Syrian Kurds Set to Declare Federal Region in Northern Syria

  • Syrian ambassador to UN says federation is ``prohibited''
  • Growing Kurdish sway in Syria is sure to worry Turkey

Syrian Kurds convened to declare the creation of a federal region on Wednesday, uniting the three Kurdish-led autonomous zones of the country’s north, the country’s main Kurdish party said.

A Syrian diplomat called the move forbidden and an official in Turkey, which worries that the growing Kurdish sway in Syria will embolden its own restive Kurdish minority, said it had no legitimacy.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party wrote on its Twitter account that a conference to announce the establishment of a federated state had begun. Kurdish forces nearly tripled the size of Kurdish-controlled territory in the north amid the turmoil of the war, according to a report by IHS Jane’s. Kurds in the north control oil fields and get revenue from border crossings.

“The expected announcement aims to push the diplomatic process toward a
solution of a federal state that Russia and the US are most likely favoring,” said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “I think that if there is a solution on the table today for the crisis in Syria, it is a federal state.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised federalism as a way to end the five-year conflict in Syria at the start of peace talks in Geneva this week. The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the idea would be discussed, though its opposed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, told reporters in Geneva the declaration of a federal region in Syria is “prohibited” and that the government intends to keep the nation united.

A Turkish official denounced the idea. Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity are essential and unilateral action there has no legitimacy, the official said by text message, asking not to be identified in line with policy. A lull in three decades of fighting between the Turkish military and the autonomy-seeking Kurdish PKK group broke down last year after Kurdish politicians won representation in Turkey’s parliament for the first time.

The federal area incorporating the cantons of Jazira, Kobani and Afrin will cover at least 25,000 kilometers of Syrian territory, according to Rami Abdurrahman, head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It will stretch from “the eastern bank of Euphrates River on the border of Turkey and Syria all the way to the Iraqi border,” he said by phone. SOHR monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of activists on the ground.

All communities, including Arabs and Turkmen, living in these areas will be invited to take part in a conference to prepare for federalism, the Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported on Tuesday.

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