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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad delivers a speech at a meeting of the local council leaders, Damascus, Feb. 17, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Syrian Presidency)

Kurdistan 24 – Assad: Syria will not deal with Kurds if they work with ‘US occupiers’

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian media on Thursday that Kurdish-led groups in the nation’s northern regions cannot work with the United States while at the same time trying to reach an agreement with Damascus. 

“The problem right now is dealing with the Americans. The Americans are occupiers; they occupied our lands. The Americans are thieves stealing our oil.  You cannot play both sides: between those who protect the law and those who break it,” he said in an interview with Russia 24.

The Turkish army in early October attacked areas in northern Syria under SDF control. As a result, local Kurdish-led authorities are in a much weaker position since being forced to make a deal with the Syrian government to deploy national forces to protect the border against Turkish and Turkish-backed forces along the northern border. 

Turkey’s operation came within days of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. The White House then agreed in late October to leave between 500 to 600 American forces in Syria to protect oilfields in the provinces of Hasakah and Deir al-Zor.

“You cannot stand with the police [Damascus] and the thief [USA] at the same time, this is impossible.  You are either with the police or the thief,” continued Assad.

“So, we cannot reach results in any dialogue with them, even if we were to meet thousands of times, unless they take a clear position, a patriotic position: to be against the Americans, against occupation, and against the Turks because they, too, are occupiers.”

“Quite simply, this is our demand. This is a national position and, as a government, we are responsible for the constitution and for our national interests.”   

He said there could only be discussions about the place of Kurdish-led factions in Syria’s future if they abandon their current cooperation with the US. 

“This is a Syrian-Syrian dialogue. However, the government in Syria does not own the constitution; the people own the constitution and therefore they are the ones who can change the constitution.”

In recent months, a Kurdish-led delegation has been meeting with Damascus as part of a Russian initiative on the future of northeastern Syria. So far, however, no demonstrable progress has been achieved, despite some claims to the contrary. 

The co-chair of the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Amina Omar, said on Feb. 19 that negotiations with the Syrian government did not result in any meaningful agreement, reported North Press.

The recent statement again suggests that there is not much hope for a dialogue between the Syrian Kurds and Damascus, given current circumstances.

Also, the Syrian president in his interview said that ethnic Kurds are not originally native to Syria and instead only arrived while fleeing Turkish oppression, remarking “There is no such [Kurdish] cause in Syria for a simple reason.”   

Assad also accused the Kurds of not “firing a single bullet” when the Turkish army invaded northern Syria, agreeing instead to withdrew from areas now occupied by Ankara in a deal with the US.

He said that, as a result, he was ruling out a deal between Damascus and Kurdish groups working jointly in Idlib against the Turkish army unless the Kurds would send “fighters so that together we can defend our land.”

“We want to agree on the actions. In their statements, they have said that they are against the Turks, but they are not doing anything against them at all. They are neutral.” 

In a March 2 statement on Idlib, the SDC suggested that Damascus instead is responsible for the Syrian crisis due to adopting a military solution to the Syrian civil war that started in 2011. 

Therefore, the group called on Damascus to work in cooperation with the Kurds to reach a resolution, “Not only in standing against Turkish aggression and liberating occupied lands, but also in building up and reconstructing a new Syrian state.”

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