Kurds Claim Federal Region in Northern Syria

Syrian Kurds declared a federal region Thursday in areas they control in the northern part of the country, a move that was immediately rejected by both the Syrian government and an opposition group.

The declaration also complicates Syrian peace talks underway in Geneva.

The declaration, approved at a Kurdish conference in Rmeilan, would unite three Kurdish-controlled provinces to create a self-run region within Syria, not unlike an area Kurds have controlled in neighboring Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

But Syria's foreign ministry rejected the Syrian Kurds' action, calling it "unconstitutional and worthless."

The Syrian state news agency SANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying, "Any such announcement has no legal value and will not have any legal, political, social or economic impact as long as it does not reflect the will of the entire Syrian people."

One of the main groups opposed to the Damascus regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian National Coalition, also said it rejected the unilateral declaration, saying it was against attempts to "confiscate the will of the Syrian people."

The United States has supported the Syrian Kurds in their fight against Islamic State jihadists in northern Syria, but the U.S. State Department said it would not recognize "self-ruled, semi-autonomous zones in Syria," a notion also rejected by Turkey, where the government has fought a three-decade battle against Kurdish claims for more autonomy in the southeastern part of the country.

One official in Turkey said, "Syria must remain as one without being weakened, and the Syrian people must decide on its future in agreement and with a constitution. Every unilateral initiative will harm Syria's unity."

The main Syrian Kurdish party, known as the PYD, has been excluded from the Geneva peace talks that resumed this week. Some involved with the talks say that creation of federal areas like a Kurdish enclave could lead to a partitioning of the country.

The Syrian Kurds control an uninterrupted 400-kilometer stretch of land along the Syrian-Turkish border from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, as well as a separate region in the Afrin area, with the two Kurdish enclaves split by lands controlled by Islamic State jihadists.

Source: Voice of America