Kurdish-controlled areas declare federation in Syria's north – media reports

© Azad Lashkari
Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria have declared a federal region in the north, according to officials cited by AFP and a Reuters witness.

Idris Nassan, an official in the foreign affairs directorate of Kobani, said on Wednesday that the Kurdish-controlled areas will reportedly be named the Federation of Northern Syria, and will represent all ethnic groups living there.

Speaking to RT Arabic, Nassan said that the proposal of federation has existed since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. 

“Syria's Kurds have a long history of opposition and a long history of struggle for the legitimate rights of their people in this country,” Nassan said, explaining that the nationalist struggle has evolved into a more “developed” form of fighting for equal rights in general.

Nassan stressed, however, that federalization does not mean the Kurdish people will go down the "path of separatism." 

“Therefore, I believe that the international players, primarily Russia and the United States will support this approach and advocate for its implementation,” he said.

The newly established system is expected to replace the autonomous cantons in Syria Kurdistan (Rojava).

The move comes after the Syrian Kurdish PYD party's exclusion from political talks in Geneva aimed at ending the Syrian crisis.

The exclusion is in line with the wishes of Turkey, which sees the party as an offshoot of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Ankara is currently battling the PKK in southeastern Turkey, northern Syria, and Iraq.

However, Moscow has strongly insisted that the Kurds be invited to upcoming peace talks, suggesting that leaving them out could endanger Syria's territorial integrity. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, has also said the Syrian Kurds deserve a spot at the negotiating table in Geneva. 

'Against the constitution'

A source within the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry has warned against any attempt to undermine Syria's unity and territorial integrity, SANA reported.

“Raising the issue of a federation or that of federalization would affect the territorial integrity of Syria, which goes against the constitution, the national concepts and international resolutions,” the source told the media outlet.

“Any declaration to that effect would be without any legal value and void of any legal, political, social or economic effect as long as it does not reflect the will of the entire Syrian people with all their political leanings and social spectra, who are all committed to the national unity and territorial integrity of their country,” he added. 

The source went on to state that the main task for the Syrian people is to combat terrorism, and that "any deviation from this goal would be considered support for terrorism and for all those who try to weaken Syria and undermine the will of its heroic army in its endeavor for restoring security and stability nationwide.”

Meanwhile, Turkey has also said that any unilateral move aimed at declaring a federation cannot be valid, adding that it supports Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity. A source in the Turkish foreign ministry told Reuters that the administrative structure of Syria will be decided by all Syrians through the adoption of a new constitution.

Syrian Kurds effectively control a stretch of 400 kilometers (250 miles) along the Syria-Turkey border, from the frontier with Iraq to the Euphrates River. They also control a section of the northwestern border in the Afrin area.

The federation declaration comes as Turkey continues its crackdown on the PKK in Syria, northern Iraq, and southeast Turkey. Fighting has been taking place since July 2015, when Ankara broke a two-year ceasefire agreement.

Kurds to present federalization project to UN 

Syrian Kurds want to finalize their federalization project as soon as possible and then forward it to the UN, Rodi Osman, head of the Syrian Kurds representative office in Moscow, said. 

“When the project is finalized, we will present it to any state and to the United Nations,” Osman told Sputnik.

He called the Kurdish federalization “an ideal project for Syria and for settling the conflict," but stressed that “this is a model and does not mean a different state.”

Meanwhile, a source in Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) told Sputnik that the federalization law is planned to be enacted within the next six months by the self-declared Democratic Federal System for Rojava and Northern Syria.

Syrian Ambassador to Russia, Riyad Haddad, reiterated the earlier stance of Damascus that the Kurds’ unilateral decision had no legal power.

“When one speaks of the federalization of our country, this directly threatens the integrity of our country, runs counter to the Constitution, contradicts the national concepts, even is at variance with the international resolutions and decisions, so all statements of the kind are illegitimate,” Haddad said.

According to the Ambassador, the vast majority of Kurds in Syria also oppose the idea of federalization.

Moscow also stressed that the Syrian federalization can’t be decided by a unilateral decision of the country’s Kurdish population.

"I think that this could be a position for the negotiations, but not a unilateral decision. It is necessary to negotiate with other actors - on the ceasefire, on the political process, to create a new constitution, which may provide for a new political order in Syria. But it is all linked to the establishment of the sustainable and inclusive political process within the intra-Syrian dialogue," Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said.