Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi.
QAMISHLO, Syria – War-torn Syria’s information minister said that the government is ready to negotiate with the country’s Kurds, who have declared autonomy in the north, referring to them as a “major partner” in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).
“Kurds are part of the Syrian nation. We are ready to negotiate with the Kurds as a part of the local administrative body inside Syria’s borders,” minister Omran al- Zoubi said in an interview broadcast Friday by state television.
“Kurds are a major partner in the fight against ISIS, a threat we are facing together,” he added. “We are ready to negotiate with Kurds under the Syrian national law and regulations.”
The minister’s comments coincided with municipal elections by the autonomous government in Syria’s Kurdish regions, or Rojava, on Friday. Voters in the three cantons of Cizire, Afrin and Kobane are voting for representatives for local governments.
According to reports from the Rojava Independent High Electoral Commission, some Syrian media outlets have published misleading times and locations for the elections, with the aim of dampening voter turnout.
Meanwhile, the election was delayed by officials in the northern town of Tal Tamar in Cizire, due to attacks by ISIS that intensified Thursday.
The Kurdish YPG militia, backed by US-led air strikes, has made significant gains in recent weeks against ISIS in northeast Syria, cutting an important supply route from territory controlled by the sectarian Sunni Muslim militant group in Iraq.
The YPG has emerged as a key partner for the US-led alliance fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria. Backed by Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and air strikes, the YPG defeated ISIS in the border town of Kobane in January.
The YPG’s umbrella organization, the PYD, declared unilateral autonomy in Rojava in late 2013.
Syria’s increasingly complex civil war, which has claimed more than 210,000 lives – more than half of them civilian – is going into its fifth year.