Syrian Kurds Should Not Demand Guarantees or Autonomy, Opposition Leader Says

13/01/2013 RUDAW  By DILXWAZ BAHLAWI – BEIRUT, Lebanon – The head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), an opposition coalition fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s embattled regime, said that the country’s Kurds should not insist on future rights as a condition for joining the resistance, or demand autonomy.

“Imposing conditions for political alliances is not an appropriate and acceptable thing,” said George Sabra, a leftist Christian who was elected the head of the SNC in November. “The main principle for alliances should be based on negotiations and agreements, particularly in our revolution, which is a revolution of all Syrians,” he told Rudaw.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution more than 20 months ago, Kurdish parties have refused to join the SNC and other opposition groups without guarantees about their demands in a post-Assad Syria. But Sabra said that only a democratic constitution could provide such a guarantee.

“We are all equal citizens of this country,” said Sabra, 66.  “We all have to present one thing that assures all of us, and that is a democratic constitution based on the rights of citizenship and establishing a civilian government that will be strengthened by law.” Sabra, who was arrested by the Syrian regime in 1987 and spent eight years in prison, said that Kurdish rights in post-Assad Syria should include cultural privileges and citizenship, but not autonomy. “Our view on the Kurdish problem is that the solutions have to be based on equality for all the Syrian citizens, equality in rights and responsibilities,” he said, adding that “the solutions have to remain within the borders of Syria and protect Syrian unity.”

Sabra charged that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is part of the opposition but with questionable ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Damascus government, was an ally of Assad’s regime.

“It’s not an accusation… The Kurdish citizens themselves are talking about this connection,” Sabra noted, adding that in the areas it controlled the PYD had imposed taxes and extortion in return for allowing food supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan. “The way the members of this group treat the people in those areas only suggests that conclusion,” Sabra said. He added that the SNC did not agree with a recent US designation of the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra Islamic group as a terrorist organization.

“At this stage all the weapons that fight the Syrian regime are honorable weapons and fight for a noble cause,” he said, adding that the Islamic group also wants to “topple the regime and build a democratic government.” “We asked the Americans to prove that this group is a terrorist group, but they did not have anything to say. We did not like the categorization and told the Americans this will remain a disputed matter between us,” Sabra said. He said that the Syrian opposition had turned down an invitation by Moscow last month for a new round of talks because previous discussions had proved fruitless.

“We believe meetings and negotiations are important, but today there is need for a new agenda for these meetings to avoid repetition of the same old stuff, giving the Syrian regime more time to kill more people,” Sabra said. He applauded authorities in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region for sheltering and assisting refugees fleeing violence, but added that the humanitarian situation in Syria was worsening daily.