Syrian Kurds Set to Announce Federal System in Northern Syria

Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria are expected to declare a federal system imminently.

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  • Syrian Kurdish PYD excluded from Geneva peace talks
  • New system would include three autonomous zones
  • Turkish official calls the idea unacceptable
  • Syrian Kurdish YPG is key US ally against Islamic State

Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria are expected to declare a federal system imminently, Kurdish officials said on Wednesday, taking matters into their own hands after being excluded from talks in Geneva to resolve Syria’s civil war.

The step aims to combine three Kurdish-led autonomous areas of northern Syrian into a federal arrangement and will be sure to alarm neighbouring Turkey, which fears growing Kurdish sway in Syria is fuelling separatism among its own Kurd minority.

A conference in the Kurdish-controlled town of Rmeilan on Wednesday discussed a “Democratic Federal System for Rojava – Northern Syria”. Rojava is the Kurdish name for northern Syria.

Conference participants also forecast a failure of UN-led talks which began in Geneva this week, in the absence of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party.

Syrian Kurds effectively control an uninterrupted stretch of 400 km (250 miles) along the Syrian-Turkish border from the Euphrates river to the frontier with Iraq, where Iraqi Kurds have enjoyed autonomy since the early 1990s. They also hold a separate section of the northwestern border in the Afrin area.

Turkey and Iran Both Have Kurdish Minorities

Turkey, whose conflict with the Kurdish PKK has escalated in recent months, said such moves were not acceptable. “Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity is fundamental for us. Outside of this, unilateral decisions cannot have validity,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

The PYD has been left out of the Geneva peace talks, in line with the wishes of Turkey, which sees it as an extension of the PKK group that is waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

The area of northern Syria controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and groups fighting with it is growing with their advances against Islamic State militants over the last year. Their campaign has been backed by US-led air strikes.

On Saturday, Syria’s government in Damascus ruled out the idea of a federal system for the country, just days after a Russian official said that could be a possible model.

Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies have already carved out three autonomous zones, or cantons, known as Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin. Their capture of the town of Tel Abyad from Islamic State last year created territorial contiguity between the Jazeera and Kobani areas.

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Topics:  Syria   Kurdish Soldiers   Kurdish rebels 

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