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Syria rejects Kurdish declaration of a federal region in north

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Delegates from the Democratic Union Party (PYD) other parties meet in the town of Rmeilan in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province, on March 16, 2016. ©AFP

Damascus has rejected a unilateral decision by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to establish a federal system in the north, saying such a declaration is unconstitutional and has no political value.

“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,” Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the PYD officials claimed autonomy in the Kurdish-controlled areas and voted to create a federal system there at a conference in the town of Rmeilan in the northeastern province of Hasakah.

The Syrian official further warned all parties, including the participants in the Rmeilan meeting, against any attempt to “undermine the territorial integrity of Syria and the unity its people.”

“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,” the official added.

He further called for an all-out fight against terrorism as the main task facing the Arab nation, stressing that any attempt to distract the country from anti-terror struggles would be viewed as support for foreign-backed Takfiri groups.

The development comes as a fresh round of UN-backed peace talks is underway between the Syrian government and the Saudi-backed opposition, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), in Geneva, Switzerland.

Syrian Ambassador to UN Bashar al-Ja'afari (L) and UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (R) arrive to participate in a new round of negotiations in Geneva, on March 16, 2016. ©AFP

The main Kurdish groups have been excluded from the peace negotiations under pressure from Turkey, which considers the PYD a terrorist organization near its borders.

On Thursday, Russia also criticized the unilateral declaration by the Kurds and said any such federalization should be stated in a new constitution that would be drafted based on negotiations among Syrian parties.

“Such decisions are not made unilaterally. This decision should be made through negotiation, and therefore we have always called for the involvement of Kurds in the political process from its very start in Geneva,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

The Saudi-based HNC has also rejected the Kurdish announcement.

Observers say the unilateral announcement by the Kurds could undermine the negotiations in Geneva.

Kurdish parties are already in control of three administrations in Syria’s north near the Turkish border. The regions are known as Afrin and Kobane, both in Aleppo Province, as well as Jazire in Hasakah Province.

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