Any deal between Syria’s Kurds and Damascus should respect the “special status” of Kurdish-led forces who fought the ISIS extremist group, a top Kurdish commander of those forces said.
“Any political agreement should include the special status” of the Syrian Democratic Forces after they fought ISIS “on behalf of all humanity and even the Syrian army”, SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani said.
“This is our red line and we will not concede this” in ongoing talks with the Damascus regime, he told AFP in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The SDF control around a third of Syria after expelling extremists from a large northeastern swathe of the war-torn country with backing from the US-led coalition.
The Kurdish-led alliance “protected northeastern Syria... liberated these areas, and have the right to continue protecting the region”, said Kobani, who was speaking near the northeastern city of Hasakeh.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government has gained ground against rebels and extremists with key Russian backing since 2015, and now controls almost two-thirds of the country.
It is determined to reassert its authority over SDF-held areas, which make up the lion’s share of the rest.
But after years of marginalization, the Kurds are determined to keep some of the autonomy they gained during the eight-year war.
The SDF could “agree to be part of the national army of a future Syria, but only on the condition they keep their special status”, Kobani said.
Damascus has rejected self-rule in northeastern Syria, but Kurdish leaders started talks with the government in July in a bid to seek some form of decentralization.
“The discussions are ongoing but have not yet reached any positive result,” he said.
The regime “keeps on thinking it can go back to the way it was before 2011. It still hopes it can take military control of the whole region”.
“It needs... to understand that is impossible.”
Kobani said the SDF were however prepared to “protect the Syrian border and the unity of Syrian territory”.
And they would “accept the results of centralised elections if they occurred”.