Syrian Kurdish official: Damascus talks going nowhere, Russia to blame

The Syrian defense minister last month said the state would take back the Kurdish led-region by force if its leaders did not submit to the return of state authority. (File/AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019
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Syrian Kurdish official: Damascus talks going nowhere, Russia to blame

  • The Kurdish-led authorities revived efforts to negotiate a deal with Damascus earlier this year
  • They were hoping Moscow would mediate an agreement that would preserve their autonomy

QAMISHLI, Syria: Efforts to forge a political deal between Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria and the Syrian government are at a standstill and President Bashar-al Assad’s ally Russia is to blame, a Syrian Kurdish official said.
The Kurdish-led authorities revived efforts to negotiate a deal with Damascus earlier this year in the wake of a US decision to withdraw its forces from their areas, hoping Moscow would mediate an agreement that would preserve their autonomy.
The picture has shifted significantly since then, however, with Washington deciding to keep some troops in Syria and the Syrian government directing new threats of military action at Kurdish-led forces if they do not submit to its rule.
Badran Jia Kurd, a Syrian Kurdish official involved in the political track, said the talks had gone nowhere. “The Russians froze the initiative which Russia was supposed to carry out and it did not begin negotiations with Damascus,” he said.
“Russia is still claiming that it is working on that initiative but to no avail,” he told Reuters late on Thursday.
Unlike the insurgent groups that have fought Assad across much of Syria, the main Syrian Kurdish groups are not hostile to him and say their objective is to preserve autonomy within the state.
But Damascus opposes the level of autonomy they seek. The Syrian defense minister last month said the state would take back the Kurdish led-region by force if its leaders did not submit to the return of state authority.
The presence of US forces has provided the Kurdish-led region with a de facto security umbrella that has shielded it from Assad and neighboring Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish groups as a security threat.
Jia Kurd said Russia had put its interests with Turkey ahead of pressing for a deal between Damascus.
Russia had “not played its role after meeting the Turkish side many times and this is what led to the blocking of the path of dialogue with Damascus and Russia bears the historic responsibility,” he said.


Turkish steps up drilling activities around Cyprus

Updated 7 sec ago
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Turkish steps up drilling activities around Cyprus

  • The EU says Turkey is drilling in waters exclusive to EU member Cyprus and is therefore a breach of international law

NICOSIA: Turkey’s vice president says his country is stepping up a search for hydrocarbons off ethnically divided Cyprus with the dispatching of a survey vessel to join two drillships and another research craft operating in waters around the east Mediterranean island nation.
Fuat Oktay says Turkey will “never submit” to sanctions imposed by the European Union over its drilling and won’t hesitate to take additional steps in defense of its rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves.
The EU says Turkey is drilling in waters exclusive to EU member Cyprus and is therefore a breach of international law.
Oktay was speaking at celebrations marking the 45th anniversary of the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus that followed a coup mounted by supporters of union with Greece.