Authorization

Assad says Kurdish controlled northeast Syria must return to state authority

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday that his government's ultimate goal was to restore state authority over Kurdish controlled areas in northeast Syria after an abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal but said this would happen gradually.
In a state television interview Assad also said that a deal between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to drive out the Kurdish-led YPG militia from a 30 km (19 mile) "safe zone" along the border was a "positive" step that would help Damascus achieve its goal.
"It might not achieve everything ... it paves the road to liberate this area in the near future we hope," said Assad, who has remained in power in Damascus through a more than eight-year-long civil war with the backing of Russia and Iran.
The U.S.-allied Kurdish YPG militia reached a deal with Damascus to take up positions near the border after U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement in early October that he was withdrawing American forces from northeast Syria. The decision paved the way for a Turkish offensive against the Kurds and left them feeling abandoned by the United States.
The Kurds would not be asked to immediately hand over their weapons when the Syrian army enters their areas in a final deal with them that brings back state control to the swathe of territory they now control, Assad said.
"There are armed groups that we cannot expect they would hand over weapons immediately but the final goal is to return to the previous situation, which is the complete control of the state," he said.
With U.S. backing, the Kurdish-led forces that spearhead the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from Islamic State militants.
But resentment against Kurdish dominated rule in eastern Syria has grown among the predominately Arab population.
Assad also said Trump's decision last week to keep a small number of U.S. troops in the Kurdish-held areas of Syria “where they have the oil” showed that Washington was a colonial power that was doomed to leave once Syrians resist their occupation as in Iraq.


© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.
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