowly “over a period of time.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted as saying Friday that Washington wanted to prevent Turkey from “slaughtering” Kurds.

His remarks in an interview with Newsmax media outlet angered Turkey, with a Foreign Ministry statement accusing Pompeo of displaying “a worrying lack of information” for equating the YPG  with Syria’s Kurdish population.

Turkey, initially a staunch supporter of a Western campaign to topple President Assad, has moderated its stance over time and is currently working with Russia and Iran to return stability to the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that once the “terrorist organizations” leave Manbij and other areas near its border in northern Syria, “we will have nothing left to do there.”

Turkey is supporting several militant groups based in Idlib, but they are under pressure from the Syrian army.

Turkish-backed NFL militants are currently engaged in a fierce battle with al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which broke out on Tuesday.

HTS reportedly initiated the fighting after NFL-affiliated Nour al-Din al-Zenki militants killed five of members of the Takfiri group.

On Friday, HTS terrorists reportedly captured more than 20 villages in the northern Aleppo Province after four days of clashes with rival militants.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the fresh fighting had killed 114 militants on both sides as well as eight civilians.

“HTS was able to take control of areas previously held by Nour al-Din al-Zenki in the west of the Aleppo countryside,” the UK-based monitoring group added.

Unconfirmed reports also said the Turkish-backed militant outfit had announced its dissolution after recent defeats.

US-made missiles uncovered in Homs

In another development on Friday, Syrian government forces discovered a sizable cache of weapons and munitions, including US-built anti-tank missiles, during a clean-up operation in the country’s central Homs Province.

Syria’s official SANA news agency reported that US-made TOW missiles had been left behind by the terrorists in farm lands in Homs’ Houla region.