As Arab governments and Turkey seek to mend fences with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the country’s Kurds have unveiled a new initiative to make peace with Damascus, saying that Western governments opposed to normalization should not stand in their way.
In a nine-point declaration made public on Tuesday, the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria (AANES) affirmed its commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity and said that it was ready to “meet and hold dialogue with the Syrian government and all Syrian parties for consultations and discussions to provide initiatives to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.” It emphasized that such efforts would not be at odds with floundering UN-led efforts to end the conflict. However, the document emphasized that “the solution to the Syrian crisis must be sought inside the country” — in other words, the Syrian Kurds would not be taking their cues from Western governments. Those lines were clearly intended for Assad, who accused the Kurds during a visit to the Kremlin last month of “working for a foreign power” and labeled them “traitors” and “collaborators.”
Since 2018, when Turkey invaded the mainly Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, part of an escalating campaign to roll back Kurdish gains, the Syrian Kurds have been in talks with Damascus. Russia has been driving the reconciliation, saying that only peace with Assad can spare them from further Turkish attacks. Assad and Russia want the Kurds to scotch their partnership with the United States. Turkey wants America to do the same, insisting that their fledgling statelet poses an existential threat to its national security.
The Kremlin’s sway grew following Turkey’s 2019 assault on a broad swath of territory under US protection that was greenlighted by then-President Donald Trump. The Kurds long blamed Assad for the lack of progress, saying his government refused to accede to even a single one of their demands.