US Envoy to the Global Coalition Brett McGurk [C], and Rupert Jones [L], depurt commander of the coalition's Combined Task Force, arrive for a meeting with officials in the Syrian town of Tabqa in Syria on JUne 29, 2017. Photo: AFP, Delil Souleiman.
WASHINGTON, United States – The US-backed Raqqa Civilian Council has “committed” to holding elections to elect a new council to govern the Syrian province of Raqqa once it is liberated from ISIS militants, US Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk revealed as he delivered opening remarks at the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Small Group Meeting in Washington.
He said that the current Council, that was announced as part of the Raqqa offensive, is “interim” and will only be responsible to take care of governance in the immediate stage after the liberation.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurds and Arabs, launched a military offensive to drive ISIS out from the city of Raqqa earlier this year and has since entered some districts in the center of the city, backed by the US-led Global Coalition.
McGurk also encouraged a former Council that was formed in 2013 to return to Raqqa.
The 2013 Council was announced in March that year after the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and some Islamist groups, including the then al-Qaeda-backed al-Nusra Front, captured Raqqa from Syrian regime forces.
“Local governance in Raqqa, in the initial phases, will be led by a Raqqa Civilian Council now based just north of Raqqa in Ain Isa,” McGurk said Thursday as he addressed the 72-member Global Coalition.
“This Council includes nearly 120 individuals, most of whom stayed in Syria during the civil war and escaped from Raqqa and other towns within the province as ISIS moved in. This interim Council will receive support from the United States to enable immediate stabilization. It is committed to welcoming back exiles, including members of former council that temporarily governed Raqqa in 2013. We encourage these exiles to return to Syria,” McGurk continued.
He also said that the Raqqa Council, installed by the SDF, would hold elections next year.
“The Council importantly has also committed to hold an election by May next year for a new Council to make sure the people of Raqqa can choose their own leaders... and we support this initiative,” he added.
The US envoy visited Raqqa late last month and met with the Raqqa Civilian Council.
A Council member said that it was his third visit to the province.