Syrian Kurdish leader claims military gains against Islamists

PARIS Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:04pm EST

1 of 4. Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) head Saleh Muslim speaks during a conference in Paris November 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - Islamist groups in northern Syria are weakening after months of fighting and Kurdish militias are gaining ground, a top Kurdish leader said on Wednesday, vowing to continue their advances.

Saleh Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told Reuters in Paris that Tuesday's announcement of an interim administration that aims to carve out an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region was only "provisional" until there was a viable solution to Syria's civil war.

Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the war as an opportunity to gain more autonomy - much as their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq have regarded turmoil there.

Control over Syria's northeast, where Kurds predominate, had in recent months swung back and forth between them and mainly Arab Islamist rebels, who strongly oppose what they suspect are Kurdish plans to secede.

But with a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, Kurdish militias linked to the PYD are consolidating their presence.

"About 3,000 of those Salafists have been killed. At the beginning they were strong, but now they aren't so strong," said Muslim, whose son was recently killed fighting Islamists.

"We have found no allies and paid for our own bullets."

Muslim said the PYD had received aid, money and weapons from the Iraq-based Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which fought for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

When asked if the recent successes could embolden Syrian Kurdish forces to go beyond majority-controlled Kurdish areas, Muslim said they had no desire to head to Damascus to help topple Assad, but would aid all those in areas where Kurds and Arabs lived together.

"We are willing to go to places where we are living together. It is not our job to go to areas where there are no Kurds," he said.


Muslim said about 30 percent of Syria's oil wells were under Kurdish control, but none were currently producing any oil, and there were no immediate plans to bring them into operation.

The Kurdish gains indirectly benefit Assad and his Shi'ite Muslim allies, as they mean more territory slipping out of Sunni Muslim rebel hands two and a half years into the revolt against Assad's rule.

Despite allegations that his party had cooperated at some level with Assad, Muslim said there had been "no contact".

"I don't think Assad would accept autonomy for us because even until the last minute he refused."

Syrian Kurds number over two million of the total of more than 25 million Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq - a people often described as the world's largest ethnic group without a state.

Rising Kurdish assertiveness in Syria puts Turkey in a tough position as it tries to make peace with the PKK.

Muslim said Turkey had not warned his group to stop its advances in Syria, but was trying to interfere.

"They are trying to divide the Kurds by bringing certain (Kurdish) parties into the (opposition) Syrian National Coalition (SNC)," he said. "They are just trying to keep the Kurds from representing themselves."

Syria's Western-backed SNC opposition agreed on Monday to attend planned peace talks in Geneva on condition Assad played no part in a transitional government. Assad has rejected any precondition that he step down.

Muslim said he would only be ready to join the Geneva talks if there was a separate Kurdish delegation.

(Reporting by John Irish; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (4)
chekovmerlin wrote:
Countries that were formed by France and Great Britain after WWI by dismembering the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, are spinning apart which has to be expected. The same is true in Africa where European colonists divided up a continent to suit them rather than understanding the native cultures. France, at one point divided Syria into several provinces but that didn’t work because the French had to cumbersome a bureaucracy. Great Britain took Mesopotamia and created Iraq ignoring religious and ethnic differences. Now it’s spinning apart into a more logical division according to ethnicity and religion. Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be. Many have criticized the artificial boundaries for decades.
The divisions in the Middle East, the divisions in Africa, the divisions in SEAsia were the doing of the European Powers and their greed.

Nov 13, 2013 3:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
kurdstaat wrote:
The world has no other choice than accepting an autonomous Kurdish State in Syria. After Syria, it is time for Kurds in Turkey to secede.

HPG, the military of the Kurdish nation, is responsible for the achievements of Syrian Kurds. HPG consists of volunteers who basically sacrifice their life for protection of Kurdish nation and an autonomous Kurdish State. HPG’s other name is PKK. PYD, HPG, PKK, PJAK and Kurdish national military are different names for the same organization.

It is time for NATO to stop its terrorism against Aryan Kurdish nation and recognize Kurd State.

NATO must stop recognizing the borders that divide Kurdish nation among her enemies. These borders mean eternal war for Kurdish nation while securing cheap oil for the West.

NATO has crucified the Kurdish nation by their enforced terroristic borders. NATO’s motto is Kick the Kurds while they are down. NATO’s motto is terrorize the Kurdish nation because it will solidify NATO’s control over oilfields.

NATO must stop recognizing the terrorist Turks as having sovereignty over occupied Kurd State in Turkey. Regardless NATO’s military ties with the Turks, NATO must recognize the right of Aryan Kurds in Turkey to secede.

NATO must stop arming and supporting terrorist Turks and Sunni Arabs against Kurds.

NATO must recognize that the Western States have committed genocide and terrorism against Kurdish nation in the past century.

NATO must compensate all the losses of Kurdish nation that it has incurred on the Aryan Kurdish nation.

Nov 13, 2013 4:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Finally, Kurdistan cannot be reversed.*

Nov 13, 2013 4:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse


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