Syrian Kurds ‘preparing to declare self-administration’ – Top official says community left out of Geneva peace talks working on federal autonomous region of its own.


16 Mar 2016 16:11 GMT | AL JAZEERA – Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria are expected to declare a federal system imminently, a Kurdish official says, as peace negotiations continue to be held in Geneva about how to end the country’s five-year war.

The step, which would combine three Kurdish-led autonomous areas of northern Syria into a federal system, is sure to alarm neighbouring Turkey, which fears growing Kurdish power in Syria is fuelling separatism among its own Kurdish minority.

Idris Nassan, a Syrian Kurdish official and former leader in the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the announcement would mean “widening the framework of self-administration” across northern Syria. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Nassan said preparations for federalism have been ongoing for quite some time and an announcement would be made shortly.

Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from Geneva, said the PYD has so far been left out of peace talks, making the timing of the federalism announcement significant.

I think the timing is very significant, making this announcement as the talks restart for the third day,” he said.

“The time has been chosen by the PYD to say ‘don’t forget about us’, because they have been excluded from this process here in Geneva.”

The PYD was not invited to Geneva, in line with the wishes of Turkey, which sees it as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which it is battling in southeastern Turkey.

Federalism in Syria has been discussed openly in recent weeks after Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, floated the idea in the media ahead of the start of the Geneva talks.

“If as a result of talks, consultations and discussions on Syria’s future state order… they come to an opinion that namely this [federal] model will work to serve the task of preserving Syria as a united, independent and sovereign nation, then who will object to this?” Ryabkov said in February.Then, in an interview with Al Jazeera, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that the idea of federalism is likely to be discussed among the parties at the Geneva talks.President Bashar al-Assad’s government, however, has consistently said no political decisions will be “imposed” on the country. One of the president’s senior advisers was quoted on state television on Wednesday, rejecting any calls for federalism.The development out of the Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria came as Russia continued to withdraw its forces from Syria – a move that de Mistura declared as “significant” .