Syrian Kurds more ready than ever to negotiate with Assad

The unpredictability of the United States as an ally and Turkey’s offensive policy in Syria have led Syrian Kurds to consider forging ties with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in order to protect the gains they have made over seven years of war, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control large parts in northern Syria and have formed an alliance with the United States for the struggle against the Islamic State (ISIS), which has increased tensions between Ankara and Washington.

Turkey sees SDF and its armed force People's Protection Units (YPG) an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years and is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the United States. 

Together with Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, Turkey launched a military offensive against Syrian Kurdish militia in January and seized the control of the northwestern town of Afrin in March. Turkey also reached a deal with the United States in June over the withdrawal of YPG forces from the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

The U.S. administration’s conflicting statements over Syria have put the Syrian Kurds on guard and increased their worries that alliance with Turkey may be a higher priority for Washington. A possible U.S. withdrawal from Syria has also made Syrian Kurds wary. 

As a result Syrian Kurds are more ready than ever to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad, with whom they have managed to avoid conflict so far. 

According to Reuters, talks between the Syrian Kurds and Damascus have now begun on a return of state employees and repairs to one of Syria’s most important pieces of infrastructure: the Tabqa dam, the country’s largest, which the SDF took from Islamic State last year with U.S. air power.

A top Kurdish official has also signalled the fighters could join any future offensive of the regime against rebels holding Idlib province bordering Turkey, and cooperate more widely against Turkey, which has sent forces into an arc of Syria’s northwest, Reuters said. 

Though President Assad opened the doors for talks with SDF in May, he is in no rush as his position is growing stronger. 

“We have a conviction that channels must be open...the constitution, the political process, these will not be solved without the regime,” Ilham Ahmed, a senior Kurdish official in the SDF’s political wing, told Reuters.