Skip to main content

Kurdish parties split over Russian invitation for dialogue with Syrian government

Kurdish politicians in Syria split over Russia’s invitation to hold a dialogue with the Syrian government, with some accepting the invitation based on conditions, while others were skeptical about such a move.
Syrian Kurds demonstrate against the Turkish offensive on Kurdistan Workers Party areas in northern Iraq, in the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria, June 10, 2021.

Kurdish politicians in Syria are divided over Russia’s invitation to hold a dialogue with the Syrian government. While some accepted the invitation based on conditions, others were skeptical and questioned the feasibility of such a move.

During a July 2 press conference with his Bahraini counterpart, Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani, in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria to start a dialogue with the Syrian government as an independent political power.

“Russia encourages direct contacts between the Kurds and the Damascus government, with the aim of reaching agreement on how to coexist together in one state,” Lavrov said.

In response, the Kurdish Democratic Left Party in Syria, affiliated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, said that there were two main issues to be discussed with the Syrian government. First, the model of the future political system in Syria, the relationship of the central government in Damascus with the other Syrian parties (including the opposition and Autonomous Administration), and the legal and political system as well the identity of the state. Second, the political and economic model that would link the areas of northern and eastern Syria to the central government.

In an interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed July 5, the party noted, “Any agreement in this direction could lead to facilitating the people’s general affairs. We might disagree with the regime’s intransigent position, as it continues to refuse to give up its gains and keep monopoly of power, and not recognizing the political components in Syria.” 

Meanwhile, the Kurdish National Council, which is a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (commonly known as the Syrian National Coalition), downplayed the importance of a dialogue with the government, based on the failure of the previous dialogue between the Autonomous Administration and the Syrian government that took place in January.

The party told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, “Any dialogue the Autonomous Administration will hold with the regime will not represent the Syrian Kurds. Any talks in Syria that are not under UN supervision will be in vain. The regime cannot decide or confer democratic rights to the Kurds. Any unilateral step by some Kurds to take this step, independent from the Syrian opposition and international legitimacy, will be tantamount to ‘slaughtering the entire Kurdish cause.”

Azad Barazi, leader in the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (one of the parties of the Syrian Democratic Council), said in an interview with the Kurdish Bas news agency July 5 that the government has not been responsive in relation to opening doors for dialogue with the Autonomous Administration.

He noted, “The regime has not changed its view of the Kurdish cause, considering it merely a security issue, which is proof enough that it has no real intention to work to stabilize the situation in Syria.”

Muhammad Musa, secretary-general of the Kurdish Democratic Left Party, told Al-Monitor, “The dialogue is important but within principles. Most importantly, the regime must recognize the full rights of the Kurdish people and Kurdish parties, and to retract its previous statements that contradict that. Then, we might reach some significant results as two official components. The dialogue should be carried out under international auspices because Russia is not serious in its move, which is limited to invitations and statements only.”

Saleh Kado, chief negotiator of the Kurdish National Unity Parties, told Al-Monitor, “Lavrov’s initiative for a dialogue between the regime and the Autonomous Administration is a positive step. We believe that any talk with the Syrian government can contribute to finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, even if this happened apart from the opposition represented by the Syrian National Coalition, which undermined the Kurdish issue through its subordination to Turkey. The regime has, however, stepped into these negotiations with a new mindset, not that of an autocrat, which the Syrian people paid dearly for.”

Faisal Youssf, a member of the Presidency of the Kurdish National Council, told Al-Monitor, “It is important to include the Kurdish component in the implementation of international resolutions related to the Syrian issue, especially in relation to drafting the constitution, so that everything is approved by all parties. It is also important to reach an agreement among Kurds themselves, which is of paramount importance for any dialogue with the rest of the components, and far more significant with any talks with the regime in the current period.”

In a conversation with Al-Monitor, Sueliman Osu, leader in the Kurdish National Council, said, “The council did not reject the dialogue. We believe there is no alternative for talks in order to agree on the form of government in Syria in the future. This is why the council had representatives within the Syrian National Coalition and was credited for the negotiations that took place with the regime within the Geneva II conference. The military solution has failed for both parties. The only solution is to sit at the negotiating table under international auspices and work to implement international resolutions, notably [Security Council] Resolution 2254. The dispute is, however, over the mechanism by which the dialogue is called for.”

Sheyar Khalil, a Kurd from Afrin and managing editor of Levant News, told Al-Monitor, “The regime is seeking to open channels of dialogue with the Autonomous Administration in a bid to bring it closer to Moscow and away from Washington. This could, however, create problems for the administration with its main allies in the international coalition. But it appears that the administration is trying to balance between its ties with Moscow and Washington, after it was let down by the Americans following the Turkish attack [in north Syria] during Operation Peace Spring. There is no doubt that any step toward a dialogue with the regime would be a mistake, especially since the Syrian government has lost many of its cards in northeastern Syria.”

He said, “The regime and its allies also aim to use the Autonomous Administration to expand their control in Syria. The regime has seized several cities in the north that belonged to the Syrian opposition in agreement with Turkey. In return Russia allowed Turkey to enter the Kurdish areas in Arin and Ras al-Ain, since Turkish forces withdrew from the areas where they were present before the regime entered.” 

Khalil added, “Turkey has also a great interest to see the Syrian regime entering northeastern Syrian [to eliminate Kurdish parties] through talks or agreements that might be concluded in the future. Communications were never halted between the regime and the Autonomous Administration, but the latter has greater leverage now, and it has to be wary of the regime’s intentions to call for dialogue and negotiation."

Abdul Aziz Tammo, head of the Independent Kurdish Association, told Al-Monitor, “A call by the regime for dialogue is for us mere talk in the air. We categorically reject any talks with the regime independently from the Kurdish components. For us, any negotiations ought to be done through the United Nations in order to reach a political solution in Syria. These calls are nothing but publicity stunts and nothing will be changed in the Syrian reality.”

More from Mohammed Hardan