WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) – Kurdish Delegation in Damascus for Talks with Assad Regime

By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – July 28, 2018 – Is deal for Kurdish autonomy in northern and eastern Syria on the way? A Kurdish delegation is in Damascus for talks with the Assad regime, which could open up discussions on the future of northern and eastern Syria.

Led by Ilham Ahmed (pictured), executive head of the Syrian Democratic Council, the group arrived in the Syrian capital on Wednesday. It includes members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

The initial topic is provision of services in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led authorities, following the SDF’s victories against the Islamic State since autumn 2015. However, SDC co-chair Riad Durar pointed to the start of talks over a political deal for Kurdish autonomy: “We have a basis for negotiations,” he added.

In the past, the Assad regime has rejected Kurdish autonomy in a federal Syria. In May, Bashar al-Assad said he was “opening doors” for talks while threatening force against the SDF and insisting that US personnel will leave Syria.However, the regime has been unable to exert leverage on Kurdish groups and the SDF without the backing of its essential ally Russia. Pro-Assad forces have been unable to take territory, including oil and gas complexes, in skirmishes with the SDF in the past year: a February attack that ended with the killing of hundreds of foreign militia and regime troops by US warplanes.

Speaking from Vienna, Darar said he did not know which regime officials are meeting the Kurdish delegation, let alone the outcome of any discussions.

Talks recently began over a return of state employees and repairs to the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest, in Raqqa Province. But the Kurdish official said UN-brokered efforts will fail, having been reduced to discussions of setting up Constitutional committee: “I don’t think this committee will carry out its role. The door of Geneva will be shut.”

Any regime-Kurdish talks could bring complications not only for the US, which switched its effort from the Syrian opposition to the SDF almost three years ago, but also Turkey. Ankara is firmly opposed to any lasting position for the leading Kurdish political faction, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its YPG militia, the leading group in the SDF.