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Saturday, October 3, 2015

PYD leader: Russia will stop 'Sometimes NATO Ally' Turkey from intervening in Syria.

PYD leader: Russia will stop 'Sometimes NATO Ally' Turkey from intervening in Syria. (AM).

What impact will the Russian moves have on Syria’s Kurds? Al-Monitor put the question to Salih Muslim, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), who is currently in northern Syria.

Al-Monitor: Russia also says that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs to remain in power and it is defending the regime.

Muslim: Russia sided with the regime from the very start. This is a separate matter. But as far as Assad remaining in power, we think differently. Assad cannot remain in power as before. He may stay on during a transition period, during a period of dialogue between the conflicting parties, but in the long term it seems inconceivable that the majority of the Syrian people would accept his leadership anymore.

Al-Monitor: But isn’t there a risk that the “transition period” could morph into a “permanent period”? Having achieved so many gains you would surely seek guarantees. Can Russia be a guarantor for the Kurds?

Muslim: We have had relations with Russia for the past three years. We go back and forth to Russia, to Moscow. But the regime cannot remain as is nor can we turn back the clock. The Kurds are a reality. And we are capable of defending ourselves against the regime and others. If there is to be a resolution to the Syrian crisis, it needs to incorporate the rights of the Kurds and all other ethnic and religious groups in Syria. This could be achieved under the auspices of the United Nations. Our democratic autonomy [the three Kurdish-controlled cantons in northern Syria] needs to be recognized. And if they are not, we shall continue with our struggle. If the Kurdish problem remains unresolved, the Syrian problem will remain unresolved. We have certain demands, a system in place. Any solution that is predicated on eradicating these is wrong and cannot work.

Al-Monitor: Getting back to Russia, we are hearing reports that Russian planes are not just targeting Daesh but Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham as well. How will America respond, in your view?

Muslim: I don’t believe that America will object because [Jabhat] al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham are no different than Daesh. They are all terrorist organizations and share the same radical mentality. [Jabhat] al-Nusra is on the US [State Department’s] list of terrorist organizations. I don’t know if they will raise objections about Ahrar al-Sham, but they know who they are. There are no boundaries, no differences between the three groups. But if they were to be pushed out, the remaining opposition groups — which are very weak, including those that are fighting alongside us, that are attached to the Free Syrian Army — will be strengthened.

Al-Monitor: What do Russia’s moves spell for Turkey?

Muslim: Turkey’s Syrian policy is totally bankrupt. Two years ago I was talking to a Russian official and he asked me, “What do the Kurds most fear?” “Possible Turkish intervention,” I replied. He laughed and said, “That is not Turkey’s border [with Syria], but NATO’s,” to which I responded, “In that case you have given me relief, thank you.” Turkey cannot intervene in Syria without the blessings of the big powers.

Al-Monitor: And how will the “IS-free zone” that Turkey wants to establish west of the Euphrates River along the so-called Mare Line be affected by Russian intervention?

Muslim: Russia and the United States seem to have established their own zones of influence within Syria. The US is active in the north. The Russians will not meddle in the north. But should Turkey attempt to intervene, then they will. Russia has a joint defense agreement with Syria. They will prevent Turkish intervention not to defend us [Kurds] but to defend Syria’s border. Read the full story here.

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