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Ilham Ahmed to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Encouraged Kurds to Negotiate with Damascus

Ilham Ahmed to Asharq Al-Awsat: US Encouraged Kurds to Negotiate with Damascus

Monday, 11 November, 2019 - 06:30
Head of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) Ilham Ahmed. (Reuters)

Head of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) Ilham Ahmed revealed that Kurdish forces reached an agreement with Damascus over the deployment of regime troops on the border with Turkey with Russia’s sponsorship.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, she said that the agreement was reached after the United States’ abrupt withdrawal from Syria.

Regime forces and Russian police have taken full control of the border, but they preserved the ceasefire zone agreed between Ankara and Moscow between Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad, she continued.

“Turkey calls it a ‘safe zone’, but we call it a ‘hell zone’ because Ankara is using it to transfer ISIS members,” she added.

Asked about the political agreement reached with Damascus, Ahmed said the Kurds were seeking official recognition of the autonomous region and were hoping that it would be included in Syria’s constitution.

This is an autonomous Kurdish region that is part of Syria, she explained.

The Americans have been informed of the talks with the regime, Ahmed said, revealing that they encouraged the Kurds to turn to Damascus given that they were pulling out of the region.

Asked about the details of the settlement with Damascus, she said that the practical measures of the deal have yet to be implemented.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) boast some 70,000 members, excluding the police. Once the police are added, their numbers will reach 100,000, Ahmed stated.

Commenting about their future in Syria, she stressed that they must be “preserved” in line with an agreement with Damascus that would see them merge with the Syrian army, meaning the autonomous administration manages them, but according to the legal guidelines of the Syrian Defense Ministry.

On American forces, she said the SDF had received official confirmation from Washington that they will remain in northeastern Syria near the border with Iraq to protect oilfields and prevent them from falling in “unsafe hands.”

No deadline has been set for withdrawal, she added.

Turning to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, Ahmed said the “arbitrary” move took the Kurds by surprise.

“It had a very negative impact on the accomplishments that were achieved during the war against ISIS,” she said. It also hampered efforts to return refugees back to their homes.

“We had been promised by American diplomats and military officials that they would remain in the region until a permanent political solution is reached in Syria,” she told Asharq Al-Awsat.

She refused to label the withdrawal as a “betrayal”, saying instead that the Americans “did not fulfill their pledges. The American public was against the pullout.”

The decision for American troops to remain at the oilfields is a sign that they have gone back on their move to pull out from Syria, she added.

They will remain to protect the oilfields and combat terrorism, Ahmed stressed.

Asked about her recent trip to the US, she said she had demanded that Turkey be punished for the “ethnic cleansing and political assassinations” that had targeted the Kurds. She also demanded that Kurds be included in the Geneva political process.

In Washington, Ahmed met with Defense and State Department officials, as well as members of Congress.

Similar demands have been made to European powers, she added.

“We want foreign troops to be deployed to the border to ensure that ISIS members would not infiltrate Europe,” she said.

On ISIS prisoners, she stated special trials must be set up for them and discussions are underway with France about the issue.

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