Kurds declare federal region in Syria, sparking multilateral backlash

Special to WorldTribune.com

Syria’s Kurds on March 17 declared areas under their control a federal region, sparking an immediate backlash from Syria’s government, Turkey and the United States.

More than 150 delegates from Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and other parties meeting in Syria agreed to create a “federal system” unifying territory run by Kurds across several northern Syrian provinces.

Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria. /Reuters
Kurdish YPG fighters in northern Syria. /Reuters

“We have given our blessing for the establishment of a federal system in Rojava (three Kurdish cantons) and northern Syria,” said Aldar Khalil, a member of the conference’s preparatory committee.

Sihanuk Dibo from Syria’s leading Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party, said delegates to the conference “approved” the plan.

The United States, a key backer of Kurdish fighters in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) has said it would not recognize any self-ruled Kurdish region within Syria.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on March 16 that Kurdish autonomy “is something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon by the relevant parties in Geneva and then by the Syrian people themselves.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA said the Kurdish announcement “has no legal basis and will not have any legal, political, social, or economic impact.”

It said the move would “encroach on Syria’s territorial unity.”

The three Kurdish “cantons” stretch along Syria’s northern border with Turkey and are known as Afrin and Kobane, both in Aleppo province, and Jazire in Hasakeh province.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), considered one of the most effective forces fighting ISIL, has driven the terrorist organization from several areas in northern Syria.

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara.

Washington-based analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said the Kurdish announcement was a political message “to the United Nations, the U.S., Russia, and especially to Geneva, that if you ignore us, we are going to determine our future by ourselves.”

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